I give this book three out of five stars based upon what may still be yet to come. Keep in mind that I got an advanced copy from Klout. It was not a final edit so many of my issues with the narrative may have been corrected.
I have always wanted to read Stephenson as I hear only good things. Time is always the enemy. So what did I think? It started slow, very slow but the hint of what was coming started early. This is the story of two converging tales. One of Christendom in the wake of the Mongol onslaught. The other, a tale of the sons of Genghis Khan who were left to rule after his father's death.
The first is told from the point of view of a "Binder." We aren't told what a "Binder" is but learn bits and pieces as her story unfolds. Cnan was mysterious but the pace was slow. The so-called warrior monks were colorful and offered an interesting glimpse into the various factions and nations that made up 13th Century Europe.
The Mongol story is told from the point of view of a Mongol warrior, Gansukh. He is enlisted by one of the sons of Ghengis to try to prevent another, the new "Great Kahn," from drinking himself into complete uselessness. He is a warrior but he knows not the ways of so-called court life and is must be schooled by a Chinese slave. It is a good story, but like so many other threads started, it is incomplete.
There are many valid complaints about this book. The loudest is that too many authors have spoiled the story. It may be valid as this one ends mid-stream with nothing but questions... but the point that there is too much fighting does not ring true for me. If you consider that the Mongol army slaughtered on tenth on the world’s population, one would expect quite a bit of carnage. I wouldn’t pick up a read because it was gory, but if it should be part of the story it should be good.
Overall, my sneaking suspicion is that once this trilogy is written, a great tale will be have been told. I also believe it would be so much better if it were re-written by one.