Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review - Lords of the Bow

Lords of the Bow – Conn Iggulden.
I loved Wolf of the Plains. The Mongol period of time was one that I am quite ignorant about and Conn’s first book enthralled me. The only downside I felt was that it had such an epic feel to the book that I couldn’t see where the series could go that would maintain my interest.
The Blurb:
He came from over the horizon, a single Mongol warrior surrounded by his brothers, sons, and fellow tribesmen. With each battle his legend grew and the ranks of his horsemen swelled, as did his ambition. For centuries, primitive tribes had warred with one another. Now, under Genghis Khan, they have united as one nation, setting their sights on a common enemy: the great, slumbering walled empire of the Chin.

A man who lived for battle and blood, Genghis leads his warriors across the Gobi Desert and into a realm his people had never seen before—with gleaming cities, soaring walls, and canals. Laying siege to one fortress after another, Genghis called upon his cunning and imagination to crush each enemy in a different way, to overcome moats, barriers, deceptions, and superior firepower—until his army faced the ultimate test of all.

In the city of Yenking—modern-day Beijing—the Chin will make their final stand, setting a trap for the Mongol raiders, confident behind their towering walls. But Genghis will strike with breathtaking audacity, never ceasing until the Emperor himself is forced to kneel.
Initially my fears were confirmed. At the start of the novel, Genghis is in charge of an army that moved to conquer distant lands and so a certain amount of intimacy with the character was lost as we are treated to their exploits on the field. There were still snippets of Genghis as he deals with other warrior generals who have been captured or attempt to negotiate with him, but the personal quest part of his journey had now evolved.
However this does not turn out to be a bad thing. Having dominated his own tribes, in trying to expand his empire Genghis is faced with new challenges. The Chin are ruthless and more advanced. They live in cities protected by brick and stone, a concept Genghis has never faced before. It is nice to see Genghis fail in his attempts to conquer them.
Other characters emerge to take more of a prominent role. We get to experience Temuge, Khasar and Kachiun all emerge and grow. Kachium despite his younger age, demonstrates why he is the wiser choice to succeed Genghis if that need ever occur, whilst Temuge pulls away from the savage world he grew up in and becomes increasingly enthralled by the more civilised society.
New characters are also interesting with special mention to the Shaman Kokchu. Kokchu is deliciously realised as the villain. He is a character that everyone suspects but out of fear of the spirit world do not dare challenge. It is only Genghis’s wife Borte that really has the gall to openly show her revulsion for his fraudulent display of power.
The plot is really quite simple and focuses on Genghis’s pursuit of dominating the Chin. As a result we are treated to many battles and sieges. Whilst these are well described, I did get a sense of detachment that I did not experience in the first book. As I mentioned earlier, the action is a lot less personal than the first book and so it is difficult to be fully engaged.
The time when the book really shines are the periods between the battles that involve Genghis interacting with other characters. This is where the books really shone in my opinion and I found myself longing for these to be expanded.
The ending is well handled. The climatic battle is probably the best part of the book as several events happen to individuals rather than on mass. There are several seeds planted throughout to kick start plot threads in future books without leaving the book with a sense of being unresolved
Overall, I liked this entry to the series but not as much as I enjoyed the first. I hope the third book returns to a more personalised story.
My rating: 8.0