And here we go
Mitsuteru Yokoyama brings us, once again, a historical masterwork, this time based around the life and times of the great Khan. Known more to the English-speaking world as 'Genghis,' Unfortunately, few in the English speaking world are very familiar with the Khan or his life, which is really an incredible tale in of itself.
Born to a chieftain and his wife who had been kidnapped from her first husband, Temuchin was hardly someone you'd expect to rise to the levels he did and eventually forge the beginnings of the largest land-empire in world history (albeit a very short lived one).
After his father's death, Temuchin and his family lived in extreme poverty, abandoned and left for dead. This is where the unbelievable fortitude of his mother Hoelun comes in, with her utter refusal to lay down and die while her family depended on her.
In many ways, it's a shame we know so little of the Mongols and the true character of the Khan. It took Temuchin years to unite the steppes before the rode out to conquer the rest of the world. What little glimpses we do have reveal some startlingly progressive things to contrast the brutality of the massacres on the resistances (though it must also be noted that many sources come from people the Mongols conquered, which may cast aspersions on them. Or maybe not. Food for thought.)
Under the Khan, we know torture was banned, universal religious freedom was allowed and Temuchin famously valued his daughters as leaders in addition to his sons. The empire had a meritocracy where the former lower class craftsmen were honored, the introduction of universal currency, roads, promotion of universal literacy, the idea of 'rule by consensus' rather than divine right...all this contrasts with the shocking brutality the Mongols were capable of with entire regions depopulated and women and boys taken as slaves.
At its heart, though, this is a human story: one of how Temuchin rises from nothing to become one of the greatest war leaders the world had ever seen. For more reading, I second Hox's recommendation of Ratchnevsky's "Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy" and Onon's translation of "The Secret History of the Mongols.