Genghis: Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Conqueror (Book #3 of 5)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 434 pages (US Kindle edition)
Published: 1st September 2008 by Harper Collins (UK) & 24th March 2009 by Delacorte Press (US)
A seriously astounding piece of historical fiction that left me speechless in many ways.
“We are not here to earn riches with a bow. The wolf does not think of fine things, only that his pack is strong and no other wolf dares to cross his path. That is enough.”
I can’t help but start this review by saying that I’m thoroughly impressed by Iggulden’s talent for the creation of this series. Genghis’ conquest on its own, even if they’re written or told in a textbook manner, are very attention-grabbing already, but Iggulden successfully elevated the quality of Genghis’ legend so that it became much more engaging and emotional. Genghis: Bones of the Hills is the third book in the Conqueror series, and it—along with the first installment—are my favorites in the series so far. In the previous book, the story focused on Genghis’ conquest of The Chin; this book centered on Genghis’ breathtaking conquest of the Arabs. I must remind you, this series—especially this book—isn’t for the weak of heart; the atrocities and devastations committed in this war were terrifying in every sense of the word. I’m talking about wars with casualties that reached more than hundreds of thousands of deaths; innocents were instantly marked for the afterlife just for living in the opposing city. Genghis: Bones of the Hills is a bleak, intense, and also bittersweet book; it’s heavily centered around war, death, loyalty, heritage, achievements, and what truly matters in life and what legacies will continue after death.
“All men die, Genghis. All. Think what it means for a moment. None of us are remembered for more than one or two generations.” He raised a hand as Genghis opened his mouth to speak again. “Oh, I know we chant the names of great khans by the fireside and the Chin have libraries running back for thousands of years. What of it? Do you think it matters to the dead that their names are read aloud? They don’t care, Genghis. They are gone. The only thing that matters is what they did while they were alive.”
Two generations? Little did he know that Genghis’ and the story of his legacy will live on for 800 years and counting!
I’m seriously surprised by how much I grew to care and know about these characters. They were real people that have passed away for a long time now, and despite knowing a bit about Genghis’ conquest, I didn’t know his—and many other characters’s—personality; Iggulden managed to give life, personality, and distinctive voices to the characters. Reading about how far they’ve come since the beginning of the first book was surprisingly poignant and at times, heartbreaking. This was especially evident for Genghis and his relationship with his family and commanders. Iggulden’s characterizations with his head-hopping narration were just outstanding; the family drama and conflict in every character’s relationship felt realistic and suspenseful because of the superb narrative. Without spoiling anything, I also want to state that every single storyline that revolves around Tsubodai and Jochi were some of the main highlights of the book for me. Plus, due to Genghis’ and Chagatai’s unfair treatment towards Jochi, Jochi became a great underdog character to root for.
“Be careful of raising me too high, brother. I have no special strength, unless it is in choosing good men to follow me. The great lie of cities is that we are all too weak to stand against those who oppress us. All I have done is see through that lie. I always fight, Kachiun. Kings and shahs depend on people remaining sheep, too afraid to rise up. All I ever did was realize I can be a wolf to them.”
The previous book, Genghis: Lords of the Bow was brutal; this book exceeded it in every possible way. Not only Iggulden increased the number of action scenes, but he also enhanced the quality of the scenes by making the events and battles he included in this book as accurate, deadly, and detailed as possible. The war against the Arabs was very vicious and ruthless; Iggulden weaved a story about war, vengeance, and the cycle of violence mercilessly. There’s simply no mercy here; the Mongols conquered as if they’re a passing storm that brought utter destruction to every single locale they visited, and they never stay still in one place. Genghis didn’t bring an army when he decided to conquer a city, what he brought to murder was an entire nation, and the retaliation that the Arabs countered with was almost equally destructive depending on which perspective you’re looking at. For those of you who are familiar with A Song of Ice Fire or Game of Thrones season 1, you’ll get to witness the infamous “Golden Crown” scene here. Considering that George R. R. Martin has said that Mongol was one of the inspirations for the Dothraki, I’m pretty sure that this war is the source of his inspiration for the particular scene.
“Men always die in war. Their kings expect it. I want them to know that if they resist me, they are putting their hand in the mouth of a wolf. They will lose everything and they can expect no mercy… This is a hard land and the people are used to death. If I am to rule them, they must know that to face me is to be destroyed. They must be afraid, Chakahai. It is the only way.”
Now that I’ve finished the book, I look back and I find myself shaken by the number of pivotal events (SO MANY) that happened in this 400+ pages installment; they’re exciting, thrilling, and astonishingly tension-packed. I honestly can’t decide whether I loved Genghis: Birth of an Empire or Genghis: Bones of the Hills more as a single installment; both were just amazing in a different way. I do know that Genghis: Bones of the Hills further maneuver Conqueror towards becoming my favorite historical fiction series of all time. The terrifying atrocities, unforgettable strengths, extraordinary tactics, and legendary conquest displayed in this book were all extremely well-told. Judging from where this book ends, it seems safe to call the remaining two books in the series the second part. I’ll take a one week break from reading this series and get back to it after I recover from being stunned by the incredible turn of events, but I eagerly look forward to reading the remaining of the series and fingers crossed it will be—at least nearly—as good as this book.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)