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The MONGOLIAD - Book Three of the Foreworld Saga
Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey & Cooper Moo.
Published by 47North.

It took me longer than anticipated, some time due to personal things going on in my life and some time due to the
immensity of the read, but I finally finished the 698 pages that make up the third part of the Mongoliad Trilogy. At
least I thought it was a trilogy and the blurb on the back of the book, when first read, seems to suggest that this is
the conclusion of the story, but the last page is open to interpretation that there is still more to come.

I started this third volume with slight trepidation, having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book and then got
bogged down with the second book. I had more than enough interest and desire to finish the story but when I opened 
Book Three and saw that the authors had begun it by listing the names of the 64 most significant characters, I was
reminded of what had slowed down my reading and somewhat dampened my enjoyment of the second book.

Each of these characters has a role to play in the ongoing battle for Europe as the Mongols continue, though albeit
now extremely slowly (if at all), march onwards to fully conquering this continent. In fact the Mongol advance has 
virtually ground to a halt as far as the story goes - the Khans who each lead various arms of the mighty horde are 
mentioned only in passing, with the exception of Ongwhe and the Khagan, Ogedei, who are both targets of the 
Knights (Livonian and Shield-Brethren) and the fellowship. Kill the Khagan, the Khan of Khans, and the others
will have to return to their homeland to elect another Khagan  thus giving Europe a chance to reform and regroup 
and be ready for the next assault - that is the premise of the main story and why the group of experienced and 
inexperienced travellers have forged onwards against enormous and overwhelming odds. The Mongol Horde seem 
to have forgotten about taking over the world and, apart from a fairly brief encounter, they seem to have abandoned 
their gladiatorial combats in the arena and small village/town pillaging as well. 

As for the saviours of Europe there are various factions heading in roughly the same direction but often as at odds with
each other as they are with the Mongols. This means that the book is fragmented into chapters that rarely follow each
other as the authors attempt to keep the timeline continual for each different part of the storyline - a job they do quite
admirably but at the cost of reader confusion (at least when I am the reader). 

There is, as mentioned in the Book Two review, a lot going on in Rome concerning the papal election and the evil
brutality of the Senator of Rome (Orsini) and one of the Cardinals (Fieschi) who appear in cahoots at times but not
always. Then there is Frederick II the Holy Roman Emperor currently camped some way outside of Rome having
been excommunicated by the Church. Also in this mix is the somewhat insane Father Rodrigo who for a brief spell
is elected as Pope, though he doesn't hang around Rome long enough to do much Pope-ing. To be honest, as far as
I am concerned the whole of the religious and City of Rome parts of the story could have been left on the drawing
board (or hard-drive I guess nowadays). They serve to confuse and do little more than pad out the books by a few
hundred (unnecessary) pages. The main story holds up on its own without the need for this padding, even if it does
follow the possibilities of the history of Foreworld, this alternate Europe, offers.

The authors have taken great pains to study the martial arts and have written each individual combat throughout the
Trilogy with much vim and vigour. Every piece of action is detailed fully and quite often head-splitting, blood spatteringly
graphically. You can feel every bone crunch and neck break, every blood spurt, cut throat death rattle, swish of a sword
and thrust of a spear. Heroes rise and fall on both sides, though this is written mainly with the Knights being fashioned as
the good guys and the Mongol Horde as the bad. Throughout the reading I was making mental notes of who I thought would 
live or die from the Knights and the named Mongol characters. I was often wrong on both sides. As an heroic Knight falls you 
feel the anguish the authors must have felt as they wrote his death but there is always the expectation that the Mongolian heroes 
are being set to eventually fall; but do they ? 

With so many characters and storylines it is bound to happen (and it does) that certain relationships, thoughts, and directions
aren't fully realised. This leaves places visited but not explored, doors opened ajar but not wide enough to reveal the complete
scene, and love/friendships hinged on the future, a future we may or may not get to read about. I don't think enough was made 
of the excellent character class, the Binders, and some heroes exploits were too brief - just as I was really envisaging an actor
in the part the Boromir faction kicked in.

I originally likened the Mongoliad trilogy to the Lord of the Rings because of the fellowship aspect and the single quest that
would right all wrongs (sort of). My opinion still stands for the first book but from book two onwards the Mongoliad is like a
grown up story to the young-adult tales in Tolkien's masterpiece. I have now read both and have seen the brilliant Peter
Jackson movies of the LotR books, and I can imagine, was imagining through the reading, the Mongoliad visually as if it was
playing on a huge silver screen (well the main storyline anyway). It would make a terrific movie.

Despite my personal problems in finding the number of characters, sub-plots and chapters confusing, the Mongoliad is a trilogy
worth reading. The idea of the Mongol Horde after Genghis Khan streaming through a Europe that is fragmented into numerous
clans, peoples, religions and the like, is exciting; the possibilities are endless. The authors have touched on just a few of these and 
yet written over 1900 pages, there are plenty more opportunities for the Mongols to ride and for Christendom to meet head on.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: 
The Mongoliad is a fictional narrative set in Foreworld, a secret history transmedia franchise being developed by the Subutai 
Corporation. The Mongoliad was originally released in a serialized format online, and via a series of iOS and Androidapps, but 
has been restructured and re-edited for a definitive edition released via the Amazon Publishing imprint 47North, both in print 
and in Kindle format.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015