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The MONGOLIAD BOOK ONE of the FOREWORLD SAGA

Published by 47North

The Mongoliad is a narrative of fact and fiction (mostly the latter) based trilogy
of Europe in the 13th Century. It is written by a cast of inimitable authors,
Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, E.D. deBirmingham, Erik Bear,
Joseph Brassey and Cooper Moo. Check these guys out on Google to see
just how talented they are.

The first volume in the trilogy is 444 pages long and at times it seemed longer
whilst other times I couldn't turn the pages quick enough. The authors have
chosen to often use a thesaurus of words where simple prose would have
sufficed, giving the reader a vote of confidence for knowledge - an ill conceived
vote for me I'm afraid - but I soldiered on and was left wanting more as I closed
the book on the 444th page.

There are several interwoven tales running throughout the main story which means
that the chapters often flip between the various actions, keeping the reader's mind
keen and in constant anticipation as the stories travel along their different roads.

We start by being introduced to Cnan, a Binder, on her way to deliver a message
to the Knights of the Shield-Brethren. At this point I should expalin that Binders, to
the best of my understanding, are an organisation of messengers. They are rogue
like in their movements and some of their actions but they are not assassins nor do
they (generally) kill as it is against their sworn oath. The Shield-Brethren are quite
similar to the Crusaders, Holy Knights that are not all as Holy as one would expect.

Europe, aka Foreworld, is under siege by the rampaging Mongol Horde. Under the
leadership of the Khagan the Khan of Khans, the Horde have split into different armies
each commanded by one of the Khan's brothers. They are descendents of the great
Ghenghis Khan and every bit as fearsome and terrifying, if not more so. Farms, Villages,
Castles, Towns all fall to their overpowering strength and hostility and Europe is slowly
but surely being over-run.

The Shield-Brethren she meets up with are a collection of warriors and hunters from
all over Europe. They are led by Feronantus, a worldy wise warrior Monk, but she is
immediately attracted to Percival, but he is a most pious knight. The knights explain that
the Mongols have issued a challenge and are currently building a wooden arena so that
the knights can meet in combat with the Mongol champions - rather like the famous
Roman collisseums. The Mongols offer the safety of the town if their champions are
defeated, but it is known that in other places where they have lost they only retreat for
a few days and then after this grace period they return and slaughter, rape and pillage.

This is where the Mongoliad in some respects somewhat mirrors the Lord of the Rings.
The Shield-Brethren come up with a plan and determine that their only course of action
for the freedom of Europe is to assassinate the Khagan. To this aim Feronantus selects
a party of 12 including himself, with Cnan as their guide and one of the 12. So we have
fellowship of a kind out to kill the evil that is slowly conquering the world. Amongst
them is a charismatic "old" leader, a strong warrior (Percival), a Ranger/Hunter (Raedwulf)
and a headstrong fighter (Istvan)  - notice the similarites between this group and the LotR
fellowship

Of course this is not a total rewrite of Tolkien's masterpiece but it is comparible in enough
ways to make mention. There are differences that are more than just subtle changes. For example
Killing the Khagan is only a temporary measure because if the Khagan is killed then by their
own laws the other Khans will return to their homeland to elect a new Khan of Khans. This
will give some respite to Europe and thus a chance to consolidate their forces for the battles
to come.

Once this plot is established the action moves across to the Mongols where a young warrior
finds that his mission to stop the Khagan from drinking himself to death isn't going to be an
easy one, especially as the Khagan enjoys his drink very much and is loathe to take advice
from his brother through the mouth of someone who doesn't even know how to present himself
in court. To this aim Gansukh (the warrior) enlists the aid of a young Chinese slave, Lian, who
in turn requests that she be taught the arts of combat. There is quite a hint of attraction between
them, mostly on Lian's part, which I expect will be investigated further at a later date.

As Feronantus and the Shield-Brethren split into two groups and continue on their journey the
knights left behind begin their battles in the arena, holding their own most of the time and sparking
off a new thread to the existing stories. En Route Feronantus and company encounter and defeat
a Mongol war party but (as with the fate of Boromir) lose one of their number in  a valiant struggle.

As if the Mongols weren't enough of a threat a unit of renegade Livonian knights are thrown into
the mix to thwart the heroes. 

The various groups of heroes and villains are underground and on their ways to meeting up and I was
anticipating an exciting encounter when the first book comes to a sudden stop. I reached for Book Two
ready to start straight back into the story but the opening pages do not begin where the last pages of
Book One end, so that paves the way for another review as soon as I have finished the next 424 pages.

Like any trilogy I would recommend you have all three books available before you begin reading them.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015