Friday, February 11, 2011

Bones of the Hills

It's been a little while since I posted a review, this is partially because my reading slowed down and also because I was hospitalised briefly for an operation. February sucks!

Bones of the Hills is the 3rd of Conn Iggulden's Conqueror series, a planned 6 book series chronicling the life of Genghis Khan and his heirs; Ogedai and Kublai.

Following his successful siege and conquest of Chin capital Yenking (Beijing) in Lords of the Bow Genghis has gone from strength to strength and increased his empire substantially. At the beginning of Bones of the Hills Genghis' armies are continuing to take over China, have conquered Koryo (Korea), made successful incursions into Russia and launched an attack on the Arabs. It's not really stated where they are exactly, but most of the action seems to take place in Afghanistan.

The Arabs are a worthy and difficult opponent for the Mongols. They share some similarities and this makes it hard for the Genghis' forces to subdue and control them as they have others that they have encountered.

Genghis' relationshhip with his oldest son; Jochi, sours to the extent that could cost the older of the Khan brothers his life. Genghis' also loses patience with his named heir Chagatai and he declares that his third son; Ogedai will become Khan on his death.

A lot of this particular volume centres on one of Genghis' greatest generals; Tsubodai. Tsubodai was introduced in the 2nd book and is certainly an interesting footnote character in history, and he was responsible for many of the great Mongol leaders victories.

Most of the book seemed to detail the campaigns and battles against the Arabs. After a while I fount it a bit tedious. There are only so many battles one can read about before they start to blend into one another. Possibly it may be of interest to a military historian, but not to me. Genghis also came full circle from the exiled son of a Khan to the ruthless conqueror who cared for nothing but his next conquest, it made for a very unsympathetic protagonist and he fully deserved the rather unpleasant end he met.

Frustratingly the characters of Temgue and Kokchu were not further developed before one faded into the background and the other was executed for his excesses. In Lords of the Bow readers were introduced to a fighting Buddhist monk; Yao Shu, and he reappeared, unfortunately for an interesting character he was not given enough time to develop.

Despite Bones of the Hills failings I am looking forward to Empire of Silver and seeing how the empire Genghis built fares under his son Ogedai.

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