Saturday, October 3, 2015

Book Review - "Wolf of the Plains" by Conn Iggulden

I started reading this novel with a strange curiosity about the early life of Genghis Khan, having already read three non-fiction titles about his life-time conquests and those of his offspring. I ended up being deeply touched by the skillful crafting of a poignant coming-of-age tale portraying the young and fearless tribal leader. His unbeatable will to survive as a precocious male child of an ostracized and fatherless family in the harshest of environments is destined to make him a formidable tribal head and chart the winning course of his inimitable adult life. Still a young teen, he had to face the sudden loss of a father, heartless betrayals, constant cold and hunger, homelessness, deadly traps and all kinds of brutal life threats. It is hard not to believe that there is some truth in fiction in this case, as it can probably be surmised that what happens to a person in his/her early formative years is most likely to give shape to his/her character.

The novel is sprinkled with occasional gory scenes and graphic details, but also does not lack sentimental episodes. Overall, it is a gripping action-packed read.

The author explains in a note that his chief source of historical details largely comes from Arthur Waley’s translation of a Chinese version of The Secret History of the Mongols, the original Mongolian text of which was written in the 13th century, after the death of Genghis Khan.

Late last year I read The History and the Life of Chinggis Khan: The Secret History of the Mongols, which is the Mongolian scholar Urgunge Onon’s translation of the original 13th century text, and early this year I read Jack Weatherford’s two non-fiction titles: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World and The Secret History of the Mongol Queens. These three books together gave me a pretty good picture of the times and lives of Genghis Khan and his successors.

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