Genghis: Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden

(Cover picture courtesy of Open Library.)

For centuries, primitive tribes have warred with one another.  Now, under Genghis Khan—a man who lives for battle and blood—they have united as one nation, overcoming moats, barriers, deceptions, and superior firepower only to face the ultimate test of all: the great, slumbering walled empire of the Chin.

Genghis Khan comes from over the horizon, a single Mongol warrior surrounded by his brothers, sons, and fellow tribesman.  With each battle his legend grows and the ranks of his horsemen swell, as does his ambition.  In the city of Yenking—modern-day Beijing—the Chin will make their final stand, confident behind their towering walls, setting a trap for the Mongol raiders.  But Genghis will strike with breathtaking audacity, never ceasing until the emperor himself is forced to kneel.

Lords of the Bow is probably my favourite book in the Genghis series because Genghis Khan’s conquest of the Chin is so improbable.  I love reading about warfare and even with what little I know, I could probably tell you that the Mongols, from a technical standpoint, should not have beaten the more technologically advanced Chin.  Yet, under the leadership of the brilliant and bloodthirsty Genghis, they best their ancient enemies.  This unlikely conquest is beautifully chronicled by Conn Iggulden, one of the giants of historical fiction today.

One of the most impressive things about Conn Iggulden is that he can bring human qualities to someone like Genghis Khan.  Don’t get me wrong, though—Genghis is till a monster in this series.  But he has realistic motivations for his ruthlessness, like the fact that his people have been trampled on and manipulated by the Chin for hundreds of years.  If you poke even the most nomadic, scattered tribes in the eye with a stick long enough, you create the perfect conditions for a unified rebellion with a charismatic and brilliant leader.  Genghis was the product of this Chinese eye-poking.

As many of you are aware, I have a love-hate relationship with Conn Iggulden’s novels because he changes history around frequently.  Unlike in the misnamed Emperor series (since Caesar was never emperor in our sense of the word), I think that many of the changes in this book are justified.  So if you don’t mind authors who sacrifice historical accuracy for a fast-paced plot, you will love Lords of the Bow.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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