Burnes's journeys were truly groundbreaking and his account, whilst occasionally banal and self-serving in places, contains many extraordinary episodes. On the one hand an adventure story, the narrative also provides insight into the tribal and geopolitical complexities of this region which persist to this day. And Burnes himself emerges as a three dimensional character, clever and adventurous, ideally suited to the place and the time. One cannot help being ambivalent about his mission but, given the colonial era in which he lived, he seems an egalitarian figure and not given to racism. The book ends in 1831, ten years before Burnes's violent death in Kabul which is described vividly in the epilogue.
William Dalrymple has written the introduction and epilogue and the editor, Kathleen Hopkirk, seems to have done just enough to allow the story to flow whilst correcting Burnes's occasional lapses and filling gaps in his text. Anyone interested in the Great Game and the days of the East India Company will thoroughly enjoy Burnes's writing which makes a welcome return to print.