The Legend of Genghis Khan – A #Review

Book Title: The Legend of Genghis Khan
Author: Sutapa Basu

Before I picked up Genghis Khan by Sutapa Basu all I knew about him was that he was an ancestor of Babur and a very cruel one at that. There have been several great conquerers who have set out to own the world. I find them intriguing. What drives them? Power? Money? What keeps them going in the face of extreme adversity? How do they motivate an entire army of people to believe in their cause, to follow them and their dream, to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks?

For those reasons I found The Legend of Genghis Khan fascinating – the man, the story, the story telling – all of it.

The Story

Born as Temujin to the leader of a Mongol tribe, Genghis Khan is prophesied to be a great man. A shaman interprets the signs at the time of his birth that signal the makings of a conqueror. That’s the thought that little Temujin grows up with. He accepts it and owns it till it becomes a belief firmly rooted in his mind and later, the biggest truth of his life. It is this thought – that he is destined to craft a vast Mongolian empire – that remains his guiding light during the darkest times of despair and through the toughest decisions of his life. He pursues it with awe-inspiring single mindedness.

The Review

No fictional tale could compete with Genghis Khan’s life. He goes from being a clan leader’s pampered son to a fatherless boy, to a leader himself, then a helpless captive in a hostile land until he finally realises his destiny. Khan’s life was a roller coaster.

The book begins with his men plundering a palace, destroying, burning, killing and taking prisoner. Among the prisoners is princess Enkhtuya. When she is brought before the Khan, something about her makes him pause.

Then on the story flits between the present and past with glimpses of the Khan’s childhood, even as he and his men plan and launch attack after attack conquering vast territories.

The introduction of Princess Enkhtuya was a brilliant thought. Her character added a whole new dimension to Genghis Khan. Basu manages to give us a glimpse of his gentler side, without taking away from the image of a ruthless conqueror. For some mysterious reason he has a soft spot for her, yet he remains focussed on his life’s mission and none of her entreaties can persuade him to show mercy to his enemies.

The story flows simply and well as we follow the Khan through dry desert areas with raging sandstorms to freezing ice lands. The writing is evocative and the characters consistent.

It is a storyteller’s delight as well as a challenge. The research must have been mind-boggling. What I loved most is the objectivity with which Basu approaches this story. It is easy, almost natural, to admire/love your protagonist and to go on to justify him/his actions. Sutapa Basu manages to not to do that. She tells the tale like a seasoned chronicler remaining true to the tale and nothing else. She writes without attempting to glorify Genghis Khan – without apologies, without explanations – a little like the man himself. She lets his faults and his achievements speak for themselves. 

The Legend of Genghis Khan skilfully treads the line between history and fiction. Read this one for some great story telling.

Last thought: If you’re not a non-fiction reader but are a bit of a history buff this book is for you.

Linking up with the Write Tribe Reading Challenge – This is my review for ‘A book by an author new to me’.

18 Replies to “The Legend of Genghis Khan – A #Review”

  1. I have heard of genghis khan as a ruthless plunderer than gave many a sleepless nights even in the middle east all the way to turkey. How we I didn’t know he was the ancestor of babur. Makes sense now. Would love to read this book after your review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wouldn’t have known about his connection with Babur either had I not read it in the children’s text books this year :-).


  2. I’m curious to see how she has explored his ruthlessness without justifying it. That must take quite some skill. I’ve always been tempted to pick up Mein Kampf for some reason but never really followed through on it. Is it that the idea of dictators and bloodthirsty warmongers put me off or am I afraid to discover that I may actually enjoy the books? What does that say about me?

    Yes I am overthinking this way too much 😛

    That said, I loved your review. Will add this to the end of my very very long TBR 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have Mein Kampf lying at home too and I did try to read it but its just too dry for my taste.

      Ha ha.. it says nothing. I know you too well. That said, there are always some aspects of people like Hitler and Genghis Khan that are worth emulating. Their drive, their passion and their leadership – they couldn’t have done what they did without all of that. Of course their causes were completely misplaced, but that’s another matter.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The last time I read about Genghis Khan was in history class in school. It’s wonderful to read about the making of the kings, and why they turned out so ruthless and cruel. Well reviewed !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It sure is though he is definitely ruthless – killing kings and queens along with the entire population of the cities he conquered.


    1. I pick up historical fiction because that’s perhaps the only way i will read any history at all. And this one was written well too.


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