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C. P. Lesley

Bookworm, writer, radio host—I blog about history, fiction, and publishing in the Internet Age. You can find the full blog on my website. This space is for books.

Of Battles Past - Bryn  Hammond A window onto the lives and customs of the Mongols, before and during the empire of Temujin, better known as Genghis Khan. The author has done a great deal of research, and it shows—but in the best way, the kind of research that informs the plot and characters without inundating them or stopping the story cold. She relies heavily, as she notes in the prologue, on The Secret History of the Mongols, a collection of folktales and traditions about Genghis and his ancestors and descendants written down at some time during the Middle Ages.

This reliance gives the book an epic feel, such as you might find in an ancient chronicle. Hence there is no single protagonist whose point of view we follow throughout the story, although both male and female characters are clearly portrayed and the mentality of the times, which often seems foreign to a modern mindset, comes across in all its glorious complexity.

Highly recommended for its historical accuracy and its insights into the under-studied peoples of the Eurasian steppe.