The Mongoliad, Book Three by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, Mike Grell
Published: February 26th 2013 by 47North
Format/Source: Purchased Kindle eBook
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction/Adventure
The final book of the Mongoliad trilogy from Neal Stephenson and company tells the gripping personal stories of medieval freedom fighters to form an epic, imaginative recounting of a moment in history when a world in peril relied solely on the courage of its people.
The shadow of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II hangs over the shattered Holy Roman Church as the cardinals remain deadlocked, unable to choose a new pope. Only the Binders and a mad priest have a hope of uniting the Church against the invading Mongol host. An untested band of young warriors stands against the dissolute Khan, fighting for glory and freedom in the Khan’s sadistic circus of swords, and the brave band of Shield-Brethren who set out to stop the Mongol threat single-handedly race against their nemesis before he can raise the entire empire against them. Veteran knight Feronantus, haunted by his life in exile, leads the dwindling company of Shield-Brethren to their final battle, molding them into a team that will outlast him. No good hero lives forever. Or fights alone.
Finally! Finished! That was my most overwhelming sentiment upon completing the final book in the Mongoliad.
An important note: there is a reason why each of these books have the same name. It is all “The Mongoliad”. This was not a sequel to Book Two, and Book Two was not a sequel to Book One. They are essentially the same book, just broken up into volumes. There is no way I would recommend anyone interested in these books to allow any space of time between them. But it would also be unfair to not note that by doing so, you will be reading the same story forever. There is a certain level of impatience that comes from reading the same story for a month and a half.
Unfortunately, my experience with Book Three was marked by that impatience. It’s hard for me to discern whether the book dragged or whether I was beginning to fatigue from the story. It is a story that at some points will drive you to read more right away or drive you crazy with boredom.
The story covers multiple storylines happening simultaneously, some more loosely connected than others. Knights on a journey to assassinate the Khan of Khans, a Mongolian falling in love with a Chinese slave, the Khan battling alcholism, cardinals trying to determine the next pope in Rome, a priest battling insanity, a messenger discovering herself, a gladitorial battle for the entertainment of another Khan, the slaves’ plight for freedom, and the Western knights positioning amongst themselves.That’s a lot going on.
I was left disappointed. I can usually handle open-ended/disappointing endings (though I will say some of the storylines’ endings were particularly aggravating). I found myself depressed and it took a little while to discover why. I was attached to some of the characters in the book and I was fascinated by the world created by the company of authors. Yet, the whole book was plot-driven.
I found myself disappointed that I couldn’t actually get to know the characters better, to really connect to any of them. The plot-driven nature of the story didn’t allow for extensive character development and the multitude of characters meant that each character was only given a passing treatment.It’s really no wonder that I was most concerned with Raphael and Andreas given that at the start of each of the books there was a short story from their past. Ferenc also intrigued me but I barely learned anything more about him than his survival at a Mongolian/Hungarian battle.
Final thoughts: I did enjoy the overall experience and it was interesting to read a story that was written in a serial, multi-author collaboration. I’m not sure I will ever reread these books, but perhaps I’d look into the other books based in this world.