Book Review: Genghis: Birth of an Empire, by Conn Iggulden

genghis_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Are you a reader that craves books swarming you with deceit, ambition, ruthlessness, and palpable pain? Then Genghis: Birth of an Empire is a perfect read for you. This compelling novel, written by Conn Iggulden is about the hardships and victories of Genghis Khan before he established the Mongol Empire. How can our contemporary from the picture-perfect English countryside paint such a vivid portrait of the 13th century warrior, leader, and visionary?

Temujin, later on known as Genghis Khan, is the son to Yesugei, who is the leader of the nomadic tribe called the Wolves. During his youth, Temujin experiences many traumatic events such as when his father is raided and killed by another tribe, and when he is abandoned, as well as his family to perish in the deserted plains by one of the bondsmen of Yesugei, Eeluk who declares himself khan of the Wolves, deceiving Temujin and his brothers.

On their first few nights alone, there is a very scarce amount of food and the entire family is starving, except for Temujin’s elder brother, Bekter. He discovers that Bekter is keeping food that he hunted away from the family. Temujin decides that this cannot go on any longer and he must kill Bekter before the entire family perishes. He and his brother, Kachiun create a plan to execute their greedy brother, and succeed. The news is announced to their mother and other siblings and the mother is heart-broken and infuriated at the same time. She orders Temujin to live separately from her and the family, threatening him, exclaiming, “If I see you sleeping, I will kill you for what you’ve done here.” (138). With tears in his eyes, Temujin flees from his family immediately, which is the only meaning in his life. What will happen next?

With such a strong focus on its main character, the author depicts a young boy and shows him transfer into a grown man who can lead anyone under his power. Depicting Genghis Khan as successful and hard-working, the author’s perspective of him is very clear- he admires Genghis Khan. In addition to the book’s main character development, the author follows several, central themes in his story such as how dangerous it was to live in Genghis Khan’s times and how fragile human life was, the never ending rivalry among various tribes in their quest for power, and the importance of loyalty and trust in Genghis Khan’s immediate circle of followers in order to not be defeated.

I recommend this book because I was captivated by the way Conn Iggulden described the characters and events in his story. I could imagine what Temujin’s thoughts and feelings were throughout his life experiences because of the author’s focus on his character’s inner-world. It really put a picture in my mind how Temujin was feeling when he was battling Eeluk. “Pain soared through him and Temujin saw Eeluk had aimed for the bloody spot on his tunic. He growled aloud as he came in, his fury fed by agony. Eeluk met his wild swing and punched again at the bloody muscle, starting a thin red stream that stained the tunic over older streaks” (364).  I was also moved by the author’s portrayal of major events in the story such as battles and murders in which his main character was involved. I felt as if I were a witness of them all because of how vividly they were described in the story.

-Natalie K., 7th grade

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