Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden [Book 3 in the Conqueror Series]

Upon completing the third book in this riveting series, I realized that each book had me feeling a little different emotionally about the great Mongol warrior Genghis Khan.

In the first book I felt nothing but admiration and respect for the young Khan who grew up surviving great odds to ultimately unite the Mongol nation under his rule. In the second book I was left in awe of his ability to command thousands of men from different tribes, and fascinated by his sharp mind and tactical planning, but just a little apprehensive about the savagery he could unleash. In the third book I continued to marvel at his ambition to conquer, but was angered by his estranged relationship with his oldest son, Jochi, and appalled at the death and destruction he could bring about at the wave of a hand.

But ultimately I had to relent and admire one of the great men of history. It was also sad to see the mighty Genghis meet his end, just as he was about to embark on a second round of conquest in China.

Bones of the Hills focuses more on his relationship with his sons Chagatai, Ogedai and Tolui, but more especially his bitterness towards Jochi, his eldest son who he thinks was conceived through the rape of his wife. We are also made painfully aware of the bitter rivalry and hatred between Jochi and Chagatai, the heir favored by Genghis. Through this rivalry we sympathise with Jochi for his bravery and principles, while despising the cowardice of Chagatai. While Conn Iggulden chose to have Jochi killed on orders from Genghis for the purposes of this narrative, historically that is mere speculation because the circumstances of Jochi’s death are not clear in the records.

Also in the third installment of the Conqueror series we learn more about Tsubodai, The most successful and fearsome general in the Khan’s army of warriors, as they conquer the Muslim lands of Afghanistan and present-day Iran and Iraq. This books focuses on the battles with the Shah and later his son Jelaudin.

Genghis eventually rebukes his favoured second son Chagatai to name Ogedai as his heir. We are also briefly introduced to Kublai, son of Tolui, Genghis’s youngest son, who is the focus of later books in the series and eventually his successor.

After the sedentary pace of the second book, Bones of the Hills moves along quite briskly and it’s hard to put down. The death of Genghis Khan at the end is quite unexpected and leaves one a little deflated. However there is the fourth book to look forward to…

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