(Cover picture courtesy of Open Library.)
Genghis Khan was born Temujin, the son of a khan, raised in a clan of hunters migrating across the rugged steppe. Shaped by abandonment and betrayal, Temujin endured, driven by a singular fury: to survive in the face of death, to kill before being killed, and to conquer enemies who would come without warning from beyond the horizon.
Through a series of courageous raids, Temujin’s legend grew until he was chasing a vision: to unite many tribes into one, to make the earth tremble under the hoofbeats of a thousand warhorses, to subject all nations and empires to his will.
While the blurb at the back of the book pretty much gives away the whole plot, Birth of an Empire is an amazing novel. The name ‘Genghis Khan’ is practically synonymous for a cruel, bloodthirsty ruler, but Conn Iggulden has managed to put a human face on a legend. Birth of an Empire starts off slow, but the tension slowly ratchets up until the reader flips furiously through the pages to get to the end.
This book is not for those of weak stomachs or faint hearts because life on the plains of Mongolia was harsh and cruel. There are graphic scenes of violence (particularly after Temujin’s wife was kidnapped by Tartars) and a few sexual references, so this book is definitely intended for older teens and adults. Birth of an Empire is a great book and Conn Iggulden does a fabulous job at describing life in Temujin’s time. The only place this book falls flat is in the beginning, where the prologue starts of slow and is confusing until you read the whole prologue. Despite this one little thing, Birth of an Empire is an excellent example of how historical fiction should be written.
I give this book 4/5 stars.