Book Review: The Conqueror Series by Conn Iggulden
Wolf of the Plains
Set in 12th Century Asia, Temujin is the second of six children of the Khan of the Wolves tribe. He lives a hard but rewarding life constantly looking for his father’s praise and respect. But when his father is killed by a Tartan ambush the family are thrown out of the tribe and left to fend for themselves on the harsh Mongolian plains. Keeping hidden in the forests in case the Wolves come back to kill them, Temujin, aged only eleven, must provide for his family, especially his mother and baby sister. Ashe grows older he realises that he must unite others like them, outcasts from their societies in order to be safe and furthermore to realise his ambition of being a great khan like his father, and winning back the Wolves. When he is captured by the Wolves and kept prisoner, his rescuers Arslan and Jelme become the first people to swear their allegiance to him. By the time the book draws to an end, Temujin is married to Borte who was promised to him when he spent ayear at the Olkhunut tribe. He has also united the main tribes of the area including Olkhunut and finally the Wolves, before bestowing upon himself the title Genghis Khan, Khan of the Wolves.
Lords of the Bow
Having achieved his ambition of uniting all the Mongol people in ‘Wolf of the Plains,’ Temujin, now Genghis Khan, sets his sights on bringing down their long standing enemy the Chin empire. With his brothers Khasar and Kachiun, as well as Arslan and Jelme leading his army with him, Genghis’ reputation grows as a ferocious and forceful military leader. His campaign is thwarted somewhat when he comes across city walls that he cannot breach but, having an answer to everything, Genghis sends his brothers Khasar and Kachiun as well as a Chin prisoner into a Chin city to steal a mason who will tell them how to break down the walls. Genghis is also plagued by family conflicts as he is given the princess, Chakahai, of the Xi Xia as a gift after the city falls to him. Needless to say his first wife is not so enthralled by this second wife and he has to go to great lengths to keep them both placated. He also has to fight his own feelings towards his ‘son’ Jochi whom he believes to be illegitimate (a result of a rape when Borte was captured by Tartan raiders).
Bones of the Hills
At the end of ‘Lords of the Bows’ Genghis sends his generals off in different directions, each taking one of his sons to conquer new lands and learn of foreign peoples. He also sends scouts and embassies out, so that rather than conquer they can create trade routes and make allies. But when the scouts sent to Arab lands are returned with their heads detached from their bodies, Genghis takes this as an unforgivable slight, calls back his generals and sets his sights on Central Asia. Here they face the biggest challenge yet as the Arabic army is a much larger force and it is the first time they have ever faced the might of elephants. Genghis takes this all in his stride though as a natural warrior but has much more difficulty when he has to tackle the feuds between his favourite son Chagatai and eldest born Jochi who are constantly at each others’ throats, both keen to be the next khan. On top of that he also has to battle with a secret band of Assassins who have been given a decree to kill him and very nearly succeed.
I first have to mention that there is a fourth book to this series that is due to be released in September. I can’t wait. It follows Genghis’ heir as he tries to hold on to all the land and wealth his father has established. Like I said about the Emperor Series, and what anyone that hasread these books will say, Conn Iggulden is masterful at drawing the reader into the story and keeping them absolutely gripped from the first page to thevery end. I love reading the battle scenes; understanding how they plot their formations, the logic behind them and how they draw on their strengths with the confidence that they are indestructible. Genghis approaches even the hardest battles as if they are a game, with the same mentality in each, even when he knows the chances of winning are slim. Similar to the Emperor books, the characters seem larger than life.
Usually when I read I get bored by the description of surroundings and I’m only interested in the action, but in these books I found every bit of description fascinating. I loved the details of the gers that the Mongols lived in and found it easy to conjure the images in my mind (although I did need a little help from Google to see the exact shape). I felt I was right there, strolling through the gers like the characters in the book and thinking back to it I can even go back there now and see the scenes of the battles, smell the scents that the Chin officers brought to the tribes as gifts, the tents that Genghis put up outside city walls to let them know that he was coming to invade.
I would recommend this book to anyone that loves history, or learning or just wants to read a wonderful epic story. The only criticism that I really have of the books is that I know they have to die in the end and that after a certain point you feel you are just waiting for that. Other than thefourth Conqueror book I’ve heard that in the future some time Iggulden isplanning to write more on the Roman Empire. There are tons of exceptional military leaders that he could write a four part series on and I look forward to another adventure through another life changing period of time.