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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Conqueror: A Novel of Kublai Khan by Conn Iggulden

Published in 2011 by Delacorte Press

Conn Iggulden continues his historical fiction series about the Mongols with Conqueror: A Novel of Kublai Khan. This is the fifth book in the series, but you can easily jump in here, like I did, and not be lost so long as you have a rudimentary idea about the Mongols and their lifestyle.

Iggulden comments that he was interested in writing another trilogy focusing on Kublai Khan but decided against it when he realized that while Kublai's life and reign were interesting (Marco Polo, attempted invasions of Japan, etc. ), they were not nearly as dramatic as his early life and would be rather anti-climactic in comparison.

Kublai Khan (1215-1294) 
as a young man
Kublai is a grandson if Genghis Khan and he comes of age in a time of great political turmoil. The Mongols are undoubtedly the most dominant military force in Europe, Asia and the Middle East but they have no clear leader. Various relatives of Genghis Khan have a claim to the throne and the political give-and-take can be quite deadly.

Eventually, Kublai's oldest brother becomes the Great Khan. One of his little brothers is sent to the Middle East and Kublai is sent to northern China to subdue it. The bulk of the book is about this campaign and the ongoing political struggles in the Mongol Empire. For me, it was striking to realize how the Mongols were truly a bridge between Europe, the Middle East and China. It was interesting to note that Kublai was familiar with Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity as well as his own native Mongol beliefs.

The action is first rate and the political intrigues are simplified and explained well enough that readers will not have a problem. Iggulden has sacrificed strict historical accuracy for the sake of a better story. At times you can tell that Iggulden intended to write a much larger story - characters are fleshed out in detail and then abruptly dropped with little explanation. But, the story is still a good one and worthy of your time.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Conqueror: A Novel of Kublai Khan.

Reviewed on December 12, 2012.

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