This is not a book about Genghis Khan, but about what happened after his death. The Mongols continued on a path to world domination, secure in the belief that the world would be a better place under Mongol rule. Usually perceived as an unruly bunch of barbarous criminals, this book relates a complex set of rules for all aspects of daily life. The Yasa (rules) prescribed what a person had to do if unfortunate enough to be in a room when a woman died. The same set of rules informed the Mongols of who could kill whom and under what conditions the killing could be done. These life and death decisions were based on tribal affiliation and direct or indirect bloodlines.
The authors note at the beginning of the book is usually something I always read first, as I did with this book. It is also useful to re-read it after finishing the book. There are lots of characters with pronoun referents that are not always clear. Reading the authors note again can produce a very clear picture of what was recently read. It is presented in a very entertaining story narrative.
The book’s overall surprise (not a spoiler) is the description of the very complex war machine that was the Mongol forces. Present day technology in communication between forces, subject to interference by weather and poor maintenance, is not much of an improvement on the multi-colored lanterns and codes used by the Mongols. Versatility and the ability to adapt was shown when the Mongols realized that methods and tactics used on the Steppes needed modification when employed in forests, mountains, and winter.
The Mongol emphasis on assimilation rather than outright domination is presented through characters which inhabit both points of view of assimilation to a greater and lesser degree. This, combined with narratives about individual accomplishments with bow and arrow, individual skills with and care of horses, and daily camp rituals make this a complex sociological study set in entertaining historical fiction novel form.