A new historical legend to stand alongside Alexander the Great and Napoleon. Emperor Tang Taizong ruled during the 7th Century, a time of unrest and chaos for China. Interesting for an Emperor of the time, Emperor Tang Taizong was benevolent and tolerant of most religion. Most importantly, he managed to keep a level head and heeded his council. Heavenly Khan is the story of the Emperor’s life from inheriting the dynasty from his father to the so-called Last War. He was gifted the title of Heavenly Khan by Central and North Asia for his steadfast rule, dedication to the people, and ability to maintain a period of peace. The story alternates between the Emperor’s life and the important people of each battle or event.
A sense of upheaval is clear with every page, and Tang Taizong’s desire to unite China under peaceful rule is fascinating to follow. Despite the heavy use of assassinations, executions, and bloody battles, the ultimate goal is ever present. Xiong has crafted a well-researched journey through a fascinating man in Chinese history.
Told through the lens of a semi-fictionalized historical record, Tang Taizong’s journey from prince to Emperor is told with great aplomb. Thanks to the epic scope, the story revolves through a cast of important characters that shift the focus from the tactical battles to the sympathetic human struggles. The cast of characters can become unwieldy and difficult to follow occasionally. Characters, seemingly important, will drop out never to be mentioned again. Without the central Emperor, this novel would be just a collection of historical events told in dramatic form. Some of the dialogue is overly stilted and repeats what was told in prose, meaning it could have been omitted without damaging the narrative flow.
Well-written and decently plotted, Heavenly Khan is a dramatic biography of an important figure in Chinese history. Filled with political scandals, court struggles, epic battles, and narrative drama, there is something here for readers of any genre. Despite some formatting hiccups and unusual writing style choices, Xiong’s biography of the Heavenly Khan is an epic story of a legendary figure.
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