To see two points of view can be much better, and fairer, than just the one. In her new novel Bone Music, about the young Genghis Khan, Katherine Roberts lets the reader see three points of view, which is even fairer.
First we follow the young, future Genghis Khan, for twelve years from the age of nine, as he deals with the loss of his father, meeting his blood brother Jamukha, as well as his betrothal to ten-year-old Borta. He’s a bit of a charmer, and I was hoping that my understanding that Genghis Khan wasn’t a nice man was going to be proven false.
There are perhaps too many chopped-off heads for that. But he does seem quite nice.
For the same twelve years we see the world through Borta’s eyes and learn that there can be other truths for the same occasions already mentioned. And following her tale, we find that Jamukha has yet another version of the truth. The same things do happen, but it’s not all the same.
Sometimes we do things that look wrong, might even be wrong, for the right reasons.
Theirs is a world of blood and fighting, living in rough camps and always having to defend or attack. The power of shamans is great, and there is a not inconsiderable amount of the supernatural involved.
It’s never easy when two men love the same woman, and who she loves doesn’t matter much in a world where the parents arrange marriages.
I’ve never been terribly keen on Genghis Khan, presumably because of that streak of cruelty I sensed. But as I said, there are two, or three, ways of looking at any given fact. I now feel I know a lot more about these Mongol tribes, and while I don’t enjoy the rolling of heads, I can at least understand it. A little.