In the steppes of High Asia, the year 1166…
‘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.’
The hundred tribes of the Mongols have come together with one aim: to push back against the walls that have crept onto the steppe – farther than China has ever extended its walls before. Walls are repugnant to a nomad. But can people on horses push them down, even with a united effort?
This story begins when nobody has heard of Mongols – not even most Chinese, who think the vast Northern Waste at its weakest and are right. A spectacular history starts obscurely…
Against Walls is the first in a trilogy that gives voice to the Mongols in their explosive encounter with the great world under Tchingis Khan. Both epic and intimate, Amgalant sees the world through Mongol eyes. It’s different from the world you know.
‘makes the Mongol people spring to life’
About the Author
Writer, Australia, ex-UK. I've been quietly at work on my historical fiction about 12th and 13th-century Mongols since 2003. It's my main occupation/obsession. Before that, I spent years on a creative translation of Beowulf (unfinished) and wrote science fiction. Keen on: walks by the sea, where I live. Baroque opera, Shostakovich, David Bowie. Books, old and a few new. Doctor Who and Star Trek: Discovery.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Amgalant One: The Old Ideal is the first novel in Bryn Hammond’s historical fiction trilogy set in northeast Asia in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Hammond’s protagonist is the person we know as Genghis Khan. One of the many delights I encountered in this novel was that it’s written from the point of view of the Mongols. We speak of the Great Wall of China as if it were a single smartly executed defensive structure built by the civilized Chinese to keep out their “barbarian” neighbors to the north. Maps of the “Great Wall” reveal that it’s actually a number of mostly parallel east-to-west walls. The Mongols and their allies viewed these walls as offensive movements by the Chinese to bring more and more “barbarian” territory into China. Thus: “these ghastly dead gigantic insects that crept across the steppe. . . . These ugly mean-spirited possessions of our mother earth, these worms, these anti-liberty flags and wind-blown banners to imprisonment, these thistles in the grass, these lines of poison. A nomad can do poetry, on walls. The Wall is what we hate. Civilization is what has done us wrong.” Another joy for me is Hammond’s unique style, which isn’t meant for quick reading but for reading and contemplation. Here are some tidbits: “‘Too stupid for battle. Is that a sort of oxymoron?’ His uncle the khan fixed an eye on him. ‘An oxymoron’s the other thing.’” “At the worst news in the Mongols’ history, she wept for joy.” (She’d also learned that the man she loved had survived a disastrous war fought against both the Tartars and Chinese.) “Survivors, for their punishment, have the worst sight.” “Even a suspect action can have a nice consequence.” “There’s a funny trick with knowledge of the future: you’re not meant to act and twist things up. You’re almost meant to know and then forget—go on as if you didn’t know.” “The world’s early kings were sacred kings and had to be. Religious awe: tried-and-true to subjugate minds and overthrow the insistent, rowdy equality of tribes. In general, religion is found hand-in-glove with despots.” And I’m so glad to see these “uncivilized” Mongol “barbarians” portrayed as people whose humanity and intelligence equal, when they don’t exceed, our own. The son of a chieftain and his brothers abduct the bride of a member of another clan. They’re pleased when the groom makes no futile attempt to fight them off. They didn’t want to harm or kill him. The bride, who’d invited her abduction by staring approvingly at her abductor, wastes no time deciding she’d rather have him for a husband than the man she’d been promised to. The new couple’s first child, born on the worst day of that disastrous war, is Genghis Khan. This is the kind of historical fiction I love. I greatly enjoyed the time I spent with Hammond’s Mongols.