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.
This book is supposed to be an attempt to re-create the nomadic society of medieval Mongolia—which, although a guaranteed snooze for most people, is exactly what I want to learn more about. What was life like for aristocratic warriors, goatherds, ladies, concubines, and servants?
Alas, the author spends his time arguing with the outdated Marxist theories that try to cram medieval Mongolia into a feudal or slave-owning box. Essential, no doubt, if one is a scholar trying to separate oneself and one's field in a newly independent country. But not much help to a historian-turned-novelist who never thought Genghis Khan’s empire was feudal in the first place.
I did find helpful details amid the argumentation: six times as many sheep and goats as horses, treks of several hundred kilometers, weather charts showing that drought years and blizzard years tended to precede nomadic raids on settled peoples. Hence the three stars. But oh, I wanted so much more slice-of-life description and so much less of the five social formations than this book delivers.