Book Review: Empire of the Moghul: The Tainted Throne
It would be an understatement to suggest that Alex Rutherford’s ‘Empire of the Moghul’ series has tried to delve into the maze of Mughal Empire like no one has done before. Every previous attempt towards weaving the narrative within the scope of historical fiction genre has remained unsatisfactory at the best. Similar attempts in the west with regards to other dynasties, both in pre-Christ and post-Christ era have attained cult status among the readers. And hence, the genre is the well established one there. Same, unfortunately, can not be said for India where people tend to take history a tad too seriously to allow and sort of fictional experimentation. That is a bit rich for the country where a slew of writers have earned their breads on revisionism.
Under the circumstances, it is rather surprising that an effort like ‘Empire of the Moghul’ has been well received by a section of readers and has actually managed to come out with another riveting installment. The three previous installments have dealt with the lives of emperor Babur, Humayun and Akbar, where characters spill over different installments, rather naturally. ‘The Tainted Throne’ primarily deals with the reign of emperor Jahangir and the coming of age and eventual emperor-hood of his son Khurram, later Shah Jahan.
The Tainted Throne opens with the battle scene where newly anointed emperor Jahangir is determined to crush the rebellion of his elder son Khusrao who had a few ideas of his own when Jahangir took the reign of empire following Akbar’s demise. After the defeat and confinement of Khusrao, Jahangir starts consolidating his empire.
Enters Mehrunissa, the daughter of Ghiyas Beg, a character that played important role in the previous installments of the novel and the wife of Sher Afghan. And the story takes a different tangent. In fact, it can be safely said that the novel is as much about Jahangir as it is about Mehrunissa, who later went on to become empress Nur Jahan.
Like all their previous outings, the novel sticks to the main plot without diverting much and uses every big and small characters to the full. Similarly, as now customary with this series, the female members of the Mughal family play important role in the overall narrative. Mehrunissa’s ambitions remains the main catalyst of this installment, a truly befitting portrayal of a woman who shaped the history of the subcontinent.
But the novel is also about emotions. Throughout the novel, it is the tension between Jahangir and Khurram and the former’s internal fight that keeps the emotion quotient intact. The scenes of confrontation between the father and the son go a long way in humanizing the personalities that have remained larger than life for most of the readers.
However, it must also be mentioned that in many ways The Tainted Throne is the weakest installment in the series. Unlike in the past, the writers have taken a tad more liberties that at times appear to skip that fine line which keeps this genre honorable. It is compounded by the problem that the authors wanted to cram lots of information and events in the narrative itself. The entire sequence of British ambassador, although partly true, appears to be forced and so is the mention of Catholic-Protestant feud. Also, it is highly unlikely that Jahangir won’t acknowledge Jesus or express ignorance about him, as shown in the novel, considering Jesus remains one of the most revered prophets in Islam.
But these remains merely minor glitches. The Tainted Throne remains as readable as the previous installments and carries the story to an era that has much in store of readers of all strips. The series was conceived as a quintet. However, I have a serious doubt now that the authors will be able to finish it all in the next installment itself. I am almost sure that there is at least two books in offing after The Tainted Throne. But who’s complaining. Who wants this saga to ever end?
- Author: Alex Rutherford
- ISBN: 978-0-7553-4760-5
- Pages: 448
- Price: Rs. 599
- Publisher: Hachette
- Category: Historical
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