The Gory Story Of Genghis Khan by Nayanika Mahtani is a light-hearted account of a weighty subject. The book is a breezy read, with many illuminating details about Genghis Khan, his tactics, campaigns and even his ruthlessness. Nayanika tells you all about the good, the bad and the ugly as promised in the introduction. While she takes you on a jaunty ride through history, on horse back of course, (and if you don’t already know why, you’ll have to read the book to find out) you may be surprised as to how many of the facts and dates you learn along the way, without ever yawning.
Starting with the dramatic birth of Genghis Khan and cutesy details of his childhood, the story becomes more thrilling as he gets ostracised from his clan, kills his older brother, gets married, rescues his kidnapped wife and then begins his journey to become supreme ruler of the universe at the tender age of 16, and succeeds in conquering a sixth of the earth’s land area, and does all of this in the twelve hundreds.
The author tells the unflinching truth about the mass killings, looting, torture and terror inflicted by Genghis Khan, in a way that kids can read about without having nightmares. She has an amazing way of not taking any of this too seriously. She is able to present Genghis, not as a monster but as an extremely competent human being with flaws, failings and virtues.
Nayanika shows that, incredible foresight, an unusual ability to repeatedly adapt to change and turn it to his advantage, a strong sense loyalty and fairness, a firm belief in in the importance of rising through the ranks based on merit alone, a love for order and efficiency, and ruthless execution of decisions once made, contributed to Genghis Khan’s success as a conqueror. To find out, exactly how he manages to conquer more land than any other individual in history, you will have to read the book.
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- When I read the synopsis for this book, I was worried that the author would try too hard to be funny. But the story flows evenly, with the jokes lacing the story unobtrusively.
- The puns. They are everywhere and they are mind blowing. I know I caught a lot of them, but I may still have missed a few. Initially Nayanika helps you out, by emphatically pointing out the first few jokes, especially as some kids may not get some puns. But at the end of this book they’ll be looking for them all the time.
The Mongol Mare Hostess, asking the cavalry to fasten their saddle belts,
A news reporter named Yuherdit Hearfurst
Armies rushing off to Russia and so much more.
- The story makes references to literature that kids are likely to be familiar with, like Harry Potter, Ramayana, etc. My favourite reference was the Star Wars one, right at the end of the book. There is a reference to the speech by Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar too, in a rather disgusting way.
- Nayanika introduces a few big / unusual words (for youngsters), but explains them through the ensuing dialogue between the characters. Sometimes, the narrator, Yakkety Yak, is unaware of the meaning of words, like extradition, and has to look it up.
- Yuherdit Hearfurst follows Genghis around through out his life and makes exciting reports about his various exploits in the form of breaking news. This and other contemporary touches makes the story an engaging read for kids.
- There are some fantastic illustrations by Tapas Guha. I particularly liked the one of the new born Genghis, and another, where he is hopping mad, with smoke coming out of his ears.
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- Nayanika shows Genghis Khan in all his shades of grey, but on the whole presents him in sympathetic light.
- Some interesting details about Mongol lifestyle and cuisine are woven into the story.
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- Cheeky and geeky, or if you prefer, informative and irreverent.
A saucy account of a bossy man !
A copy of this book was given me by the publishers, Puffin in return for an honest review. Thanks Puffin.