Genghis Khan, known as the founder of Mongolia, was not always
a conqueror. He started out as Temujin, one son among many of the
khan (or leader) of the Wolf tribe. Violence was a way of life, and
warriors were the only ones who could survive. The Wolf tribe
itself was one among many small squabbling tribes, roaming the vast
grassy plains of Mongolia and killing each other over livestock. It
might sound petty to us, but in the incredibly harsh climate of
what would become Mongolia, whether or not you own a horse might
mean the difference between life and death.
Temujin discovers this hard fact firsthand when his father is
killed, the tribe's leadership is usurped, and he and his remaining
family are cast out of the tribe. Temujin, his three brothers,
their mother and a newborn sister are abandoned without shelter,
provisions or weapons. The only question is if starvation, the
weather or another tribe will be what finally polishes them off.
The feisty little family gets it together, surviving on a tough
length of string smuggled out of the camp, which they use for
fishing and setting snares. It's cold in this book --- very, very
cold --- all the time.
Temujin learns a hard but valuable lesson about the necessity of
working together, inspiring his later vision of uniting the tribes
of the plains. It's a long often violent struggle. A brutal
environment breeds brutal people, and Temujin fights every step of
the way to build his own tribe from the tribeless nomads who wander
the steppes and create a fighting force to challenge other tribes.
Mercy is an alien luxury, and Temujin's will to win and desire for
vengeance are remorseless.
The cost of his vision is very high, and Temujin is not always the
one who has to pay it. His brothers and tribesmen are not immune
from his authority, and there are constant battles as he struggles
to maintain his position. Worse, Temujin's wife is kidnapped by a
competing tribe; the fight to get her back is among the most
compelling scenes in the book.
We know Temujin will continue to fight to hold the tribes together
and expand his empire, likely the subject of Iggulden's future
works. Known as the author of the Emperor novels --- four books
about Julius Caesar --- it appears that GENGHIS: BIRTH OF AN EMPIRE
also marks the birth of a new series. "Epic" is not too strong a
word; Iggulden clearly feels the attraction of men of destiny, lone
people who shape their times to their will and enjoys sharing their
stories with his readers.
This first book gives us Temujin's youth and brings us up to the
point where he manages to unite the tribes and takes on the
identity by which we know him: Genghis Khan, ruler of the sea of
Reviewed by Colleen Quinn (CQuinn@firstname.lastname@example.org) on January 22, 2011