Book Review: Amgalant One: The Old Ideal

What is a Mongol?…
As free as the geese in the air as in unison…
…The flights of the geese promise us we don’t give up independence to unite.

Amgalant One: The Old Ideal

Amgalant One: The Old Ideal by Bryn Hammond is part one of a trilogy of Mongol history. Hammond does not give much of a biography except to say she lives a dull life to concentrate on her fiction. She lives in Australia this is the first of her two published books in the trilogy.

This is not a book to take lightly or to expect a quick weekend read from it. Don’t let the size of the book scare you off either. Years ago I was handed a copy of Gary Jennings’ Aztec to read by another Marine. My first thought was “You have to be kidding, this book is huge.” I was told I would like it. It wasn’t a fast read, but it definitely held my interest and there was definitely a learning curve with the book. I went on to read all of Jenning’s books at the time. In fact most of the cultural details I know of the Mongols came from Jennings’ Marco Polo novelThe JourneyerAmgalant will take your full attention. The character names are unfamiliar as is the setting. It will put most readers in a place they rarely can go. For me it was like reading a history crossed with the Rig-Veda-Sanhita. It is almost magical.

Hammond bases her work of the the relatively short Secret History of the Mongols. The Secret History>
Although nearly everyone know the name Genghis Khan, few can give many details about the man or his people. Hammond goes into detail about the Mongols and their neighbors. Although a work of fiction, many details, the setting, and events are all historical. Early on the reader will get introduced to the ways of the mongols. A society where stealing a horse was more serious of a crime than murder. They are a people with a strict set of rules for themselves. They face the Turks, Chinese, Tartars, barbarians, and internal conflict. Nothing will be easy.

The reading also is not easy. It takes some time and effort on the readers part because t he story is complex and the writing is detailed. It is intended to capture the author’s passion for her subject. Hammond has plenty of passion and it shows in her work. Amgalant was difficult to start, but the payoff for sticking with it is immense. Amgalant far exceeds any of the historical fiction I have read in detail and effort. his is a book that is meant to be read slowly and carefully so the the reader can absorb the wealth of information contained in the pages. Amgalant belongs on the shelf with the best of the epic historical fictions.

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