One of my favorite historical fiction series is “Empire of the Moghul” by Alex Rutherford. I had the opportunity to meet the author (actually – ‘authors’ – Alex Rutherford is the pen name for the husband and wife team of Diana and Michael Preston) after they released their first book, and at that point when asked if they would write six novels for the six main Moghul emperors, they had responded indicating it would most likely be five since the sixth emperor was quite controversial, and thus not that easy to write about. I thus thought I had completed the set, when to my surprise, this year they just released a sixth book on the Emperor Aurengzeb!
The book is well written and it has all of the ‘can’t put me down’ characteristics of the earlier books that makes it a delightful read. The author does a fair job of representing both the good and bad aspects of this controversial historical figure. The central theme of the Emperor’s growing conservatism starting to alienate parts of his kingdom is well captured. The challenges that he had with some of his sons (a constant challenge for Moghul emperors – part of the Moghul custom of ‘Taktya Takhta’ or ‘throne or coffin’) is also described well. From this book, one also gains an insight into the tactics that he used to help him win various battles – similar to the tactics he had used earlier against his own brothers to win the throne.
What is lacking is a good balance between internal family matters and external events. Too much time is spent on discussions with his sisters and with reflection on his past – while some of this adds to the narrative, the author could have found a better balance by reducing time spent on these topics and by including additional information on external events during that time.
Overall, I’m glad that they decided to write this sixth book. I learned a lot about Aurengzeb’s rule and life that I wasn’t aware of, and with this they have now completed this excellent seris by having a book for each of the main Moghul emperors.
Overall rating: three out of four stars
Overall rating for the series: 3.5 out of four stars