The Mongoliad, Book One

The Mongoliad, Book One, is the first in a series of books written by a collection of authors (Bear, Bear, Brassey, deBirmingham, Moo, Stephenson, Teppo).  It is an alternate history starting in 1241 AD with brief moments of the fantastical / spiritual.  They make no jokes about the devastation wrought by the Mongols, and paint a convincing portrait of medieval Europe (everything is dirty and most people are poor).  It’s a quality story, with the promise of more good tales to come.

I do have a quibble with this book: it’s short, and cuts off right before what I’m sure will be an exciting scene at the beginning of the next book.  Normally I’m all for cliffhangers, but having someone else do it to me instead of the other way around… well, clearly I’m not being entirely fair.  This isn’t really a strike against the book, just a lame complaint, since I wanted the next book in my hands the moment I finished.

Ok, two quibbles: though the fight scenes are well written, I found myself having to reread them every so often because I had gotten lost.  Some books’ fight scenes are written with enough generality that you just keep going and paint a picture in your mind that may or may not accurately reflect what the story says.  Other books’ fight scenes are written very specifically, but with sufficient simplicity that you can follow them on the first read through.  The Mongoliad’s fight scenes usually belong in the latter category, but sometimes they are simultaneously specific and frustratingly hard to follow.  Maybe it was just me.  Regardless, it isn’t enough to put me off the story.

Enough with the quibbles!

The story is well written and covers several different groups of cool characters; it follows a collection of questers on their journey East to kill the Great Khan (they want to save Europe from further Mongol invasions), while also devoting time to a skillful Mongol warrior sent to the Great Khan’s court by the Great Khan’s brother, and to the captive Chinese woman assigned to tutor that warrior in the ways of the court.  The Great Khan is a steadfast alcoholic, and the warrior’s mission is to rescue the Great Khan from himself and from his other courtiers.  I’m looking forward to seeing the two groups meet, and so far I’m rooting for both of them.  This will surely be a problem in the future.

So, my conclusion?  It’s a good first book, and despite my lame complaints I am undeterred in my enthusiasm for the prospects of this series.  I expect I’ll be grabbing the next book just about as soon as I’ve finished the book I’m currently working through.  The Mongoliad is a good read, and Book One will almost certainly leave you wanting the next ones just as it did me.

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