I was looking through the library’s shelves for an author whose last name started with I for my Reading the Alphabet Challenge and this title caught my eye. I was in the mood for some historical fiction in a non-Western setting and decided to try it.
Genre: historical fiction
Length: 383 pages
Setting: what is now Mongolia, 1200s
Summary: Yesugi is a strong khan to his Wolf clan, but he is killed by Tartars before his sons are old enough to lead the clan. Eelek, Yesugi’s chief bondsman, takes control of the families and leaves Hoelan, Yesugi’s wife, and children alone on the steppes with nothing. Amazingly, they survive the winter, although Temujin kills his older brother because he’s hoarding food from the rest of the family. Hoelan forces them to work together to survive and they even begin to prosper. However, Temujin is captured by Wolves and returned to the families for Eelek to torture. He escapes and begins to build a tribe around him made up of the wanderers banished from all the tribes. He makes a name for himself fighting Tartars and is invited to be War Chief of the Keriat as the Chin are trying to get the Monghols to fight the Tartars. From that position, Temujin takes control of that tribe and two others (including the Wolves) in his quest to unite all the tribes under a single leader.
Final thoughts: This may have been a random pick, but I found a gem! I couldn’t put it down. The setting was so interesting and certainly not something I’d read about often. It’s basically Genghis Khan’s childhood, which was harder than usual in a very harsh environment. The food they eat in particular set them apart from cultures I’m more familiar with. Milk right from the horse (not cow), or, if that’s not available, nick a vein and drink blood right from the horse. Lots of fermented milk, usually in the form of cheese curd softened under the saddle for a day. And salted tea. The Chinese ambassador, used to court life, is the audience stand-in for how foreign life is in a ger. Even so, I’m intrigued by the lifestyle.
Temujin has a vision of uniting the clans and his brothers are there to bring that vision to life. The book is full of a fair amount of violence, but it isn’t gratuitous violence. It’s definitely an area that is all about the strong surviving and the weak being left out in the snow. I’m going to have to track down the rest of the series to see if it continues with such high quality of writing and interest.
Title comes from: It is descriptive of the topic.
Reading challenges fulfilled: book #74 for the year, and an I in my Author Reading the Alphabet Challenge
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