It should have five stars, but most people only gave this book four stars. The reason is not difficult to guess–it’s a bit heavy on rarely used terms to describe ancient ruins and garments of unfamiliar people. If it is not for the author’s exceptional skills in writing, such a lengthy description of Middle East countries would not have attracted me. There are of course other enticements–I am determined to read every book about Mongolia that I can possibly get my hands on. After I slogging through the first portion of this book which dwells on the early part of Marco Polo’s journey in Middle East, I am expecting to be rewarded with the part talking about Mongolia and China.
I am only at the 25% of the book. Already the description of the exhausting journey makes me feel that a historian is a job that requires not only intellectual efforts, but also physical exertions. The problem is that the description of the physical exertions is always quite depressing. No good road, no good transportation, no good lodging. Hygiene is completely out of the picture, and food rarely satisfactory. I agree that Marco Polo’s original book is awful and I can’t finish the first ten pages. Totally boring. Even books about Polo’s books are boring. I still haven’t finished the other book about Polo and Xanadu after two years. In all likelihood, I will finish this book before finishing the other one.