Brothers At War

‘The Serpent’s Tooth’ Launches in India – Review in ‘Postnoon’

 | June 22, 2013 |


Alex Rutherford’s The Serpent’s Tooth opens like an action thriller. Shah Jahan, who has become the emperor of the M­ughal Empire after overcoming all opposition to his claim to the throne, survives another assassination attempt. If it were written in the drab way as in history text books, you will not proceed beyond the first paragraph, maybe not even the first line.

But this stuff is good. Every line conjures an image, every word is a line that joins and jells presenting before us a clear picture: The way the attacker hurls himself at Shah Jahan, his garb, his gait, his build, how the dagger gleamed in the rays of the sun, the emperor’s quick response, his overpowering him… it is as good as you saw the whole thing yourself.

In this book, you will sense the beginning of the fall of the Mughal empire. Shah Jahan, lost in sorrow by the loss of his wife, loses focus and does not see the differences and hatred among his children and by the time he does, it is too late. Aurangazeb rallies his brothers Shah Shuja and Murad, successfully rebels against his father and his brother, Dara Shukoh, the rightful heir — and keeps the curse of the “coffin or throne” alive in the Mughal dynasty. He imprisons his father, murders Murad and executes Dara Shukoh.

One wonders if Dara Shukoh had been emperor… Dara Shukoh is the perfect Mughal prince: intelligent, charismatic and deeply spiritual and tolerant towards other religions. There are many who believed that the reign of Akbar would return had Dara succeeded Shah Jahan. And this is exactly what the bigots of the time did not want, for their powers and influence had considerably weakened during Akbar’s time, who was open to any religion.

The book’s end is full of pathos as Shah Jahan withers from the grief from the death of his sons and the turn of events. The rise and fall is striking, from the warrior prince to the all-powerful emperor to a dying old man whose joy had been robbed by his own offspring.

Name: The Serpent’s Tooth

Author: Alex Rutherford

Pages: 398

Publisher: Hachette



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2 thoughts on “‘The Serpent’s Tooth’ Launches in India – Review in ‘Postnoon’”

  1. Ann Leroux says:

    I just finished The Serpent Tooth in 24 hrs. Couldn’t put it down except for some marginal duties such as work, meals, sleep…

    I love the way we really get into the head of the main characters and would have liked to get into Aurangzeb’s a bit more to understand how he saw things. He apparently understood the power of religion early on and how he could use it to balance out the fact that he was neither the eldest nor the preferred of his father’s sons.

    It was great to get a more profound explanation of the story behind the Taj Mahal; the version spouted out by the guides leaves to be desired. I feel that I need to go back now.

    Nicholas Ballantyne’s character, although mostly fictional added a lot to the human element.

    Aside from the content, which I find intensely gripping, I feel that the actual writing (choice of words, syntax, grammar…), although greatly improved from the first books, still lacks a bit of polish. I am not an English teacher, nor a purist, but I do read a lot and I was finding myself, by moments, rephrasing a sentence that bothered me.

    Otherwise, I have only praise for the Empire of the Moghul and great anticipation for the following book (Alamgir!). When is it expected?

    1. diana says:

      Hi and many thanks for your interesting comments. Book six on Aurangzeb will be out in the spring.

      with very best wishes

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