Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy, by Paul Ratchnevsky

February 1, 2011 at 02:28 (Asian History, Biography, Book Reviews, Historical, Mediocre Books) (, , , )


Ratchnevsky is a prosaic writer, but he is certainly thorough. He is not the most interesting man to read, and he wastes little time with his own opinions. This is dry history, but he quotes promiscuously from many writers (contemporary to his subject and modern) who are all much more lively than he. His study on the life of Genghis Khan is complete and well thought out, and he is absolutely focused on his subject. Where necessity dictates a digression, there he will digress. Where he needs to venture further afield and take stock of the Mongol’s legacy, he will duly venture as far as he must, though not a step further. Few readers will find cause for complaint, or question the thoroughness of his coverage. The photographs included have (for the most part) no bearing or relevance on the subject, but shoddy photographs are not a cause for panning a history book.

Despite this thorough and complete look at the Khan, it was a little disappointing to find so little about Kubilai Khan, or Timur Lane. Ratchnevsky is not to be blamed for omitting characters decades removed from his subject, but he might own a little guilt for treating his subject a little too myopically. As far as he promises, there he delivers. Everything about Genghis Khan is present – Ratchnevsky missed nothing – and yet his history is a little hollow, a little bland and perhaps somewhat too academic, without the flair or personality of some more engaging writers. For those sick of sensationalism in their history, this will be a breath of fresh air; for those looking for a quick reference book, this will do nicely. For those looking to immerse themselves in the tarry air of the yurt, the hot breath of the horse and the chilly reaches of the steppe, this book will be a massive disappointment.


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