Khan: Empire of Silver by Conn Iggulden
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Conqueror (Book #4 of 5)
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 416 pages (US paperback edition)
Published: 2nd September 2010 by Harper Collins (UK) & 28th December 2010 by Delacorte Press (US)
An impressive penultimate installment. Who was more terrifying, Genghis Khan or Tsubodai?
“It was difficult not to look on Tsubodai with awe if you knew what he had achieved in his life. The army owed their success to him as much as to Genghis.”
I’m nearing the conclusion of this series now. Khan: Empire of Silver is the fourth and penultimate installment in the Conqueror series by Conn Iggulden. I’ll try to keep this review as brief and spoiler-free as possible. In the previous three books, the title of each installment starts with the name “Genghis” at the front of their title; this one starts with “Khan.” That should give you a vague idea about what kind of stories you’re getting here. The previous three books focused on Genghis Khan’s life and conquest, Khan: Empire of Silver revolves more around the life of Temujin’s children and Tsubodai’s extraordinary conquest of Europe.
“If a man has gold, he lives with the terror that someone will take it away from him, so he builds walls around it. Then everyone knows where the gold is, so they come and take it. That’s the way it always goes, brother. Fools and gold, together.”
Impressed is an understatement of how I feel regarding Tsubodai’s conquest of Europe. It’s true that Genghis Khan is one of the most infamous ruler in our history, but it’s quite surprising for me that the name Tsubodai isn’t hailed as often as Genghis Khan, at least not to my knowledge. So many feats of the Mongolian’s conquest wouldn’t have been possible without the brilliant mind and tactics employed by Tsubodai. Everything about the adventure and terror contained within Tsubodai’s conquest of Europe left me in awe. Which is a wrong thing to say because he and the Mongols killed so many people back then, but my god looking back on the events as a history, you just can’t help but be amazed by what one or two or a few humans can do to change the shape of the world, almost entirely. It was a twist of fate that saved Europe from total dominance back then, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that twist of fate didn’t occur, what would be the current state of the world today? The circumstances that ended up deciding the fate of this conquest is one that can be called an absolute fluke in history.
“We will force the peoples there to meet us in the field. For the khan, we will take their cities, their women and their lands. This is the great raid, the furthest strike in the history of the nation of Genghis. We will not be stopped.”
Reading Khan: Empire of Silver also made me reflect again about the cruelty of history, humanity, and the passage of time. In the midst of the familial drama and dispute between the Khan families, the theme of how getting older changed everyone was embedded poignantly. No matter the achievement, the greats, there’s an end to it; no one can escape death. Nothing last forever, there will come a time where you just have to put down your weapons and accept that you’re not the same as you were when you were young. Other noticeable themes discussed effectively by Iggulden were leadership, family, and of course, legacy.
“He had prepared for death, but no man can truly understand what it means to have the world go on without him, how it is for those who must live without his voice, his smell, his touch. All that was left were the letters and her memories.”
This is quite a battle-heavy book, and admittedly there were a few moments where the pacing felt a bit sluggish due to its constant exposure to battle and war, but I have to say that I enjoyed reading this book regardless. I loved that there’s so much to learn within this series. Every installment brought something new—factual, speculative, and philosophical—to learn and this doesn’t change even though I’m four books into the series now. Khan: Empire of Silver is a different kind of book from the previous installments, but the frightening and awe-inspiring quality imbued into the narrative remained consistently evident. I still have one last book in the series to read, and it’s looking very likely that this will end up becoming my favorite historical fiction series. Time to find out! Lastly, check out this passage by Iggulden:
“There are not many moments in history when the death of a single man changed the entire world… If he had lived, there would have been no Elizabethan age, no British Empire, no Renaissance, perhaps no Industrial Revolution. In such circumstances, this book could very well have been written in Mongolian or Chinese.”
Let that sink in…
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)