As you can see from the picture here, this book was written by lots of people. The only one of the six I’d ever heard of before picking The Mongoliad up was Greg Bear, a fairly strong Sci-Fi/Fantasy writer (with an awesome name) with about 30 books published. No Asimov, but a good solid read all around. What originally made me want to pick this up (Grabbed it at a library book sale for $1.50) is the collaborative nature of the book. I know for my own writing, having one other person contributing opinions can be a bit of a challenge, much less five. The narrative follows 2 (and sometimes 3) separate groups, one in Karakorum (The Mongols HQ), and one group of knights based in a Monastery that splits a few times to explore the Steppes, Kiev, or fight in a gladiatorial-type circus. Oh yes, a lot happens, and it happens quickly. I’ll summarize the plot colloquially:
Within these groups there’s about three or four key characters who take turns narrating (two of which, interestingly, are strong female characters). We’ll start with the Karakorum crew. Gansukh the steppe warrior is learning the perplexities of social combat as he tries to save the Khagan (think Khan of Khans) from being a drunken idiot and ruining the entire Mongol empire, which essentially covers the Asian continent and at this point is spreading into Eastern Europe. Then we have Lian, a Chinese slave tasked with teaching Gansukh the ways of the court. Surprise, she wants to escape. Double surprise, she kind of wants to bone Gansukh. And he kind of wants to bone her. Awkward sauna encounters and archery lessons ensue.
Out on the steppes, we meet a stalwart group of knights, the Order of the Sacred Virgin, training at a monastery to compete in a tournament held by one of the Khans (who are all sons of Genghis btw), mostly for fun, and plot. And here we meet Cnan, a young lady Binder (read: Guide) who is tasked to help the knights, all of various European descent from Scandinavian to Saracen, and give them intel on the Mongols. Here intel amounts to there are millions of them and they’re going to pillage your countries. The knights will take turns with some brief narration, but we mostly hear about their escapades from Cnan’s point of view. Some stay and fight in the tournament while others go try to kill the Khagan and hopefully save Christendom, guided by Cnan, and they get into fights and hijinks along the way. Also, there’s a night named Percival she wants to bone. Still unclear if he wants to bone her.
That was a little cheekier than I normally go, but I’m feeling a bit cheeky today. I very much enjoyed this book, although the pacing definitely made it apparent this was one work in a much longer series. It effectively set the table for some interesting historical fiction action, and from what little I know of the time period the authors went above and beyond to make their story fairly accurate (at least historically). I’d dive into the second book, but I’ve got a Joe Abercrombie and some HP Lovecraft already in the queue.
I’d recommend this to any fan of historical medieval fiction. The fight scenes and setting felt very genuine and realistic, and the characters are interesting enough to make you keep picking the book back up. It isn’t anything insanely riveting or spell-binding, and if you don’t like swords and horses you probably won’t enjoy it too much.
I give it a solid 3.5 our of 5 peasants, who totally get the shaft (sometimes literally) in this book, and just about any other realistic medieval fiction and just needed to be mentioned somewhere in here.
Signing off with a picture of the six dudes who wrote this book: