David Skies's Reviews > Khan: Empire of Silver

Khan by Conn Iggulden
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's review
Sep 30, 2010

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bookshelves: historical-fiction, firstreads
Read in May, 2011

(Received via Firstreads)

The Khan is dead! Long live the Khan!

Or something to that effect. Genghis is dead, the empire accrued during his lifetime passed on to his son Ogedai. Ogedai, the second oldest of his surviving sons, a fact which does not sit well Chagatai, the eldest. After a coup attempt gone awry, Ogedai could quite handily have his elder brother killed for his treachery, but instead hands him a sizeable parcel of land in the southwest of the Mongol holdings, there to rule with relative autonomy. . . .Maybe it's a Mongol thing.

With family drama that out of the way, we get down to what it is the Mongols do best: Conquer! It's like the military expansionist equivalent of "Old MacDonald's Farm"; 'With a little conquer here and a little conquer there! Here a conquer, there a conquer, everywhere a conquer conquer!' Driving the last of the Chin military out of their land to the east, punishing the Russians to the north, and pressing on into Eastern Europe in the west. A veritable feast of conquering! In handy bite-size pieces.

And that's the thing. Maybe it's owing to the historical nature of Iggulden's chosen subject, the framework he's lashed himself to, but the narrative often finds itself lacking in flow. Less a cohesive whole, more a loosely collected series of episodes; snapshots of master tactician Tsubodai on campaign, Ogedai Khan dealing with a weakened heart, Chagatai fuming and biding his time in his corner of the empire. It feels at times as if there were entire pages missing that would better link this story together.

Also annoying is the author's tendency to jump between points of perspective from one paragraph to the next. The writing itself is fine (if relatively unremarkable) but it is jarring to spend nearly an entire chapter in the shoes of one character, only to be suddenly dropped in on the private thoughts of the other person in the conversation. Imagine having brief moments of telepathy that allow you a glimpse into the minds of those around you. Maddening, yes?

And yet, it still entertains. Somehow . . .

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