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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 19 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I enjoyed the first book in the Mongoliad series - which was to be expected, as I enjoy historical fiction, and the opener seemed to be a realistic portrayal of the Mongol advance across Asia in the 14th century.

The second book, however, seems to be a different story - literally. The events in the follow up don't seem to marry up with what has gone before - indeed, the resolution to the cliffhanger (of sorts) at the end of the first book seems to just be assumed, until it is referred to much later on. The writing also seems disjointed, and the narrative thread weak. Part of what impressed me about the first instalment was that I couldn't tell which of the (many) co-authors had written which sections, or where the joins were. This feels very different, with jarring leaps from character to character. The section of the book set in Rome seems completely superfluous (unless it is a forerunner of things to happen in the third book), and although the battle scenes are well-written and manage to convey drama, I stopped caring about any of the characters well before the end.

A disappointing instalment in the series, but three stars as a) it does continue the story, after a fashion, and b) who knows, the next sequel might be an improvement.
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VINE VOICEon 29 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Really quite disappointing I found - the first story in the series was really very good - but this one seemed more
disjointed and no immediate carry over from the first and I have to say that I did not find it as good a read
I did like the original premise of a 'mission impossible' for the dark ages but in the end I thought that this was
taking too long to develop - and about half way through the book I'm sorry but I gave up
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Mongoliad is a collaborative series, which is to say that a group of writers all worked together on the text. It began as an online experiment in serials, with each chapter being released on completion. The print editions so far released(this book and The Mongoliad: Book One) are omnibus collections of these serial chapters - though there are more print collections to come. The stable of writers producing each instalment is diverse - there are some big names (Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear), and several others doing their debut work.

And what a work it is. The Mongoliad series is billed as alternative history, but any alterations have been minor so far (at least, I haven't noticed them). This book continues in the same setting as the first - Europe in 1241, after a Mongol invasion has brutally savaged European forces, and begun incursions into Christendom. As with the preceding text, the reader is switched between a variety of viewpoints. Some of these are familiar from the first text (knights on a journey into the heart of the Mongol empire, a Mongol Steppe warrior), whilst others are entirely new, and take the reader into the heart of ecclesiastical Rome.

As with the first collection, the chapters in this volume are quite short; this makes sense given their originally serial nature. It does mean that a reader can pick up the text, chew through a couple of chapters, and then put it down again; popocorn reading, if you will. Each chapter is self-contained, and I don't think there's one which doesn't have a cliff hanger, and a fair bit of action; the prose, whoever may have written it, is consistently fast-paced, and the result is a text which is very much a page-turner. As with the first text, the `voices' of the authors merge together nicely, and though I tried occasionally to figure out which author had written which parts of the text, this quickly proved impossible - it's (almost) all quite smooth.

There are a few issues, of course. Despite their best efforts, occasionally some of the writing does come across as a bit unpolished; not the majority, but there were a few chapters that jumped around, and needed a few edges ground off. There were a few pieces of narrative, particularly in the `knights journey' sections which seemed to have been written because they were cool, and fun to write. They were fun to read as well, but didn't really take the story anywhere. This ties into a problem with the larger narrative arc - this middle section moves the story along, but there doesn't appear to be much in the way of resolution. The final volume is going to have to wrap up a lot of threads very quickly. Ironically, each chapter provides some small scale resolution, but the larger narrative arcs from the first book remain entirely unresolved. On the other hand, the serial is actually already completed, so I suppose we shall see. However, as with the first volume, this second text ends on a cliffhanger - so do not expect there to be much of a narrative conclusion!

Overall, this is more of the same from the first volume, which I highly recommended, with a few reservations. The same is true for this volume. It's an action movie of a text, with snappy dialogue, great action scenes, some laugh out loud moments, and a few wonderful twists and reveals, all set within a carefully researched and well-drawn medieval world which is extremely believable. It also has the same issues as the original text - an occasionally uneven narrative, and a lack of solid conclusions.

If you enjoyed the first volume in the series, this is an absolute must-buy. If you haven't read that first volume, I'd recommend giving it a try; trying to start this text without reading the first is likely to lead to a headache. It's a solid, original, and clever text, and above all, a lot of fun to read, even with the above caveats.

As with the first volume - highly recommended
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I had read the first volume and was looking forward to this second one. I was not disappointed!

It is written (apparently) by a number of different authors - but the tone is very consistent. I suspect that each author is writing one of the various streams through the book - as the story unfolds in various different parts of Europe.

The story is excellent, the writing manages to keep a consistent style (good editor?) and I thoroughly recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction with a complex story line.

Bring on the next volume!
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When the Mongol hordes first laid waste to northern China, Chinese historians recorded that "not a house was left standing; not a dog barked". [Remind you of Bagdad or Kabul these days?] I got hooked on Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy, and find the Mongoliad equally rich in content. My only complaint is that the cleverness of the Baroque Trilogy here is replaced by endless gore -- a bit much at times. Portraits of the Mongols and Chinese are reasonably accurate, even to me, an author of more than a dozen non-fiction books of Asian history, biography, deceit and corruption (one translated into Mongol). The patchwork quilt portraits of Western knights fighting the Mongols are richly and fairly portrayed for anyone who has done his homework on the fragmented 13th Century. But when these heroic knights are introduced in the opening chapters of Book 1, they are described in an adolescent manner similar to the recent range of Superhero movies. I expected Spiderman to appear at any moment. I would have preferred the subtleties of Sir Thomas Mallory, and embellishments by Alfred, Lord Tennyson ... not Batman movies. But once you're past the introductions, the Mongoliad gets moving at a terrific pace, alternating between East and West, conspiracy, and the overwhelming stink of death. My favorite characters are the two female stars who use their wits, rather than brawn, blades, and battle-axes, in a way that would have pleased Sun Tzu and Sun Pin, of China's "Warring States Period" who tried to teach their masters and pupils that one ounce of cleverness is worth ten tons of explosives. I can only hope that Book 3 of this trilogy makes up for the Superhero Gore with some brilliant subtlety and intrigue. -- Sterling Seagrave
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 4 February 2013
Having gotten it the day it came out, it took me much longer than usually to finish it. This is not to say the book is so much worse than the first installment of the Mongoliad project (The Mongoliad: Book One (The Foreworld Saga)), simply that one is perhaps not as riveted to the book as with the first one.

After the included prequel Dreamer: A Prequel to the Mongoliad (The Foreworld Saga), the story kicks off with some new characters - Father Rodrigo and Ferenc, rather than with the cliffhanger the first book finishes on. It is still divided between several theatres - Rome and the 1241 papal election (this one new), Huenern and the Mongolian fighting arena, the trek to Karakorum by Feronantus and the other Shield Brethren on their quest to kill the Khagan, and finally the journey out of Karakorum with Gansukh, the Khagan and Lian amongst others.

The book will still be fairly good at representing medeival fighting, the politics between the various Christian orders (and factions in the Church), and the times, both from a Mongol and a European perspective. The individual chapters are well written and you can fairly term it a page turner (at least within individual strands). At the same time the novelty of the series (after the first book and the several prequels) is wearing off somewhat for me, hence the four, rather than five stars.

If you find it hard to wait for the next installment it may well be worthwhile for The Mongoliad: Book Three (The Foreworld Saga) to be out before you embark on the journey and even if the second installment is perhaps not quite up to par with the first, it remains an excellent medieval adventure trilogy that has much to recommend it.
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on 10 March 2014
Although the first book was hard to get through, the plot had promise and it left me curious how the story would end. I assumed the second book would evolve from the long winded introduction of the first book but, alas, all this book has managed to do differently is introduce ever more characters and knock off a few of the old ones. Along with the new characters are more story lines that I am struggling to see how they all fit together into one book! It is difficult to identify with many of the characters because the story keeps jumping from one to the next and there are so many of these disparate stories that I'd forget who was doing what and who the character is when that story returns. I think the author forgot about some story lines too because we don't even return to some of them! The character names probably don't help either. Also, the author clearly enjoys flexing his huge vocabulary, though, in many places, it does nothing more than over elaborate on already tedious and unnecessary detail.

I am one to finish what I start and trilogies are part of that "need to complete". However, I'll not be buying the third book in this series. A shame really as a couple of the story lines were quite good and I was very much interested in discovering how the whole story (or stories) turned out. But, it just became too much work to get through each page, which is not my idea of a "good read".
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on 11 October 2013
I find this series to be fascinating. I like novels based around true events and places. Particularly when they are well written, intriguing and populated with plausible characters and detail. The mongol hoard and it's spread to the edges of Europe, is a part of history I haven't explored until now, and I find it very interesting. Compared to the Crusades, Medieval Europe's limited response to the Mongol threat is interesting. Was that this a matter of timing, or expense? I plan to follow the next instalment.
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VINE VOICEon 22 August 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
My review of the first book in the series was good, this is a little less good. Why? Simple the storyline has been stretched to include a section in Rome. Not that this lessens the impact of the story, but that it drags a little. The parts of the tale which happen in the East still move rapidly, and dynamically, but the fact of seven writers now shows a weakness not overly apparent in the first. Whilst still a good read, the pace does seem to have been affected by, what appears to be, an unnecessary sidetrack.
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on 6 October 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of this series, but was very disappointed with the second, which I found tedious and rambling. I did not think that it avoided the excessively negative stereotyping of the Mongols although to be fair, the cardinals got a pretty negative press too.
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