Genghis: Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Conqueror (Book #2 of 5)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 547 pages (US Kindle edition)
Published: 2nd January 2008 by Harper Collins (UK) & 25th March 2008 by Delacorte Press (US)
A compelling, brutal, informational, and terrifying depiction of Genghis’ conquest of Yenking.
“Some words can be a cruel weight on a man, unless he learns to ignore them.”
Genghis: Lords of the Bow is the sequel to Genghis: Birth of an Empire; it’s the second book in the Conqueror series by Conn Iggulden. The story takes place approximately eight years after the end of the first book. Temujin, now called Genghis Khan, is 26 years old and the entirety of the book is about Genghis and the Mongol’s invasion of Yenking (Beijing today.) Genghis: Lords of the Bow was almost as good as the first book; the large-scale action scenes—more on this later—was definitely better. I felt like a lot of what makes Conqueror so enjoyable to read was because of Iggulden’s writing style that still follows the same engaging head-hopping narrative that he utilized in the first book, and I personally believe that many authors who use the same storytelling style could learn a thing or two from Iggulden here. As I’ve mentioned in my review of the first book, I never felt lost with the narration; Iggulden makes head-hopping narrative—which I usually despise—very easy to follow and instead of confusing the readers, his writing style made every scene full of emotions due to the constant exchange of dialogues accompanied by the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. I found all of these to be an incredibly positive point in my read.
“If you are asking if my family will take what they want, of course they will. The strong rule, Chen Yi. Those who are not strong dream of it.”
The unfortunate things about Genghis: Lords of the Bow for me was the noticeable slowdowns in the middle section of the book. Unlike the first book where the majority of the perspective takes place from Genghis’ POV, this installment seems to prioritize witnessing scenes from Genghis’ brothers and the enemies’ perspectives; some were good, even great, but one in particular—Temuge—was boring. The middle part of the book centered on Khasar’s and Temuge’s infiltration into Baotou and I found the pacing during this part to be sluggish to get through. It is, however, important to read this section because it’s looking very likely that this would eventually become one of the foundations of Genghis’ vision of the future. Plus, Genghis’ relationship with his brothers and how his brothers view him will always be one of the highlights of the series for me.
“While his brother dreamed of war and plunder, Temuge saw cities in his imagination and all the beauty and the power that came with them.”
Action-wise, Genghis: Lords of the Bow proved to be a much more action-packed installment compared to its predecessor. The first book was about Temujin’s coming-of-age and his unification of Mongolia, this is about his invasion of Yenking. The main spotlight of the book was definitely the battle of Badger’s Mouth, which was insanely breathtaking. The second half of this book was just brilliant; full of actions, drama, and gripping turn of events. Iggulden reminded us why Genghis’ invasion stamped in history terrifyingly by recreating scenes of carnage for us to read. It was incredibly intriguing to witness the tactics and strength the Mongol unleashed in order to conquer cities that are much larger and advanced than theirs. I’m not there, but from what I’ve heard, The Mongols were demonic with their cavalry and bow proficiency; seeing them build a literal path of corpses in their bloody conquest was frightening. The incident of “falling petals” was an event I didn’t know and the word “harrowing” is an understatement to describe the event. I mean, up to sixty thousand young girls in white garments threw themselves from the wall of Yenking so they don’t have to see their city fall; shit doesn’t get much bleaker than that.
“Like an island in a raging sea, the Mongol horsemen moved across the face of the Chin army and no one could bring them down.”
Not only it’s engaging, but I also loved the informational nature of this historical fiction series. I know I still have three books left to read in the series but so far Iggulden has been, as far as I know, very accurate in the historical accuracy. Yes, he did change some details to make the flow of the story better, but it was never up to the point where it made me went “what the hell!?” Just like the first book, I also found many inspirational passages about leadership and strength that are eloquently written and applicable to humanity’s character-building these days. This long passage below is one of many examples:
“From this day, you are no longer children. If you have to fight, even if it is a friend, put him down as fast and hard as you possibly can. Kill if you have to, or spare him—but beware putting any man in your debt. Of all things, that causes resentment. Any warrior who raises his fist to you must know he is gambling with his life and that he will lose. If you cannot win at first, take revenge if it is the last thing you do. You are traveling with men who respect only strength greater than theirs, men harder than themselves. Above everything else, they respect success. Remember it.”
Although there was a slight pacing issue in the halfway section, Genghis: Lords of the Bow is certainly another awesome book in the Conqueror series; it’s brutal, convincingly written, and it has a second half that’s super difficult to put down. I know I don’t read much historical fiction series, not as much as I wanted to anyway, but even though I’m only two books into the series so far, I will recommend this series to every historical fiction fans or readers who want to learn more about Genghis Khan and his legends.
“Genghis was far from invincible and was wounded many times in his battles. Yet luck was always with him and he survived again and again – perhaps deserving the belief his men had in him, that he was blessed and destined to conquer.”
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)