5 out of 5 stars
This is the final novel in Conn Iggulden's
violent, bloody, exhilarating, dramatic, masterful series on Genghis Khan and his descendents, focusing on Kublai Khan as he transitions from
scholar to warrior to Great Khan of the Mongol empire.
as much as I loved this book and the series, the thing I most took away
from the story arc is the confirmation that men are pigs. No, dogs.
No, pig-dogs. And I don't mean men as in “the human race.” I mean men
as in the gender. Men are the ones who revel in war, who drive their
armies across the land because the land they've got isn't good enough.
Men are the ones who destroy cities, melting down precious artifacts so
they can stare at the bars of pure gold and silver in glee, who set fire
to libraries because they don't contain any knowledge they need,
destroying generations worth of learning. Men are the ones who kill the
men and children in enemy villages/towns, who kill the women but not
before passing them around and raping them several times over, keeping
them around to act as slaves for a few years before the women finally
give out from the abuse. Men are responsible for all the misery in the
Anyway, to proceed to the actual review and step off my
soapbox: I hate to categorize novels along gender lines, but I have to
admit that there are historical fiction novels with storylines aimed
more towards men (having more action, war, bloodshed, violence, etc. and
less “mushy” stuff) and women (having more romance, personal conflict,
drama, basically lots of “mushy” stuff). Iggulden's Genghis series is
most definitely a masculine historical fiction series: heavy on the
violence, light on romance. However, that's not to imply that
characters are cardboard cutouts and no time is spent on character
development. Far from it. As with all of Iggulden's previous books in
this series, each character is imbued with humanity--the good, the bad,
the ugly, the saintly. No one character is ever mixed up with another
due to vague descriptors or similar voices.
characters, though there are many others in the novel, it's Kublai who
takes center stage (naturally). The evolution of his character, from a
sheltered scholar to canny general to visionary leader of the Mongol
nation, is fascinating to watch. Iggulden lets us peer into the mind of
this legendary man, lets us see his fears, his machinations, his
strategies and battle plans; only with Genghis did we see this kind of
intimacy, their outer strengths as well as their inner fears and doubts.
And I believe Iggulden did this on purpose, to forge a link between
grandfather and grandson, creator of the Mongol nation and its savior.
the first time, I actually have a nitpick about one of Iggulden's
books, and it concerns the character of Guyuk, who seems to undergo a
180 degree shift in personality. While, admittedly, we didn't see a lot
of him in the previous novel, what we did see of Guyuk seemed to imply
that he was somewhat happy-go-lucky, willing to go where others led, and
not much inclined to put up a fuss if plans seemed to go awry.
Suddenly, though, in Conqueror, Guyuk has become a
narcissistic psychopath: Things must go his way or else people begin to
die. Perhaps it was the delay in him being named Khan that brought
about this change in personality, but when he does, finally, become
Khan, he remains a bloodthirsty (beyond even Mongol standards) tyrant,
so that when his death comes, it's a welcome relief, both to the Mongol
nation and to the reader. Perhaps that kind of personality shift is
completely natural under such stressful circumstances, but it was still
Aside from the minor point, once again I was blown away by Conqueror.
The power of Iggulden's writing is damn near awe-inspiring and it
makes me quite eager to pick up his other series concerning Julius
Read August 23-30, 2012
Reviewed for the Amazon Vine Program September 8, 2012