Eric Mesa's Reviews > The Mongoliad: Book Two

The Mongoliad by Neal Stephenson
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really liked it

This is a very hard book to properly review. Unlike a typical book in a trilogy (or however many books it ends up being - at the time this book was published it was a trilogy), this book does not contain a story that begins and ends within the larger story. But as this book started I realized this would be the case. It essentially just continues exactly where the last one left off as if this was not a series of books, but rather one large book that's been split into publishable chunks of 300 pages each. (Although, to put the lie to my point, the final chapter does have a very satisfying final sentence for ending a book)

This book takes the groups we were following last time - Feronantus and his knights, Gansukh and Lian, Zug and Kim, and the Kagan - and adds another group: the Cardinals in Rome who have to elect a new pope plus a couple outsiders key to that story. I don't remember exactly how I felt about the different stories in the last book, but in this book each set of characters is in a place in their narrative that keeps it very engaging and fun. And so I gave this book a 4/5 because I found each of the storylines to be a lot of fun.

I know that Neal Stephenson and crew (for this is a book with a lot of authors) are obviously altering some of history to tell this story. Or, if there actually was a Christian military order who went off to kill the Great Khan, obviously we wouldn't know the details to this level. Which is to say that while I know part of this book is fiction, as a huge history nerd (although I can't remember details to save my life - thankfully at the college and above level it's more about motivations than details) I love learning about this portion of history I'm completely ignorant of. Throughout high school and college we just skipped over the middle ages as if nothing important was happening. And yet I learned via Dan Carlin's Hardcore History (which I think was the impetus to get me to check out this series) that Europe as we know it almost ceased to exist because of Mongol power. And it was only an accident of history that gave us the white-European dominated last 800 years. So learning about the Khazars - a Jewish steppes people that once had a huge empire, but at this time (in the book) just have one city left is pretty incredible. As are a million other details that Stephenson and crew include.
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Reading Progress

October 2, 2017 – Shelved
October 2, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
April 11, 2019 – Started Reading
April 11, 2019 –
3.0%
April 12, 2019 –
4.0% "After Raphael shows up at the Franciscan abbey, a flashback to a crusader campaign in Egypt."
April 12, 2019 –
5.0% "Back from flashback"
April 15, 2019 –
8.0% "The defenders hurled rocks at the Christian war parties without much enthusiasm, as if their efforts were expected as part of the dialogue of war, but they had no heart for it any longer.

***

“All titles are unwarranted, Raphael,” Sir John said. “Whether or not we
live up to them is what matters.”"
April 15, 2019 –
9.0% "This short prequel story moves slowly, but beautifully. I find myself wishing it were longer, but I think that is always the mark of a short story. I'm curious how it will end."
April 16, 2019 –
13.0% "The short story is over. I'm not 100% sure what happened to St. Francis at the end - stigmata? Anyway, next read will begin the story proper."
April 16, 2019 –
14.0% "In Rome..."
April 17, 2019 –
17.0% "The Roman introduction complete, no onto Haakon who we'd last seen fighting in the gladiator pits."
April 17, 2019 –
20.0% "Continuing to catch up with everyone from book 1. Now we're back to Hunern or whatever city had the fighting pits. Next chapter will be the Mongolian palace and Gansukh again."
April 18, 2019 –
22.0% "A return to the Khagan. I feel this is like LoTR in that they are different books just to more easily sell, not because there's actually a delineation between books."
April 18, 2019 –
24.0% "Back to Father Rodrigo"
April 19, 2019 –
26.0% "A reminder that while most people in the 1200s never left their village or the surrounding area, there were some who were too restless and traveled the world on Crusades, trade, or other missions."
April 19, 2019 –
28.0% "Some young shield-brethren go on a tour of Hunern."
April 22, 2019 –
29.0% "An underground scuffle"
April 22, 2019 –
31.0% "Aftermath of tunnel fight and aftermath of Khagan party night."
April 23, 2019 –
34.0% "A better understanding of the priest plot"
April 24, 2019 –
35.0% "A discussion around a campfire"
April 24, 2019 –
37.0% "Negotiations plus a history lesson"
April 25, 2019 –
40.0% "A lot of fun at the Livonian's expense"
April 25, 2019 –
41.0% "Back to the Mongolians"
April 26, 2019 –
44.0% "A bit of Master Chucai and then Rodrigo has apparently entered a pit of vipers in robes"
April 26, 2019 –
47.0% "A plan forms to talk to the Japanese guy or Korean, I can't remember.

Then a fun scene between Fenric and the girl from Rome. Good emotional balance on these chapters."
April 29, 2019 –
48.0% "Peculiarly picking Popes"
April 29, 2019 –
51.0% "A return to the Korean"
April 30, 2019 –
54.0% "A racy scene. Then the Khan. Finally, FerencOchyro mission"
May 1, 2019 –
56.0% "Rodrigo's nightmare"
May 1, 2019 –
58.0% "A fun chapter with Feronantus and crew"
May 2, 2019 –
59.0% "A very funny scene with FerencOchyroe and some priests."
May 13, 2019 –
61.0% "Finally a reunion"
May 14, 2019 –
66.0% "A fun fight at First Field"
May 15, 2019 –
69.0% "A brief return to Gansukh. Too brief."
May 15, 2019 –
71.0% "Things just got CRAZY in the Septizodium"
May 16, 2019 –
74.0% "I think I love every group in this book. Fernonantus' group takes the turn this chapter and it's a great scene that I wouldn't mind seeing on film."
May 16, 2019 –
75.0% "A return to Kim and then the Heermeister"
May 17, 2019 –
78.0% "Attack!"
May 21, 2019 –
79.0% "The battle gets intense!"
May 21, 2019 –
83.0% "Lots of storylines continue. The book continues to intrigue."
May 22, 2019 –
87.0% "Things get interesting as the attack in the steppes continues"
May 23, 2019 –
90.0% "Feronantus' crew"
May 23, 2019 –
91.0% "Aftermath of a fire"
May 24, 2019 – Finished Reading

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