Conqueror: A Novel of Kublai Khan
Conqueror is the story of the renowned scholar and warrior Kublai Khan, but it is also the tale of those men who shaped and opposed Kublai as he was maturing into a brilliant 13th-century Mongolian leader. It begins with Kublai’s brother Guyuk, a suspicious leader whose fears border on paranoia while he rules. Ironically, Guyuk is brought down by an unexpected, formidable enemy capable of breaching the strongest security measures.
Kublai’s cousin, Mongke, then proclaims himself as Khan, one who deplores the weaknesses of the past government and one who will die by the hand of that same elusive enemy that killed Guyuk. Years before that happens, however, Mongke sends Kublai out to conquer more of China, a task Mongke believes Kublai will fail, as he has previously concentrated only on the skills of reading and studying. Instead, Kublai manages to combine fierceness with reason; he realizes, because of his scholarly nature, that he can leave behind those who obey out of fear or those who comply out of respect.
These two aspects of the Khans’ rule are where the author most excels. Iggulden makes the reader quake with fear while reading some of the most horrific scenes of murder and torture, but in the next breath one is respecting and admiring the Khans’ wise decisions about where to be merciful and forgiving. We feel the unspoken depths of all of the Khans’ fears, doubts, and confusion that are potent, albeit temporary, moments in their trek to conquer the entire world. Kublai will declare himself Khan after conquering Xanadu, and he wants to continue his elusive quest to overcome the ancient, powerful empire of Sung China. Conqueror is a superb, fifth historical volume in this notable series depicting the lives of Genghis to Kublai Khan. Wonderful novel!