Lords of the Bow is the second in the Conqueror series following the adventures of Genghis Khan as he seeks to unite the Mongol nation and conquer the Chin lands. Set about eight years after Wolf of the Plains, Genghis has almost completed his mission to unite the disparate tribes of Mongolia, however old tensions are not so easy to eradicate and the new unification is threatened by petty rivalries.
As Genghis turns his attentions to conquering the Chin, he must find a way to convince the tribes to fight as one, as the Chin cities are unlike anything the nomadic Mongols have ever encountered. Using the knowledge of the Chin against themselves, Genghis constructs massive war machines to lay siege to the cities and to destroy the spirit of those within.
The Lords of the Bow has a far more epic feel to it as the battles are fought on a much larger scale and Genghis is absolutely ruthless in his task from the outset. It is absolutely staggering to think how a race of nomadic warriors, regarded as primitive to the more cultured Chin, managed to find ingenious ways of bringing a great and noble city to its knees. However, as Genghis the conqueror comes to the forefront, the focus of the story is inevitably on the battles and that means we lose sight of the man in some respects. While the first novel primarily dealt with Temujin’s coming of age and the dramatic events that were responsible for making him the man he would become, the Genghis in the second novel is a man to be feared.
Since the story is far more extensive, there are many chapters written from the point of view of other characters, some of whom are supporters of the Khan, while others are victims, and though I realise this is absolutely essential, it did get a little tedious at times. The introduction of so many new characters means we don’t spend a lot of time with those we met in the first book which is a shame. Many of Genghis’s principal generals who featured heavily in Wolf of the Plains are consigned to the background in favour of new characters and I found this a bit strange. Why bother setting up so many characters if you are going to ignore them?
On the personal front, Genghis has fathered four sons with his wife, Borte, but a question mark hangs over the paternity of their first son, Jochi, and Genghis treats him differently from his other sons. The tensions between father and son, as well as between Jochi and his brothers, sets up an interesting dynamic that will inevitably be explored in the next book but there isn’t much time to see Genghis being a father and husband. The balance between Genghis as a person and as a leader is definitely not achieved in this book, however it probably would’ve had to have been twice the size.