Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Empire of Silver" - a review..

I can't believe it has taken as long as it has, but I've just finished the latest instalment in Conn Iggulden's Genghis Khan "Conqueror" series... it's difficult to believe that I read the last one 3 years ago [click here] but there you go - time flies...

I think one of the reasons I wasn't in a rush was because in the last book Genghis died, and it just seemed like that was a natural break, and maybe the series should have ended there - in fact in many ways this book is very similar to the Bernard Cornwell "Uhtred" book [click here] I recently reviewed where Alfred had died ie. wasn't that the end of the story....??

Well in both cases the authors have shown that this is very much not the case, just as in Alfred's case where relations start jockeying for power the moment he passes, this book takes up from just after Genghis died and his family are doing the same - the family tree following may help whilst describing the various family machinations..

Genghis's son Ogedai is to be the Khan as per his dying wishes, but Ogedai is sick (some kind of heart disease) and in addition he is not the eldest. Jochi, who would have been eldest, was killed in the previous book (there were suspicions that he may not have been the son of Genghis, as Genhis's wife had been kidnapped for a while), which leaves Chagetai and Tolui..

Genghis Khan's family tree...
Chagatai is older than Ogedai, and clearly believes the rule should be his, Tolui supports Ogedai, as does Batu (the son of Jochi)... cue internecine warfare, plotting, and politicking between the various family members as either side seeks to be the next Khan... a constant undercurrent throughout the book...  the advantage however lies with Ogedai as he was Genghis's chosen - more importantly he also has the support of Subotai, Genghis's master general, tactician, and strategist.. 

The Golden Horde
The book starts a couple of years after Genhis's death; Ogedai has spent the time building the Mongol city of Karakorum to be the capital of the new nation. All the united tribes of the Mongols are encamped on the plains roun th city waiting for the coronation of Ogedai, and tensions are running high.

Chagatai tries to wrest power by infiltrating the city with the aim of killing Ogedai, but his efforts are frustrated and Ogedai survives to be made Khan - he forgives Chagetai and gives him Central Asisa to rule and sends him away (hard life! )

The best part of the book  however deals with the campaigns by Subotai in Russia, Poland and the west - Ogedai tells him simply to make his borders secure, Subotai is given free reign as to where the borders will be and over a period of the 5 to 10 years he unleashes warfare Mongol style on the forces of the west. Subotai is without doubt the  military genius that few have heard of; in his lifetime he directed more than twenty campaigns in which he conquered thirty-two nations, and won sixty-five pitched battles. He conquered or overran more territory than any other commander in history.

My Mongol DBA army
In the book, Subotai comes up against Teutonic knights, various of the religious military orders (there were more than just Hospitallers and Templars), and the massed medieval might of Russia, Poland, Hungary and a host of other nations...  choosing to make war in the winter, his campaigns in Russia were breath taking - while the Russians tried to stay warm his armies ran riot - and he did that over and over again... the only occasion I can think of where "General Winter" was an ally of a Russian invader, rather than a bitter opponent...

The only reason Subotai stopped (and he was within a 100 miles of Vienna, and the rest of West Europe, with nothing to stop him when he did...!) was the death of Ogedai - the Mongols simply stopped, turned round and went home to sort out the succession...  astonishing...

Ogedai's successor was named as Guyuck, his son, who was on campaign with Subotai (along with Batu and a number of the other grandsons of Genghis) but was 5000 miles away from Karakorum - Chagatai is much closer and again launches his quest for power; the book ends with an interesting twist.....

Steve-the-Wargamer rated the trilogy 9.9 out of 10 and wholeheartedly recommended all three. I'd rate this one as an 8, maybe 8.5 - to me it felt a little like a (hugely readable) stop gap - after Genghis the next Khan everyone knows is Kublai and I got the feeling Iggulden didn't have much to go on with Ogedai - in book terms he didn't do anything other than build Karakorum, and be ill - the hero of the book for me is Subotai the completely ruthless military genius, but the books are about the Khan's so Iggulden's hands are tied..

Another outing for my DBA Mongol Army to provide some pictures - figures unknown but I think Essex 15mm. The army represents how the Mongol's would have been much later than Genghis  and Ogedai hence the increase in foot troops though I note in the story that Subotai is making much more use of foot troops, and artillery already - he was an innovator to the core... The Chinese Rocket gun was scratch built by "Lofty C" [ckick here] to meet the DBA army option for artillery.... can't think how old these figures are - I reckon at least 15 years and they get played with far too infrequently....


  1. Nice looking army and great background write up. Best, Dean

  2. I have this on my to read pile and so thanks for the review and I'm looking forward to actually reading it now.

  3. I've got the first book but I've not read it yet, thanks for the review, nice figures too!!!!

  4. Love your book reviews, except they cost
    me a fortune!