Is it nature or nurture which makes a man?
Conn Iggulden’s 2007 book Wolf of the Plains is the first book in a series detailing the rise of the Mongolian Empire. Iggulden spins a classic story of betrayal and revenge, centering on the boyhood of Temujin, the future Genghis Khan. Born into tribal royalty, Temujin is forced to learn hard lessons when his family is ejected into the wilderness after his father’s murder by a rival clan. Raised by his mother and surrounded by enemies, Temjuin has to be tough enough to survive adulthood and form a warrior tribe of his own.
Iggulden shows a real appreciation for how each of the challenges in Temujin’s life shaped him to become the greatly feared warrior Genghis. The book is certainly not for the faint of heart. Action is fast, brutal and bloody, and when the dust has cleared no mercy is shown to any of Temujin’s enemies, not even those from his own family. Yet, if the actions of the characters shock us, we as readers should remember that Iggulden accurately reflects the harsh nomadic life that the young Genghis Khan was brought up in.
From the opening paragraph it is clear that the reader is entering a now-vanished world. Little details, such as the way in which the warrior’s felt tents are produced, the descriptions of their strange food and drink, and even the bride stealing used by the various tribes clearly show that the author has spent a great deal of time immersing himself in the culture of the steppe people.
Some parts of Temujin’s early life are simplified and some characters that were important historically have been omitted for the sake of the story, but Iggulden weaves a brutal, fast-paced story which is a treat for readers of historical fiction or fantasy.
By Lewis (Northwood Library)