Review of ~ John Man – Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection


This book was written in two different perspectives/styles. One was like a typical history book, explaining an amazing and important historic era surrounding an infamous warrior and an amazingly colourful supporting cast chronologically. The other was the writer John Man conversing and travelling with experts of the era and the characters portrayed in visiting certain sights in modern day where things ‘might have happened’ during the medieval conquests.

The history chronologic part of the book is easy to review and enjoy. I am sure the author points out in some section that this is almost a simple digestion of the period he is describing and it is mostly about his travels which focuses around pre-birth/ youth of Genghis also following his death. It is a shame that these two sections which are probably the focus of the book in the eyes of the author, did not really appeal to me. They were okay – and he did create the imagery of the current day area and how he raised an opinion to why he believe it represented such things- was a greatl skill. Especially a section where he describes why Genghis may have had one of his last battle preparation villages in a now Barren area of China is so picture-esque and lightening that john Man makes his presumptions essentially very believable.

I have been reading a few books by historians such as Alison Weir and Ian Mortimer and although this book was enjoyable – I found it didn’t seem as well researched and fleshed out as the aforementioned authors. It seemed like there were less references were reviewed prior to publication – with the majority of all statements being from the secret history of the Mongols. This is is an epic which is the Mongol’s equivalent of the Iliad (TROY), Aeneid (ROME), Egil’s Saga (ICELAND), The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (CHINA) – this point interested me so I may check out this text. The other texts he analysed seems quite unreliable which the author comments that it is due to the fact that Genghis’s death – the truth regarding the history was not known or hidden to aid the empires continued prominence.

I do not regret I read this. In fact, I can almost recommend the way I have done things if people wish to get in to Genghis and the surrounding historical awesomeness.

I watched the film Mongol first (which features a great Japanese actor – who also played in the Audition, Visitor Q and Thor – as the general – Genghis himself) then I read this – and the way thing happened during his life – Which seems more human and honourable than you may be destined to think. The Mongol’s only obliterated races/ areas when they had been dishonoured and revenge was due – which makes it more human in the middle age. Also, the author explains middle age views and happenings well as if we are there. I would say this is a good way to approach the subject. I have to admit John Man is an Eastern Asia history expert an I have already expressed I wish to read more of his work.

I am interested to read other authors regarding this period – about Genghis, the empire, his Grandson Kublai Khan – especially to see if they view Genghis in the same legendary, god-esque like way of this book and the film (which I think I will watch again later) or if they seem him in the same light as Hitler and Edward I for his destruction of certain races. He didn’t pull any punches – over 2,o00,000 people were annihilated and whole towns and places – look at the city Merv on Google. He is presented as honourable – never tortured anyone and any royals that they crossed who had to die – blood was not allowed to be shed.

Parts of it seem more human that the same age in England or in the fictional Game of Thrones. Imagine Genghis with dragons.

To close – good book but it does have flaws. I will spend a lot of time this year researching this age. I have lots of fantasy book readers on my list. If you are in to history or even fantasy you will find a lot to enjoy here. Some of what happens could fit right in Game of Thrones.

One scene from this stood out to me and although short was written amazing to hence the brutalness of the world at that era. After Genghis was dead, one of his affiliates tortured someone who they thought was a witch. After starvation – she admitted she was so they sewed up all her orifices, put her in a rag and put her into a river. Obviously, if she was a witch she would have got away… She didn’t.

Peace all.  Hope you are well – James x


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