Genghis: Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden

(Cover picture courtesy of Tower Books.)

From the fierce cold plains of Mongolia to the Korean peninsula, Genghis Khan’s brothers, sons, and commanders have made emperors kneel in the ruins of their broken cities.  But as Genghis enters a strange new land of towering mountains and arid desert, he stirs an enemy greater than any he has met before.  Shah Ala-ud-Din Mohammed has under his command thousands of fierce Arab warriors, teeming calvary, and terrifying armored elephants.  When Genghis strikes, the Arabs prove their mettle.

While the Mongols struggle to defeat their savage enemy, another battle is taking shape—between two of Genghis’s feuding sons.  Soon the most powerful man in the world must choose a successor.  And when he does, it will touch off the most bitter conflict of all.

Let me just say that I wouldn’t want Genghis Khan to be my father, especially after reading this book.  If you don’t look much like him, as in the case of his oldest son, Jochi, he will think you aren’t his son.  To toughen you up, he will make you do things that would be considered child abuse today, like making you stand in a freezing lake high up in the mountains.  And if you turn against him or disobey him, watch out!  It makes no difference whether you’re related to him or not; the punishment is the same.

Even knowing this, I still laughed at his choice of heir because it made perfect sense, yet it was highly unlikely for the time period.  Classic Genghis.

If this really didn’t happen, I would call the Mongol conquest of a large part of the Arab world cliché.  It’s so unlikely that it proves truth is stranger than fiction.  Filled with amazing battle scenes and vivid descriptions of exotic lands, Conn Iggulden tells an amazing story while educating readers.  Genghis: Bones of the Hills is mostly historically accurate and where it isn’t, the changes are actually justified.

The character of Genghis is three dimensional and interesting, if not entirely sympathetic.  Readers probably will not like him by this book, considering all of the atrocities he commits (although on the other hand, Constantine killed his eldest son and second wife and they still made him a saint), but they will be able to understand his motivations.  The same goes for poor Tsubodai, one of his generals, who commits a horrible crime against an old friend of his because of where his loyalties ultimately lie.  Conn Iggulden is able to breathe life into these distant historical figures, which is what historical fiction is all about.

I give this book 4.5/5 stars.

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