- Series: The Mongoliad Cycle (Book 1)
- Paperback: 442 pages
- Publisher: 47North (April 24, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1612182364
- ISBN-13: 978-1612182360
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 973 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #579,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mongoliad (The Mongoliad Cycle) Paperback – April 24, 2012
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A Q&A with Mark Teppo, co-author of The Mongoliad: Book One
Q: How did you get the idea for The Mongoliad?
A: It all started with sword fighting, of course. My co-authors and I are part of a Western martial arts study group that practices in a non-descript loft in Seattle. A lot of the initial impetus for the group came from Neal Stephenson who had realized the sword fighting in his earlier novels was lacking the input from individuals with actual expertise. In the course of learning about the history of Western martial arts, he coaxed a couple other writers into the same circle. From there, the idea of writing a saga about the complex history of Western martial arts was born. Since the idea grew out of a group experience, it seemed best to continue the collaborative aspect of the project, and that was how the core team of Neal, Greg Bear, E.D. deBirmingham, Joseph Brassey, Erik Bear, Cooper Moo, and myself came together.
Q: The Mongoliad trilogy began as an online subscription service. How would you describe this first incarnation of the trilogy?
A: At the time, we were also talking about new ways of interacting with our audience, and an online subscription service seemed like an interesting experiment. The edition that grew out of that experience is best characterized as a serialized work-in-progress. Not only were we conducting an experiment in writing collaboratively, but we were also learning what it was like to interact—in near real-time—with our readers. It was, in many ways, not unlike the manner in which Charles Dickens wrote his own novels. The first iteration of many of his classics were serialized, with Dickens shaping and revisiting his plots based on readers' responses to the episodes. He even started to think of the episodes differently—writing more cliffhangers than one would normally use in a traditional novel format
Q: How is the Mongoliad trilogy different from the serialized version of The Mongoliad?
A: We wrote the serialized narrative in one long rush, constantly shifting stories and plotlines in response to writer availability and to what our audience was talking about. I don't know how well it will read after the fact as I think there was a certain amount of inescapable frisson that went on during that process. But it was a serialized experience and much of that emphasis is a weekly cliffhanger, which doesn't necessarily translate well to three separate volumes.
The trilogy that is being released via 47North is a much more coherent narrative where the emphasis is now on world-building and story-telling. The Mongoliad has a beginning, middle, and end, but it's also the starting point of a huge explosion of stories and characters—in the medieval world and beyond—that is still forthcoming. We know so much more about Foreworld now (the world in which The Mongoliad takes place) that we are able to properly understand these characters' place within the larger narrative that has yet to unfold.
Q: What are the strengths of this book-length version of The Mongoliad?
A: Firstly, each of the three volumes of The Mongoliad have been polished, re-structured, and re-edited into the definitive edition of the narrative. The 47North publication is the authors' preferred text. As we said, throughout the serialization a book is never really done for the writers until they can hold it in their hands. We're old school, that way. It's done when you put it on the shelf.
Secondly, having been the guy who had to take it all apart and put it back together across three volumes, I think it's a much stronger narrative now. There are four story branches that move back and forth across the year 1241, and lining up intersection points between the branches was complicated in a serialized non-linear format. The 47North edition allowed us to build a better pace and structure for the narrative.
For example, the Rome branch, which began immediately in the serial, doesn't begin in the 47North edition until Book Two. Which makes sense in a linear story-telling fashion because the events that occur in Rome take place much later than the initial events in Book One. In the serial, we didn't do it that way—much to our chagrin. But we couldn't do anything to fix that misstep. Until now.
“This off-beat alternate history of Eurasia could be your new obsession.” –i09.com
“This story is pure adventure, with much swordplay and swashbuckling.” –Kirkus Reviews
“A terrifically engaging book that pulled me along at least as quickly as The Hunger Games. Think Lord of the Rings without all that pesky fantasy…Five frighteningly accurate historical sword fights out of five.” –Fanboy Comics
"While there might be some truth to the saying "too many cooks spoil the broth", it doesn't apply to The Mongoliad: Book One. In fact it's a distinct advantage in a book where we see the world through the eyes of such a diverse group of people. Differences in voice make each character a distinct individual while not detracting from the story's coherency or cohesion. The overall narrative actually flows far more smoothly than usual for a book covering as much ground as this one, as events build upon themselves naturally and logically. While there's no indication as to who wrote which parts it ends up being irrelevant. After the first few pages you'll find yourself so wrapped up in the story you'll no longer care who the author is, you'll just want to turn the page to find out what happens next." -Blogcritics
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What's it about, very quickly? In short, it is a collaborative, almost crowd-sourced literary experiment. It was originally released episodically on their website, but I read it all in its combined format. There are different story lines converging around the Mongol invasions of Europe. There is an ancient order of knights going on a quest to protect Europe, a Mongol solider tasked with curbing the Khan's drinking, and slaves participating in a circus (read: Gladiator-type fighting).
My initial thoughts: At first, I was disappointed. I had read the bonus story "Sinner" which was explained as a prequel short story to the larger story. But I found there was little connection between "Sinner" and "The Mongoliad". I was left confused by both the story and the amount of new characters I was being introduced to. Additionally, each chapter alternated between the different story lines, which can be very frustrating when you are not familiar with the characters or get too caught up with one story vs. another. But I was fascinated by the historical aspect...and I was in need of an immersive escape.
My conclusions: Once I got into the story, it was a lot of fun. I was no longer confused and I was curious to know what was going on. It is definitely a story that sucked me in, though I am not happy with how Book One finished. It just cut off. It was like the rest of the story failed to load. It is another case of there being multiple books just to do it. Maybe to get more money, maybe for space considerations, but certainly not for the sake of the story. I hope I can remember everything by the time I start reading Book Two.
The book starts out with a kind of preface about a group of Christian knights, which is engaging. So when Chapter 1 began, I wanted to know what happened to the main character in the preface, Andreas. But he was gone, lost in the muddle, appearing only occasionally like a bobbing log in a raging river. My emotional attachment to the narrative dwindled to nothing. And I kept asking myself, why should I be interested in all these groups? How do they relate to each other? What story thread can I follow? The only reason to continue reading is to see if there's any clarity somewhere down the road.
I'm reading the Mongoliad on my Kindle before I go to sleep, because it makes my brain tired.
In the West, a group of knights belonging to an obscure chivalric order have survived the hammer blows of Mongol victory, but must figure out how to buy time for Christendom to re-arm and figure out how to save itself from the unstoppable Mongol hordes. Upon having the Mongol system of succession explained (which requires a conclave of the primary Princes of the blood back in Mongolia) they determine to send off a party on a quest to assassinate the Khan.
The knights who are left behind still seek to gain understanding and knowledge of what makes the Mongols tick, while other factions arrive at the impromptu city that grows up around the Mongol encampment to curry favor or at least deflect the Mongols from their own lands.
These three threads weave in and out. The group authorship is mostly seemless. The number of characters drags things down a bit since some of them end up seeming to be hastily sketched. By sticking with the units of measure and local names in eastern Europe, an area where most readers do not have a good handle on the geography, the action seems pulled from a fantasy realm instead of operating at a level of granularity that is almost completely beneath the purview of history. This is a good platform to launch a series. And that is perhaps my biggest reservation. Will this become one of those endless series of novels that doesn't reach a resolution.