Review by MJ
I have a small confession to make: I’ve been fascinated by the story of Genghis Khan for many years and have always read or watched anything about him I could find. This makes me hard to please and critical when it comes to fiction chronicling the Mongol empire of the 13th century. So I’m very pleased to say Conn Iggulden gets five gold stars.
“Empires of Silver” is part of the Conqueror series which tells the story of the rise of the Mongol empire from the birth of Genghis to (so far) the rule of Kublai Khan. This book starts after the death of Genghis to the untimely demise of his immediate successor, Ogedei, and covers the creation of the Mongol capital city Karakorum together with the Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe.
These were, as they say, interesting times. The Mongol armies were invincible, sweeping aside everything in their path and leaving utter destruction behind. At the point they stopped advancing they were in what is now Hungary and were poised to launch attacks on Germany and Austria, with nothing and no one to stop them until they reached the Atlantic coast of France. The Mongols were far in advance of any other nation in terms of military ability and innovation. If events had turned out differently the whole of western civilisation would’ve been threatened and possibly extinguished. I won’t spoil the plot by telling you why it didn’t happen, although if like me this is an area of personal interest you’ll know already.
That brings me nicely on to one of the reasons I liked this book so much; virtually no historical fact has been altered and for what is unknown Mr Iggulden has extrapolated from the known to the most likely scenario. So here is a novel so closely based on reality it could almost be non-fiction; only the thoughts and words have been created. Does this make it a boring read? Far from it. The events covered were of such importance to world history even a bare recital of names and dates would be exciting. But the author goes way beyond that; he takes a good story and turns it into something fascinating, filled with intrigue, drama, beautifully drawn characterisations and exceptional dialogue.
I would wholeheartedly recommend the entire Conqueror series and, if you don’t wish to read them all, each novel stands on its own as a great work. But if you do, then you’ll not only have many hours of enjoyable reading ahead, you’ll also learn about one of the most interesting characters in history and how he created what became the second largest empire ever seen, all during his own lifetime, having started from nowhere and nothing. To me it’s one of the most exciting stories ever told and, in my view, no one has ever told it so well as Conn Iggulden.