KING GENGHIS I
When life is dull and tinged in gray, when you’re fired from your job and your girlfriend has just jumped ship—there’s nothing like a thrilling adventure in a faraway land to elevate your spirits.
Or at least so thought Turan—a New Yorker who travels from the heart of Western civilization to Genghistan—a small, hermetic Asian kingdom, ruled firmly but kindly by an affable, self-appointed benevolent dictator, who like other compassionate dictators is concerned principally with the well-being of his people.
The bond between the two men upsets the kingdom’s conventional wisdom, alters fates, and changes Turan from a broken-hearted and gloomy young man to a love-struck hero. Because, apparently, there’s nothing like the confines of a spunky little dictatorship to spark a new love.
Jonathan was born in South Africa in 1978 and moved to Israel at a young age.
At 24 he published his first book, a collection of short stories called Beloved by the Girls. Five years later he created a computer game called Happiness Without Borders, which was downloaded by 200,000 Israelis—2.5% of the population—and which was chosen as the best Israeli computer game of all time.
After publishing King Genghis I, he also published The Last Prince, a historical novel about Cyrus the Great.
Jonathan lives in Ra’anana with his wife, two children, and dog. In his spare time, when not writing books, he works as VP Marketing for a global tech firm.
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CHAPTER ONE – THE GOLDEN LETTER
“Turan?” the secretary said, perched at the entrance to his office.
Usually he was on guard against such situations, but this time she caught him immersed in the letter with the golden frame and he failed to notice her arrival.
“Turan,” the secretary repeated, in a bored voice.
He raised his head, surprised, and found her blank face. His hand darted to the letter, but her overarching indifference and the futility of the gesture told him that there was no point in hiding it.
“Powers wants to see you,” she said, turning away and leaving no room for questions.
Turan got out of his chair, slightly bewildered. Ken Powers was not in the habit of spontaneously inviting him to meetings, which, to put it mildly, was no cause for lament. Turan preferred seeing him solely in the halls and at holiday office parties. He made his way to the CEO’s office, still slightly perturbed. You didn’t do a thing, he told himself; you’ve done nothing to worry about. You didn’t do a thing.
” The song of a hopeful bird is sweeter than the song of a bird whose life has been stripped bare”
“The ‘representatives’ seated in the Genghese Parliament were handpicked by the King to fulfil an array of jobs in the Kingdom, which was officially a democracy – in that it was accepted that the will of the King was a loyal representation of the will of the people”
“there’s nothing like a thrilling adventure in a faraway land to lift your spirits”
Awash with satire, full of political humour, replete with irony and innuendo, with an added generous dollop of rom-com, this mix of genres is generally something I would shy away from reading at all costs. Especially with the extra potential hazard that this is not only a debut novel, but a first translation to English from its original Hebrew format!
What could possibly go wrong? Well, as it turns out, absolutely nothing!
So, if I now add that I thoroughly enjoyed this amazing, suspend-all-belief journey; with its quirky, larger-than-life cast of characters, and a translation style which I found eminently enjoyable and conversational, I really do need to explain myself!
This is almost short story, at a mere 200 pages or so, so the author really needed to fill it to the brim with quality content, which is exactly what Jonathan Yalon did – in style and I would have said, with so much straight from the heart humour and fun.
The opening couple of pages dropped me right into Turan’s boring and very uninspiring, Brooklyn life. The ensuing storyline, whilst built around a solid and substantial plot, became supremely ridiculous, yet evermore joyous as it went along. Rushing headfirst towards an ending which was satisfying, complete and had more than a touch of the happy-ever-afters about it, which is exactly the right outcome to round this story off beautifully.
This entertaining, multi-faceted storyline, was written with panache, consummate ease and authority, by a confident author who has a story to tell and knows just how to package and deliver it for maximum impact and reader ease of engagement, without over-embellishment (well! maybe just a little 🙂 ). Not a wasted word or glance in this action packed, fluid, fast-paced, whirlwind cultural journey, where the narrative and dialogue were razor sharp, visually observational and descriptive, to the point where I could imagine myself there as a casual bystander and witness as events unfolded.
There were some real laugh-out-loud moments too, at which point I’m sure I would have given myself away as an interloper and found myself expelled from the Kingdom and probably stoned by a mob first! The most outrageous incident was probably that of the dinner party for the American dignitary and that one you just couldn’t have made up! I could almost smell, taste and actually begin to physically gag, at the description of the meal which was served, whilst the antics surrounding its delivery, would have done full justice to any comedy sketch.
Jonathan expertly crafted a whole raft of characters I simply couldn’t take seriously or invest in, with the possible exceptions of Turan himself and Tatiana, despite the fact they were well drawn and developed, with each knowing his or her pre-defined place in the hierarchical chain of command. I was left trying to decide at what point I stopped laughing with them and began laughing at them. And therein lies the problem I think, as I kept trying to align this parody of an imaginary Kingdom of shared wealth and plenty, reigned over by its seemingly altruistic and benign benefactor, with real life countries I might like to manipulate to fit the profile, with Genghis then morphing into a pompous, bombastic dictator, full of his own importance and worth, with the Kingdom becoming his personal playground to do with as he wished, whilst his ‘subjects’ were his toy citizens, pawns to be moved around the board, like so many chess pieces.
Turan and I seemed to come to this same conclusion at roughly the same time and point in the journey, but whereas I knew I was able to walk away when I wanted to, Turan was not afforded that luxury and he didn’t desire to retake his freedom by foul means rather than fair, as he still held a grudging admiration for Genghis and being an original native of the country, he still had relatives living there. He was therefore astute enough to take advantage of a situation and earned a way out of the country for himself and Tatiana. Maybe the moral of this story for Turan was, if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true! – But I’ll let him tell you all about it!
“Satire is a genre of literature and performing arts, usually fiction and less frequently in non-fiction, in which vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society”
A complimentary PDF file for review purposes, was kindly supplied by the author.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 4 out of 5 stars!