I live in Australia. Ex-British.
Always a writer, but it’s with Amgalant I settled down. Before that, I spent years over a creative translation of Beowulf, and on unfinished sf/f novels with an inclination to New Weird – often a historical setting with extraterrestrials. Now it’s simply Mongols. An encounter with the Alexiad in my teens captured my imagination on behalf of steppe peoples, and afterwards I saw Gibbon’s Decline and Fall from a barbarian perspective.
I’m interested in the convergences and intersections of history and imaginative work. I’ve understood the past through its written arts; and I think it’s possible to write decent history as art, too.
Where to find Bryn Hammond online
Where to buy in print
Voices from the Twelfth-Century Steppe
by Bryn Hammond
A case study in the craft of historical fiction. My experience between the primary sources and the historians. This essay is both an interpretation of The Secret History of the Mongols, from which I have worked for fifteen years, and a commentary on one creative writer’s interactions with the body of secondary work on this source: the three-way conversation between source, novelist and historians.
Of Battles Past (Amgalant #1)
by Bryn Hammond
China has executed Ambaghai, the Mongols’ khan, on a hurdle with donkey ears and tail from the theatre, in mockery of the horse peoples of the steppe. It cries for hachi.
Amgalant Two: Tribal Brawls
by Bryn Hammond
'Shamans flew outside the self in ecstasy. Other people found love, or causes.' Temujin has had to choose between love and his cause. As Tchingis Khan, he chose the latter. To his amazement his oath-brother marches to war upon him.
Amgalant One: The Old Ideal
by Bryn Hammond
Temujin comes into the world on the day the Mongols suffer a catastrophic defeat in battle. He isn't the hero type, but he has expectations to live up to, and he has a cause: freedom for his way of life, unity against China, where a nomad is an animal.
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Smashwords book reviews by Bryn Hammond
- Promised Valley Rebellion
on Jan. 21, 2012
I'm fascinated by prehistoric fiction, but haven't found much I'm happy with... so glad to come across this set of novels. What I liked: the characters are fully human, intelligent, with attitudes we recognise, either to go along with or argue with. Stories set in the distant past can assume people were dumber than us, which is unscientific I believe. The characters are engaging, I like and admire our young hero, who's a bit of a fighter for free speech and rights; and the crisis situation turns out to be a sort of conflict of nobility on both sides. I hope that isn't a spoiler. The end is heart-warming. I like the portrait of war, people's attitudes to war (again, we can assume people of the distant past were savage bloodthirsty idiots). I like the shamans - they're called tellers here - and their way of life, distinct from the community. And I like the pitting of hunter-gatherers against early farmers: the issues, the prejudices each has against the other. There are questions also of kingship and what tyranny is and isn't; and questions on religion and the gods. It's an examination of these matters, through a story that's strong and easy to get involved in. Best, we don't have to leave the world: there's a sequel and more to come.
on March 08, 2012
What jolted me awake on the first page was the prose and the character-depth; then Rose won me over and I had to read to the end. The prose is often more ordinary, and at times her experiments, for me, went wrong; but she can write.
Rose is a mad old lady. Not mad in the intellect, as she tells herself once almost for sure - it's her emotions that have gone mad (in a lesser way this has happened to me and I made that distinction). Still, she's crazed; she abandons her house with its memories, she packs a bag and there she is, a bag lady. When we meet her she can't stand to sleep indoors. Because the inside of her head is a rant she rants at other people; she's rude even to the sympathetic, and the writer tells you intimately why.
I think Sophie the librarian is meant to be conventional in every respect, except that she fell in love with Barbara: this gives her a little practice and the ability, later on, to question and defy other conventions. It's a chisel to open her mind - just a crack at first - rather as E.M. Forster designed the character of Maurice. Sophie's grief for dead Barbara, and the fact she cannot even tell her workmates she's in grief, are terrible for us to experience. I ought to warn you about the tragedy in the book.
Zak, a fourteen-year-old girl, didn't convince me the way the others did, and Rose remained the most original.
These three, two women and a girl, are thrown together, and the book's about what comes of that. The setting is Chicago 1968. On every street corner there's a prejudice: black/white; we're in a Polish neighbourhood, with much on when and how you use Polish, use English; the homeless; Sophie who doesn't call herself a lesbian; the hippy guys' treatment of the hippy girls is woeful. Then there are the humane, like Jake who gently and most steadfastly stands up to officialdom and the police, as only the runner of a soup kitchen knows how; and of course Rose.
on April 03, 2012
Too wonderful, I don't know how to talk about it. The spiritual insights of schizophrenia; Irish legends earthily told; artistry, of the sort that only needs a sentence or two, to make you look twice. I have to read this again. I feel inadequate to comment. - Not that you can't gain much, much, on a single and even fast read; the story hastens you along.
- Arauco: A Novel
on June 23, 2013
A fabulous shaggy beast of an epic novel.
I was won when Juan sets out on life under the influence of the romances of chivalry that turned Don Quixote’s brains – Amadis of Gaul, Orlando Furioso. Hey, I love those books myself; I’m glad they get a look-in as the culture of the times, even if, inevitably, their function is to contrast with the reality. Yes, as in Don Quixote. Still, I liked to have an innocent, idealistic main, on the Spanish side, but if you want more earthy sorts, there’s no shortage of them – beginning with Pedro, the aging swashbuckler who takes Juan to his garishly-costumed bosom.
Then on the Mapuche side I had Namku, a shaman of his people. He’s a shaman because he’s strange – an albino – and ‘weye’ too, that is, of the sexuality that was worse than the worst sin and blasphemy to the Spanish of the time. I rarely, or make that never since I can’t name any – see shamans that step from the pages of anthropology, not vaguely made up but as they exist/existed within their cultures. In himself Namku was worth three anthropology texts on the subject. Along with that I liked him and his story, and Lleflai, another outcast due to her face being melted in a fire, just to start on the large cast of Mapuche. It’s often the case that the more familiar side, the European, gets a more catchy story, but not the case here: the Mapuche story is every bit as thoroughly invented.
I’ve only talked about what snared my interest, because I read chivalric romances and anthropology on tribes. As I say, though, it’s a epic, that means ample, inclusive, and you’ll find quite other things of interest.
I’d better attempt general comments. In spite of the hideous events of the Spanish invasion, he gives you the opportunity to enjoy the high adventure the Spaniards thought it. As they swashbuckle their way into Chile and crack the grim/gallows jokes known to war, that you have to find hilarious at the time. Importantly, too, for me, there’s a kindness behind the whole. When we have Mendoza dogging natives, I need to be in a kind hand – that’s the author’s. There are nail-biting moments – a few when Mendoza’s off dogging – and don’t miss the Mapuche ball game that’s as thrilling as a battle. I was often glued to the page, and if I snoozed in Mapuche language lessons, that’s fine and right, that, to me, is epic – a word I don’t use in the debased sense. It’s written with wit and charm and frequent humour, which qualities endear a book to me. Deserves a second read – there’s so much here.