Monday, December 6, 2010

'Khan: Empire of Silver'


Whenever I read a Conn novel I expect to be taken on a journey. A grand, expansive, lyrical journey. I have followed him since before his first ‘Emperor’ novel and have stayed a fan since. My only quam is that he takes about a year and a half between novels so I tend to lose a bit of the story because 1. I’m not getting younger and 2. Ginsing is NASTY! Trying to keep up with the bloodline of Genghis is like trying to read Braille with ball bearings attached to your fingers. But as I read this latest installment in the ‘Khan’ series, everything slowly comes back. As massive a figure as Genghis was, the character that took me in this book was Tsubodai. The General. The Strategist. The non-bloodline “outcast” that helped build one of THE greatest warrior nations ever. His true impact we’ll probably never know but ‘Empire of Silver’ does a pretty good job of helping us see his contribution. His brutality seems second only to Genghis and I enjoyed reading about the slaughter he meted out to anyone who didn’t have the sense to give up.

Conn does the Khan History justice in this latest installment of The Mongols. We get the battles, the blood (although I was hoping for more), and even the time treasured, never ending politics of a Nation. Genghis has so many children and offspring that if he lived today he would be playing in the NBA. Because of this, there are numerous, legitimate claims to the Khanate that are constantly being challenged. Ogedai is the Khan in this book but for how long? Will honor, greed, or bloodlust win the day? Once Ogedai makes his decision as to who will rule what and where, the generals are loosed upon the world. And I guess their orders were to slaughter damn near everything because… geez! They introduced so much blood to the world that vampires were like “seriously, stop”. Reading a Conn novel is truly pure joy because there is so much story and the way he’s writing these Khan novels, there’s no end in sight. Fine with this reader.

Conn’s writing has sharpened since his first ‘Emperor’ book but a small part of me wishes for the “old” Conn, especially when it comes to the blood and brutality. Don’t misunderstand me; it’s in here but not at the level as his previous books. Doesn’t take away from the story, just a personal preference. Anyway… enough of me crying and belly aching… the action in this book is exactly what you would expect from Conn; fast and vast. The simmering hatred Batu has for Tsubodai and his forced yet mocking obedience of the famed General. Chagatai biding his time before unleashes his version of the Mongol Smackdown. The terror of the Russian towns and her citizens at the knowledge that they would not live to see the next morning; heck the next hour. A shocking sacrifice by one of the brothers, the genius of a forgotten General, and a razor sharp kirpan twist at the end.

Anyone wanting to know how to write an historical-thriller needs to sign up for ‘Conn 101’. Anyone wanting to read a massive historical-thriller needs only to visit their local book store to do so. When you get there, go to the “I” section, look up ‘Iggulden’, and then cancel your life for the next week.

One last thing: Conn adds some historical facts at the end of this book to give us perspective as to what was true and what he took liberty with. I’m assuming he did this because for some reason Conn gets beaten up mercilessly by critics scream from the mountaintops that his books aren’t “accurate”. Conn is an author, Conn is a creator, Conn is a storyteller. If he wants to take liberty with history so be it! I understand why he did it (if that is indeed why he did it) but I say screw the corncob pipe smoking critics man! He has a gift that they don’t; he can tell a story and hold people. The only difference between a non-fiction book and a fiction book is the “non”. (Wow, deep). It’s all about perspective. Conn sees it one way, I see it one way, and the corncob dork sees another. Ignore the detractors and the purists. You want “true” history? Go to Oxford and proceed to be bored stupid. You want a series that makes your heart pulse? It’s right here.

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