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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review : 'Empire of the Moghul, The Serpent’s Tooth' by Alex Rutherford

The fifth in the Empire of the Moghul series has come to an end, leaving me asking for more. Titled, ‘The Serpent’s Tooth’, this book too stands on its own, just as the others have. Despite picking up from ‘The Tainted Throne’, this book probably has its own flavour to add. 

Love, intrigue, lust and war all form a part in this entire saga. One does see the love between, Shah Jahan and his beautiful wife, Mumtaz. It is difficult to imagine how their love has developed considering the author has stuck to the basic details of the story. Of course, there is the construction of the Taj Mahal. (I did go and see it, and was taken in by the whiteness and its calming nature, which does come through after all these years. There is also the wish of seeing it again, after reading this one)

But unfortunately, one does not see why exactly Shah Jahan went through most of the empire’s money to build it. Of course, the fact that Mumtaz was the reason, is clear enough yet there was still the wish to read more and examine the details behind why exactly, Shah Jahan felt this way about his wife. I felt that more details could have been included.

The war, which Shah Jahan had fought and his wife’s insistence on accompanying him and her death follow the first part of the book.

The second part is Taj Mahal. How the gems, personally picked by the Emperor, how the marble, the stones and the gardens were conceptualised fill this part in. The grief and sadness he feels at Mumtaz’s loss and his unwillingness to go through his stately duties build up this story.

The wars were getting repetitive in this part. The lust which, existed between Shah Jahan and all the ladies of the haram and importantly, Jahanara are an important section. Jahanara was his daughter and mistaking her for Mumtaz, in an opium and wine induced state he tried to commit incest. It is apparently, not known about the real truth behind this matter, but Jahanara manages to get away from him, much to his shame and grief, in the book.

Intrigue formed the fourth part leading towards the end. Nicholas Ballantyne, an English man who stays attached to the family with his loyalty and friendship is tested in this part. Shah Jahan’s separation from most of his sons and daughters, (Aurangzeb, leading the pack) due to his own serious eccentricities, despite Dara Shukoh and Jahanara, his eldest children remaining with him helps this part through. How Alex Rutherford closes the emotion gripped end is something which, a reader has to give his own interpretation to. 

Rutherford has this innate talent, for making the reader feel, a part of the scene. His best work comes out in the description of the Taj. His research into the topics of the book is dramatic and well-etched out. One can go through the notes, if one is not satisfied with what he has to read.

Author: Alex Rutherford
Imprint: Headline Review 
ISBN : 9780755347636
Price: Rs 599
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