Until the Sun Falls by Cecelia Holland (1970-01-19) Hardcover
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
1. It’s basically the only available fiction book and one of the few works works of fiction in general about the invasion of Russia by Mongols (setting up background for formation of the Golden Horde) written from the point of view of Mongols. A few works (by Sienkewitz, I believe, and the like) talk about raids by Crimean “Tatars”, and then there is the Mongoliad, but the latter is pretty bad from historic point of view (it’s more of an alternate history), and it doesn’t focus on the Mongol side of affairs. So, if you’re interested in Mongol invasion of Russia or Mongols in general, it’s kinda a must to read it.
2. It’s well written. The pace is good; the language is not awkward; the characters are well developed. There is a good balance of action and emotion; of character development and storyline.
3. It shows the amazing fact that Mongols were basically a 20th century total-war army plopped into a medieval context. The author describes military strategy and tactics, means of communication along the lines, planning out, etc.
4. I want to mention the characters separately. All the major players of the time: Sebutei, Batu, Guyuk (Quyuk), Mongke, etc., are there. If you know anything about Mongol history, or have read Mongoliad or Iggulden’s books, you’ll be glad to see the major players that had shaped the history of Mongol empire and would go on to shape it in the future. Also, Kaidu is there and will be familiar to the viewers of Marco Polo — there is a fair bit of character development devoted to him as well.
1. The author seems to repeat the Euro-centric view that Mongols were simple light cavalry archer barbarians who were helpless in front of a heavy cavalry charge or stone fortifications. That is simply not true. It is true that Mongols heavily relied on mounted archers for mobility and disrupting enemy lines. That was what they were really good at. But Mongols also employed heavy (armored and lanced) cavalry as their main attack unit. Remember, stirrups and lanced charges were actually developed in the East, not the West. Mongols employed siege machinery (the fortifications of Chinese cities that Mongols took were heavier than those in the West, especially around that time — by the way, many of the heavily fortified castles we know of today are post-Renaissance). They also employed infantry. Nor were they only successful on the plains. Much of China is hills and mountains. As well as the Middle East and South Asia (Afghanistan, India, etc.) which Mongols took later (as Moghuls/Mughals). So, basically the whole repetition of “we’re afraid of heavy knights”/Mongols can’t take Western Europe mantra was a bit annoying.
2. Crossbows. Umm. Mongols definitely knew about them. Chinese invented them and used them long before the Europeans. Basically for the same reasons as the Europeans.
3. Some of the reviewers mentioned that you’re being plunged in the middle of a historical story. You’re supposed to know already who Sebudei, Batu, Guyuk, etc., are. — Well, I don’t think that’s really fair. I mean, yeah. And the same is true for any historic fiction. If you’re reading about the War of the Roses or Hundred Years War or Ivanhoe, you’re supposed to have a bit of the background. Nobody give a review of the history going back to the cavemen. But, I think a very brief introduction of what had transpired in the Mongol empire up to that point, and who the actors are, would be good. For the reader who knows very little about Mongol history or hasn’t read Mongoliad or watched Marco Polo, there is always the Wikipedia.
4. I wish the book was longer and more detailed. :) This is more of a praise than a con.
So, overall, despite a few minor discrepancies, I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in medieval history, Mongol history, military historic fiction, or specifically Mongol invasion of Europe.
Unlike most readers I already had a limited knowledge of the period and cultures that are the foundation of this masterpiece. Ms Hollands superb research and writing craftsmanship created this weave of personalities and events that turned a boring history lesson vibrantly alive!.
And remember, this book was originally published in 1968. No Wiki or Google to help do all the tedious scholarly research that establishes this as such an outstanding work of fiction. Even today this remains a shiny beacon of what Historical Fiction should be and all too often fails to accomplish!
As most people probably do not have in depth knowledge of Central Asia, I would suggest they also purchase and first read "Ruler of the Sky" by Pamela Sargent/ As her book describes the origins of he man to become the Genghis Khan up to the year of his death. That splendid volume will then give you the background knowledge of people, events and geography, in the period ten years after the Great Conqueror's death. Covered so splendidly in Ms Holland's book "Until The Sun Falls".
This is an unusual book as the story is told entirely from a Mongol perspective, without any dates or Western protagonists. The main characters are Mongol princes and generals, all of them brave and good generals, but they all have limited vocabularies, and when not on campaign they are mostly drunk and/or fighting each other. There is also a serious father/son conflict which is hard to believe and it is a mark of Holland's literary ability that this conflict becomes an important bridging element of the book. This novel is of high literary quality in spite of the thinness of the Mongol princes (which in fact may have been the case in history given that the Mongols were a nomadic society) and this comes across especially in her descriptions of long marches through the wide spaces between Karakorum and the lands to be conquered and in the scenes of Mongol domestic life in a polygamous household,
Unfortunately, the book is less convincing on important details: Bohemia is not south of Hungary, Pesth (the German name for Pest) was not the seat of the Hungarian kings and as a smallish German town, it was not likely to have had the royal palace Holland describes and the Sajo River, the scene of the most important battle in Hungary in 1241 is nowhere near Pesth. Admittedly, there are not many remaining accounts of the Tartar/Mongol invasion of Europe and even fewer accurate ones (if there were any in the first place), but for me this is not a historical novel, just good fiction about strange people invading strange lands. It would not take much to turn this book into a tale of phantasy good for several volumes.
Top international reviews
One comment on the Kindle edition - I'm not sure how this was produced but a few irritating typos have crept in, for example where words were hyphenated to assist word wrapping, the hyphen has been imported into the Kindle edition and a space follows the hyphen. for example: coin- cidence which I had to read twice before I got it right - no big deal but it breaks concentration. At least one line of original text didn't make to Kindle. Cecelia Holland's text is so good it deserves more tender care.
I decided to reread this because I was going to Uzbekistan. Flying home I was reading her description of the siege of Moscow, and glancing at the plane's information screen I saw we were flying over Moscow. I looked out the window, wondering (for just a moment) whether I would be able to see the camp fires of the besieging Mongols, that's how immersed I had become!
___All of her characters leap off the pages. They touch readers as sure as the gusts of wind on wintry faces. I'm especially impressed with the rich-sensual detail that brings her narrative to life.
___Readers will experience firsthand the superior Mongol battle tactics. Their use of colored banners, colored lanterns and colored rockets that coordinated thousands of horsemen across sprawling battlefields. Indeed, Napoleon, Robert E. Lee, or Frederick the Great would envy these superior adaptations of battle tactics. This and the famous Mongol compound bow ensured victory over all enemies.
___But Ms. Holland doesn't stop at depicting raids and warfare. She describes the wives and slaves of the military commanders. She depicts life in the yurts, the rivalries between fathers and sons. She brings to life the nomadic society without apologies or endearments.
___Readers unfamiliar with the Mongol ethos should understand that Mongol's have never told their own story. Most of their history comes from their victims who've painted the Mongols as vicious murderers. Accounts of the sacked cities have been greatly exaggerated. No conqueror would kill off an entire urban population when they'd gain more by taking the vanquished as slaves.
___Humans have lived for more than 100,000 years as fractious nomadic tribesmen. Our historical era is but a small fraction of humanity's sojourn on earth. In many ways, this tale brings us back to our primal roots. Warts and all.