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on 7 September 2017
Excellent series for his fans.
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on 27 June 2016
Good read but a bit slow
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you've read my review of The Mongoliad: Book One you'll know I didn't think much of it. In two words, it's aimless and pedestrian. Since these adjectives could describe the opening four hundred pages of most books written by Neal Stephenson (an author I greatly admire) I thought I'd give book 2 a try.

My thoughts seem contrary to most of the others here. I actually thought the series improves with this volume. There are still a frustrating number of disparate threads, but I found them more satisfying than those in the previous novel. Whilst something resembling a resolution seems frustratingly out of reach, the stories at least feel like they are building up a head of steam.

The novel opens with an entirely new thread. A fevered priest and young Magyar hunter arrive in Rome. They hope to gain audience with the Pope to warn of the impending invasion of the Mongol horde. Their plans are thrown into disarray when it turns out Pope Gregory IX has died. Bishop Rodrigo finds himself enmeshed in the election of a new pontiff. Fascinating though this is, it's just another story-tree in a forest of plots.

The biggest problem with these books, for me, is that there is nothing binding the multitude of threads together (this despite two of the characters being 'binders'). There is no unifying story propelling the reader on. As a result, if you were to pick up volume two without having read volume 1, I doubt you would struggle to work out what was going on. Certainly, a five page synopsis could fill in what you'd missed. There are even some events from book one that are barely referenced here, giving the unsettling feeling that the work as a whole is haphazard and under-edited.

The stories do strengthen towards the end, but not before a flabby middle section. Once again, people talk, walk and fight a lot, without doing very much. And yet... As the novel draws to a close the influence of Neal Stephenson starts to exert itself. The detail heavy seeds sown throughout the book, start to flourish. In contrast to volume one, each of the story threads are left at pivotal moments, and the novel finishes with a true sense of suspense.

The understanding built up between reader and author(s), over hundreds of pages, gives meaning to the slow burning machinations of the plot. It's starting to feel like the series is a metaphor for the Steppe: immense, bland and featureless, but with an undeniable compelling beauty. Much as few people take time to visit the Mongolian Steppe, you have to wonder if reading 800 pages of (often) lumpen prose makes the Mongoliad a place worth visiting.
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VINE VOICEon 23 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I was really chuffed when this book came up on amazon vine, because I had just read book one and now there was book two early as an advance reader's copy.
Like all of Neal Stephenson's projects, it is very well researched. The early medieval Mongol invasion into Europe is the background for the adventures of several individuals. We are following the various strands from the first book: the knights that try to keep the Mongols from doing further damage by keeping their leader interested with fighting games in an arena in eastern Europe, their brethren who are on a secret mission deep into enemy territory, the adventures of the young warrior on a seemingly impossible task at the great Khan's court, the young Magyar in Rome and the girl he met getting tangled in the intrigues and politics of church and empire.
I was drawn in from the start, it was difficult putting the book down, and now I'm waiting for book three. The characters are well drawn, you identify and care about their stories. The writers are really skilled in taking you into those worlds, one moment you care for the success of the knights fighting the Mongols, the next moment you care for the Mongol warrior trying to succeed in his task to help the great Khan with his drinking problem, getting into trouble with court politics.
I just hope I don't have to wait too long for book three.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is very much a continuation of The Mongoliad: Book One and at one level there's not a lot more to say about it than that - if you enjoyed that book and want to know what happened next to Cnan, Gansukh & Co, then read on.

If you haven't read the earlier volume I'd suggest you do - this isn't in any sense a standalone book - and certainly don't read any more of this review, as it will contain spoilers for the earlier book.

All that said, there is something of a jump between the two books (perhaps reflecting the origin of this saga as an online, collaborative project?)

Book Two doesn't open with the fight in the underground tunnels under Kiev that ended Book One, instead it sees the arrival of two travelers in Rome, fleeing the Mongol invasion, and a new sub-plot involving a conclave of Cardinals. It is some time before we learn what happened at Kiev and the plotline that seemed to be building there - with the Livonian knights apparently seeking some kind of buried relic - just disappears, as does Feronantus's despair at Taran's death. We also hear little of Haakon's fate. Besides the new Roman storyline, this volume mainly focuses on Gansukh's attempts to save the Great Khan from drunkennes and the steady journey East of Feronantus's party.

As with the first volume, there are plenty of fights, described in clinical, moment by moment detail, and the authors again refrain from demonizing the invading Mongols (despite the slaughter they carry out), showing, for example, Gansukh to be a decent sort of chap, and even the Great Khan as a very human tyrant - as well as highlighting some obvious villains among the Westerners. I do wonder how long this can last one the characters are brought together, as surely they must be, for the final volume - given that the expansion of the Mongol territory and the survival of the Western lands would seem to be pretty fundamentally opposed.

I'm sure this will be brought to a satisfying conclusion in Book Three, which I'm keenly awaiting. In the meantime, for Kindle-lovers, there is more Mongoliad available in Sinner: A Prequel to the Mongoliad.
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on 7 July 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was a worthy sequel to the first book in the series. It can just about be read as a standalone novel but I think that it would be pretty confusing.

I enjoyed the first Mongoliad book but I felt that this was better. The writing is less inconsistent and it gets right down to the action.

There are moments of humour and it is generally well written. The historical background is well observed and the exposition doesn't slow the plot down.

It did take me a little while to remember who was who. There is certainly a large cast of characters!

The fight scenes are extremely well done as are all the other action scenes.
There a quite a number of them but they are quite varied. They are very well explained. and easy to follow. I am no expert but they seemed to be quite plausible.
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VINE VOICEon 13 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Some of this book is really clever and enjoyable but due to the nature of the multi pronged story arcs I found myself skipping quickly through certain bits to get to the story I wanted to read. The stories from the frontier between the two worlds was really enjoyable, but I struggled on some of the backstory (roman cardinals and great khan spring to mind)

A lot of this spills on from the first book, so it is nearly essential to read that first (it isn't a story you can drop into as a number of characters require the back story provided by the first book). Note that the book doesn't lead on directly from the first one, we skip to the story of a couple of characters trying to raise the awareness of the mongol hoarde encroaching into the world of the holy roman empire.

I'm not sure how this book has been written as so many people seem to have been involved, and I wonder if maybe the "too many cooks" proverb might fit this story. This is not to say that it will not be rescued by the next instalment, but on it's own it doesn't stand up for me.
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on 8 November 2012
What can I say about this series except that I read the first one, bought the second immediately and romped through it just as quickly and now I am waiting for volume three. Lucky you if you discover this gem of a book after the third volume is out - you can just carry on reading (and you definitely will!).

Engaging characters, dramatic historical context, and well-written and well-plotted, this is a tale that seems as though it has been waiting a long time to be told. The genesis of this as a collaborative effort is never jarring or unsubtle and the various experiences of the authors lend each cast member a different aspect and a variety that is sometimes lacking in conventionally-authored tales.

I haven't checked the historical background and I'm no expert so from a factual basis this all might be the biggest hog-wash I've ever read but frankly that matters not one jot. This is a great story on a wide stage, well told, and it also happens to be very good value. Roll on volume 3!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 November 2012
Having enjoyed the first book of the series tremendously; this was a compulsory purchase and it is more of the same, but possibly the pace slows initially and the plot thickens.

At the beginning of this second book, the going can be hard and it's difficult to remember all the characters and where they are; especially as we are introduced to a new scenario in a crumbling Rome, where the Cardinals are literally buried in their mission to choose a new Pope.

Eventually though, all the pieces fall into place and we understand how we are at a crucial point in history. The successor to Ghenghis Khan is a drunk, weak and with his influence waning; while his armies fight on scattered fronts. The Christian world has a chance to fight back, but the fact that no Pope has been chosen to act as the spiritual leader means this is hanging in the balance.

What is disappointing about the book is that we see much less of Feronantus's party - the most interesting group in the first book. We want to hear more of the binder Cnan and the superhuman Percival with his mystical visions from the Virgin Mary. But this group tread water and make little progress, as they are chased and picked off by a roaming Mongol army, under a merciless leader.

It would also have been preferable to have more of Lian and Gansukh's fated love story; but we only get tantalising glimpses as the Khan sets out on an epic journey. Too much time is spent in Rome and these new characters are mainly unappealing and corrupt. It is like returning to old friends when we catch up with both parties towards the end and hopefully we say goodbye to Rome.

By the end of this part of the trilogy though, all is still in the balance and we are still hooked. The effect is of a long journey in the middle part of the trilogy, which is about to come to an end (one way or another) for all the main characters in the final part. It is set up perfectly, but it still feels like the middle was a struggle and Rome was a necessary, but unenjoyable part of the story.

Overall, this is still a well-written series that transports you to another world and charts a fascinating time that leaps off the page in the best sections. Hopefully, the final volume will fulfil the promise of the preceeding episodes and provide a satisfying conclusion to all the strands that have been woven.
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on 18 October 2012
I've read and reviewed the first book and concluded that, although a bit slow in development, the second book would pick up the pace and throw us in a maelstrom of rapidly developing events and action-packed storyline that we're used to from the very established authors involved.

Alas, contrary to highly set expectations, none of this materialised in the second book. I was left struggling to find continuity from the first book (as also noted in other reviews) and this episode left me hoping for that much expected acceleration of events until the end of the book.

I failed to identify the master hand of Stephenson or Greg Bear, the names that made me purchase it in the first place. In terms of style, this book is much more consistent, i.e. there was less distinction between the writing styles of the different authors between chapters, something very noticeable in the first book (Note: the first book has been re-written completely apparently, downloadable for free from Amazon for those who purchased it. I haven't re-read it yet, which may influence this review for those who have).

It may be a very innovative and modern, even forward-thinking way to create a story through collaboration in some format (and this does remind of the Stephenson style, in a good way). This could indeed be the future of how novels are written from this day on, given the ever evolving landscape of social interaction through electronic means and it seems that the authors are exploring the opportunity.

However at this early stage in such a process I can't help but feel that there is room for improvement in terms of homogenisation of writing style, sharing of ideas, editing and general communication between the authors to ensure a seamless, well-paced story line. This is far from a bad novel, however for a second part in a trilogy it feels a bit bland and slow-paced. This could be due to the immaturity of the creation process in my opinion. As an experiment, it is promising though.
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