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Conqueror by Conn Iggulden


by Conn Iggulden

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is part of a series (5 of 5 so far) that describes what happened to the Mongols of central Asia during and after Genghis Khan's rule. I hadn't read the previous books, and I'm sure that made a big difference in how much I enjoyed this one. However, Conn Iggulden's writing style is wonderful; he's a master storyteller. That being said, this is fiction, not history. The characters may be based upon historical figures, but their actions and personalities are, apparently, entirely the author's own. He's taken a lot of liberty with history, and if that doesn't matter to you, then you will surely enjoy the action and intrigue in this novel. I didn't like the quick changes of POV between chapters, especially, but the story was fascinating. ( )
  mcfitz | Jan 12, 2018 |
Mongke has become Khan, son of Tolui and grandson of Genghis, and to cement his rule he creates vast khanates for his close relatives. His brother Hulegu consolidates rule in Persia but youngest brother Kublai is told to go into the east. Kublai is a scholar, not a fighter, but he is of the line of Genghis and he accepts the challenge. Harrying the great Sung empire, Kublai is close to conquest when he hears news of the death of Mongke. When his younger brother Arik-Boke declares himself Khan, Kublai is stung into action and politics to become Khan himself. this divides the Mongol nation and sets family against family.

This final book in the series focuses on Kublai Khan. In the historical notes Iggulden says that he deliberately chose to end the series with Kublai becoming Khan, rather than extend the series to cover his whole life. I think that was a really good call. Iggulden is at his best when writing action, he is less successful at dialogue and politics and this book has plenty of action. At its heart is a strong story, family discord and the movement of Mongol nation from a plains-based nomadic group to a more cultured trading nation and all of this taking place within three generations. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
I suspect there will be more of these coming. The author does a nice job of moving into the next set of characters in this saga. In this one, we're a couple generations away from Genghis, and as is the case with most family dynasties, this one is imploding on itself. Kublai is written as the one descendent "worthy" of the kingdom, and as a very likable and admirable character.

I will say that now that I've gone as far as I can with this series, I'm reading some other history of the time, and have to say I like that Iggulden stayed relatively close to actual history when creating these stories. Sure, he seems to have taken some liberty to develop a good story, but these are novels after all, not pure history books. He "massages" characters to make a better story, which takes away from the likely historical accuracy, but I'm OK with that.

I listened to all of these on audiobook. As I mentioned in an earlier review, I'm really not crazy about the narrator. While he does a good job overall, he keeps changing his pronunciation of words and phrases from book to book. This could be because someone corrected him between books, or it could be that he just changes his mind on how he wants to say it. It's a bit annoying. ( )
  bicyclewriter | Jan 8, 2016 |
Iggulden wraps up his Mongol Empire series with the life of Kublai. While the character and plot development isn't as gripping as with his early works in this series, it nevertheless serves as a solid conclusion to the series - yet leaves open the potential for more to come (however unlikely this may be). ( )
  bdtrump | May 9, 2015 |
Unfortunately I couldn't get engaged in this book. It ended up sitting on a shelf neglected and never finished. ( )
  shawse | Oct 17, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385343051, Hardcover)

Featured Essay by Conn Iggulden

Kublai Borjigin was a grandson of Genghis Khan, but never expected to inherit the Mongol empire. He spent his formative years as a scholar in the city of Karakorum, learning languages and philosophies rather than the tactics of war.

When the other lines of succession failed, Kublai's older brother Mongke rose to lead the empire, a man who aimed to be another Genghis--traditional and utterly ruthless. Mongke began his reign with a great slaughter and put his followers and family in positions of power. Yet what was Mongke to do with his brother Kublai, the ink-stained scholar who had never left the city? Kublai dressed like a noble and had no experience of large-scale assaults. Astonishingly, Mongke sent his academic brother to conquer the hardest military target of the era--China. He gave Kublai an army of a hundred thousand, but at that time, a single Chinese city contained more people than the entire Mongol nation. The Emperor of China was capable of putting two million trained soldiers in the field. It was an impossible task, a perfect example of "asymmetric warfare," where a much smaller side is forced to innovate to survive.

Given an impossible task, what happened was an extraordinary leap of imagination for a man of the thirteenth century. Kublai learned the tactics of cavalry archers. He learned how to use cannons and what a burden they would prove to a fast cavalry force. He had good generals and his men were the elite horsemen of the Great Khan, but that would not have been enough on its own. What Kublai discovered was the exact opposite of Genghis's chief tactic. Genghis had destroyed cities as an example, so that the next ones would surrender without a fight. Kublai spared cities, allowing them to remain untouched as his army swept by. Once his mercy was a proven fact, they surrendered by the dozen. Armies sent against him knew they could lay down weapons and live.

By the time Mongke rode out with a huge army to "save" his brother, Kublai was in strike range of the enemy capital. Perhaps Mongke would have taken the glory, but he died on the trip south and Kublai was left in sole command. He wanted to go on, but news came that his youngest brother had declared himself Khan at home. Furious, Kublai broke off his campaign and returned to fight a civil war.

His life is the story of a scholar who was forced to lead first armies and then an empire. He turned out to be better at it than his brothers or Genghis. There were tragedies and glories still to come--the death of his wife and son, the failures against Japan and the splendid court described by Marco Polo. Kublai would lose more than he gained as the Great Khan of the empire, but he founded a Chinese dynasty and is remembered there with respect and honor.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:30 -0400)

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Tells the story of the rise of Kublai Khan to take over his grandfather Genghis Khan's empire, as well as China, in a novel that focuses on the brutal competition between Kublai and his three brothers.

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