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…

Lords Of The Bow by Conn Iggulden [Book 2 in the Conqueror Series]

Conn Iggulden continues the epic life story of Temugen, now known by the name of Genghis Khan, in this second book in the Conqueror series. The legend of Genghis continues at a pace not as relentless as in the first book Wolf of the Plains, but not quite sedate either.

Genghis having united the warring Mongolian tribes into one nation under his supreme leadership, realises that the mammoth task requires him to cement his authority by means that would necessitate being both ruthless and fearless.

To this end Genghis decides to penetrate the land of the Xi Xia, Jin and Chin [China], take on this long-time enemy in their own terrain and bring them into submission. The journey South across a harsh Gobi desert, into Chin lands right up to the walls of the fortress-like cities had never been attempted before by any of the Mongolian tribes, in such vast numbers. Having had initial success crossing through the Great Wall into Chinese lands and securing his first great win in battle against the Xi Xia, Genghis realises that attacking the walled cities would require a little more thought and help from the inside.

He dispatches two of his brothers to infiltrate a walled city to learn the secrets of how they were built and how to destroy them. Having gained this knowledge, Genghis returns to sack and destroy the Chin cities one by one. In his quest to dominate the Chinese empire, he takes on the mighty Imperial army and wins a colossal battle at a mountain pass leading to the great walled city of Yenking [later Peking, now Beijing].

The vanquished Chinese general flees the scene o battle and returns to the city where he murders the young Chinese Emperor and assumes power by appointing himself Regent to the official heir to the throne who was a very young boy at this time.

Genghis Khan sets up camp with his victorious army outside the walled city of Yenking, and makes a few failed attempts to attack the city with trebuchets and other weapons. He decides to wait and let the city starve for many years before the General finally decides to surrender, first making a crafty deal using the services of the Mongolian Shaman Kokchu, to prevent the city from being burned to the ground.

In this second book, we get only brief glimpses of Genghis’ relationship with his growing sons. Of interest is his estranged relationship with his eldest son Jochi, who he suspects of being a bastard son by his first wife Borte who was raped in the first book by a Tartar warrior.

I’m sure there’s more about his developing relationship with his sons in the next book, Bones of the Hills, but I’ve only just started that one…