Empire of Silver by Conn Iggulden [Book 4 in the Conqueror Series]

While the Conqueror series should have ended with the death of Genghis Khan in Book 3, Bones of the Hills, I for one am very pleased that Iggulden continued the epic story of the Mongol nation under the Great Khans. Empire of SIlver follows the rise to power of Genghis Khan’s immediate descendents, especially that of his declared heir, Ogedai.

While this book in the Conqueror series is as bloody and unrelenting in pace as the others that preceded it, I enjoyed it more than the last two for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Iggulden does not take as much liberty historically with the narrative as he did with the other books. For another, I discovered some facts of European history of which I was quite unaware.

The Plot

After the death of Genghis, Ogedai does not assume power immediately as was expected. Instead he spends about two years building the fabled capital city of Karakorum, leaving various Mongol factions either pondering his decision with unease, or plotting his downfall. Chief among those plotting his downfall was his elder brother, Chagatai who was originally favoured by Genghis to be his heir.

Ogedai, finally announces his intention to assume the reigns of power, but on the eve of his allegiance swearing-in ceremony, Chagatai leads a charge of the city of Karakorum to usurp power. However the revolt is put down with the help of Genghis’s surviving brothers, Khasar and Kachiun and his trusted General, Tsubodai.

After he is sworn in as Khan, Ogedai pardons Chagatai and gives him the Arabian lands to the South which were conquered previously by Genghis. While Ogedai decides to continue the campaign Eastwards to further conquer Chinese land, he sends General Tsubodai West into greater Europe to conquer and expand their territory there. Joining him with their own battalions of soldiers, or tumans were Guyuk Khan, son and heir of Ogedai, Monkge Khan, son of Tolui who is Ogedai’s other brother, and Batu Khan, the “forgotten” son of Jochi, Genghis’ son who was killed presumably on his [Genghis] order in the previous book.

The ruthless conquests of Russia and the lands over the Carpathian mountains, including Poland and Hungary, were fascinating and quite detailed in the description of the many battle scenes. It is commonly accepted that had it not been for the death of Ogedai, when the victorious forces of Tsubodai which were advancing further westward were recalled to Karakorum, they would have conquered all countries up to the Atlantic ocean.

The eventual death of Ogedai Khan left an interesting mix of rivalries and alliances among the grandsons of Genghis Khan, who will vie for succession to power over the Mongol nation. We also learn a bit more about Sorhatani, the mother of Mongke and Kublai Khan, who become the next great Mongol conquerors.

It is now all set up quite nicely for the conclusion of the Conqueror series…

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