Genghis: Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden (Conqueror #2) – Off The Shelf

“Off the Shelf” are reviews of books that I have quite literally taken off my bookshelf (or kindle).  They are not new releases but books I have been wanting to read or series I am trying to complete and are books that I know I am likely to enjoy.

genghis lords of the BowAn Entertaining and Bloody 4 Stars 

If you don’t know any of the history (and likely some mythology) surrounding the infamous Genghis Khan, I suggest you pick up these books and start reading now.  While I was aware of the story of his childhood and his early years, I knew very little of his exploits as a war chieftain.  I knew that he was successful in bringing together disparate Mongolian tribes I was unaware of the sheer ferociousness and determination of these warriors.

This volume tells of the earliest years of his conquests.  Genghis Khan had no formal education.  He was not trained in leadings massive armies of warriors but rather tactics used by small raiding parties.  Lords of the Bow paint a picture of a man who possessed natural genius for warfare, an innate ability to lead and the intelligence to seek out knowledge necessary to defeat the enemy

Plot summary

In this second volume, we follow Genghis on his early campaigns to fight the Chin (Chinese) dynasty.  A band of 60,000 Mongol warriors, newly formed in a community that violated the ancient tribal of governance of the Mongol people, set themselves against an ancient and advanced civilization.  The plot weaves epic battles involving a staggering number of combatants with Genghis’ quest to obtain and use his enemies knowledge to defeat them.

The Good

Are you Ready to Rumble!

The battles described in the volume, especially the final battle, can be described in one word, EPIC.  In these early years, Genghis was able to use his force of 60,000 warriors and the Chinese belief that the Mongol Tribes were weak and disorganized, to its full advantage. In early battles, he used the vast size of his army to overwhelm any city in his path.  The final battle in this volume takes place between Genghis’ army and the army of Yenking (now modern day Beijing) and the surrounding cities.  The author paints a vivid picture of the nearly insurmountable task of the taking the city.  Not only was the city wall nearly impenetrable, the entrance to the city plain was through a narrow passage and between a mountain range.  The efforts that Genghis’ army took to besiege the city and fight the army was extraordinary.  If nothing else, read the book for the account of this battle alone.

Its all in the Detail

The author has a wonderful eye for detail.  This is not a story of crazed and bloodthirsty Mongols bent on world domination.  This is the story of a man.  We are afforded a look into the life Genghis Khan and the surrounding cultures and customs.  For example, there is a scene where Genghis and his warriors enter an opulent home in a Chinese city.  The Mongol warriors have spent their entire life in open plains and living in gers.  The author points out that the would have likely felt uncomfortable and unsettled with high ceilings, large rooms and slaves.  It is these small details that round out this novel and is so rewarding for the reader.

The Bad

What about Bob (and Borte)

There is a large cast of characters that are important in the story of Genghis Khan.  His wife, Borte, was an important figure in the first book and she was the reason he made many of his early decisions.  While the relationship with his brothers continues to be explored, the relationship with his own children and wife is not.  For someone that was so affected by his relationship with his own father, I am interested in Genghis the Father and husband.  Hopefully this will be explored in later volumes.

Final Thoughts

While I enjoyed the book, it lacked the overall excitement of the first book.  While the siege on Yenking was epic, large portions of the book were left to scheming, planning and searching out people to teach them that which they did not know.  Overall, this volume paints a picture of a far sighted man who was prepared to go to amazing lengths to reach his goal.  I am excited to read the rest of the story of Genghis Khan.

Content Advisories

It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested.  I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.

Scale 1 – Lowest     5 – Highest

Sex 2.5

Part of the warrior culture in these books and at this time allowed the victors to take their liberties with the women of vanquished enemies.  There is discussion of rape on multiple occasions but there are no graphic incidents.  There is a minor sex scene in which sex is implied.  There are several other discussions related to sex but overall they are not graphic.

Language 2

There is very little use of what the average reader would consider traditional adult language. There is certainly name calling and phases that would be considered insulting in the context of the culture.

Violence 4

Violence is a major theme in the book.  I reduced the rating for the second volume and it was not pervasive as in the first.  This volume included far more planning a scheming and less fighting.  They violence is not as graphic as in the first novels.  There are scenes in which a character is abusive to a woman that are mildly graphic.  There is a scene of mass suicide.

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Tim Written by:

Tim is a lawyer, sports fan, parent, husband and book lover. He runs his own legal practice and is the founder of The Literary Lawyer book blog and a contributing writer for Tim loves to share his love of reading by providing reviews to entertain as well as provide information to help you make an informed reading decision.