Sunday, 23 August 2015

Conn Iggulden - Conqueror

I’ve finally completed this five book slog and I must admit, it took me a lot longer that I would have liked. Based on how quickly I’ve finished my next book, I think it says something about my enjoyment of this series. I did think that Conqueror was the best book in the series in terms of writing however it suffers from the same ongoing issues that plagued the previous books in the series.

I’m not going to dwell too much on this one as, like I said, it’s the best one and it’s probably just my taste that led me to taking so long to finish it.

Anyway onto the stuff I didn’t like. The way Conn Iggulden paints his characters is rather confusing. In the end of the last book, Batu was portrayed as an asshole who believed he was more entitled to lead despite his questionable heritage. However, at the start of this book, Guyuk is immediately made out to be an absolute cunt and Batu is the knight in shining armour who needs to stop Guyuk’s debaucherous leadership of the Mongol empire.

My problem with this is that the best part of writing historical fiction is surely that you can use your own creative whims to fill the gaps between the stuff that is officially documented. So why do we start here and not visit slightly earlier to watch Guyuk’s descent into depravity? Not only would it have made these early scenes easier to understand but it would have made for some interesting reading.

There is the other matter of the ever present, ‘here is that character I forgot about. But he/she is important so here is their funeral.’ This book goes one further by getting rid of Yao Shu by having him leave in one paragraph, and in the past tense, without even a word to anyone despite being ever-present throughout the series. It’s a strange choice because, once again, the character relationships are not something that is overly documented in history. It’s more the events, so I would have thought there would have been more focus on the characters than the events.

The above issues are more writing choices that I didn’t understand but there were a few mistakes that stood out. At one point, one of the Mongol character’s names is spelt incorrectly and towards the end of the book, Hulegu is referred to as Kublai’s older brother, which is careless prose, especially when you are dealing with three brothers at the same time.

And that’s pretty much it. The series has been more enjoyable than it probably comes across in these reviews but I feel I am due a long break from Iggulden and will be exploring different writers over the coming months, as well as revisiting some of my favourites.

Conqueror by Conn Iggulden was published by HarperCollinsPublishers in 2011. RRP £8.99 (Paperback)

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