9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stomping good read!
I have very much enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next volume. I was brought up in India and remember my history lessons of the Moghul invasions from the north but you really don't need to have prior knowledge of Asian history to appreciate it. Babur's growth from child-king to warrior-king is well portrayed. The ups and downs of his fortune were...
Published on 16 Dec. 2009 by Mrs. H. V. Minor
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So much potential, but hard going in places
Alex Rutherford's Empire of the Moghul series is, apparently, scheduled to be a five book series covering the rise (and presumably ultimately the fall) of an Empire which covered much of the Indian subcontinent in the Middle Ages. It's not a period or place in history that is familiar to me, but spurred on by the excellent Conn Iggulden series on Genghis Khan, I had high...
Published on 15 Jan. 2010 by R. W. Mackenzie
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stomping good read!,
This review is from: Empire of the Moghul: Raiders From the North (Hardcover)
I have very much enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next volume. I was brought up in India and remember my history lessons of the Moghul invasions from the north but you really don't need to have prior knowledge of Asian history to appreciate it. Babur's growth from child-king to warrior-king is well portrayed. The ups and downs of his fortune were staggering: the strategic mistakes he made and the learning curve he had to go through to regain his kingdom are laid bare. From King of Ferghana and Samarkand to wandering warlord, to King of Kabul and then first Moghul Emperor of India, he is a fine illustration of the words: "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown". The reader is given a fine perception of the precarious situation of rulers whose lives were spent defending their territories from predatory rivals. The primary source material for this book must be the "Baburnama" Baburnama (Modern Library) - the diary that Babur kept and it has certainly whetted my appetite to read this, too, a sure sign that the writer has scored a success. If a writer can take such primary source material and use it to paint a picture of the age that lives, breathes and draws the reader in, then s/he has written well. This is what Mary Renault did with supreme success in " The Bull from the Sea" The Bull from the Sea and "The King Must Die" The King Must Die and her other Greek histories, for which she used Thucydides' "Peloponnesian Wars" as her primary source material The Peloponnesian War (Classics). I would heartily recommend "Empire of the Moghul" to all readers whether or not they are fans of historical reconstructions.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So much potential, but hard going in places,
Alex Rutherford's Empire of the Moghul series is, apparently, scheduled to be a five book series covering the rise (and presumably ultimately the fall) of an Empire which covered much of the Indian subcontinent in the Middle Ages. It's not a period or place in history that is familiar to me, but spurred on by the excellent Conn Iggulden series on Genghis Khan, I had high expectations of a novel and series of excitement, conquest, challenges, defeats and triumphs.
Oddly, though, from the outset I found the book hard-going. Perhaps because of the writing style (although I couldn't pin anything specific that I didn't like, except perhaps the inevitable information dumps from Rutherford's research) or maybe because I found the central character Babur hard to like. This latter point may be the issue, since Babur is, with a couple of exceptions, the only character developed in any real depth and seems to have few relationships of any meaning. Whilst this may be an accurate historical depiction, it doesn't make for a terribly involved story. My other gripe is that the story, which revolves around battle, victory, battle, defeat, battle, victory, battle, defeat, skip forward 5 years, battle, victory, inexplicably skip forward eight years, battle, etc seemed slightly pointless. I think Rutherford's ambition to cover so much in five books meant he was restricted to one book for Babur's life with the result that the story is always rushing to get to the next "key event".
However, I don't want to be overwhelmingly negative, since despite these flaws, there were bits of the book that were gripping, and I was interested enough to reach the end, even if it took an effort on some occasions to pick up the book again. The book is well researched and I think Rutherford has the potential to be a good author (although I've no expertise other than as a reader). That said, I can't say it's done enough to make me pick up the next in the series.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Ferghana to Delhi,
This is the first volume of a series of historical novels concerning the Moghul empire in India and it starts far from Hindustan in Ferghana ruled by Babur a descendant of Tamerlane and Genghiz Khan. Babur's career in Central Asia, Afghanistan and (finally) India, much of which was covered by his own diary, is a quite amazing tale of successes and failures. He takes and loses cities, he rules vast empires and he is a bandit chief. To a westerner with our strong tribalism these sudden changes of control can seem strange. It is as if the Norman Conquest was not an extraordinary event but the common currency of power politics and as if a King of Scots became Holy Roman Emperor after losing the thrones of Scotland and England, but the ruling dynasties of those periods lacked strong roots down into the underlying populations.
A historical novel on such a man is full of event to begin with and providing it can avoid a fall at the Dreadful Sex Scene Fence and a nasty tumble at the Anachronistic Moralising Waterjump then the novelist should not be unseated. The novel can "refuse" when faced with ahistorical additional characters and I did wonder about Baburi's value but the story drives on powerfully and if it is not quite Alfred Duggan it looks a promising filly that should win again later in the season.
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Moghul history.,
Empires were not built on mere diplomacy. Actions and results determined your fate. By far the biggest travesty to Pakistani history is the omission of Moghul history from the narrative. Nations have to have selective history, and for some reasons Moghuls have not really featured as favourites in the popular history of Pakistan, which is a great loss indeed. For which other dynasty was able to rule for about 400 years or so? Their aura was such that even after the end of the the greats reign with the passing of Aurangzeb, their reign managed to survive for another 90 odd years? That's huge when you compare with the British reign of 90 years starting in 1857.
This wonderful book is the first in series of narrative history detailing the life and times of the first great Moghul Babur, charting his course from his tiny kingdom of Ferghana to the mighty seat of Delhi. His trials and tribulations, harsh choices, tough lifestyle, life threatening decision making, allegiance to friends and family and most of all his unique personality is vividly brought to life in a thriller of a book, which cannot be put down. The book reads like a thriller movie, filled with suspense and drama containing love, rebuttals, revenge, heartaches, suspense, anger, passion, desires, all leading to a terrific legacy.
What about Babur personality? He was almost illiterate, who after becoming a king by birth the age of 12, fought most of his life trying to justify his Taimuri lineage. It's a classic recipe for success repeated even today by the successful the world over. Belief in your destiny to succeed has to earned by sheer hard work and persistence. Easy you say, but the real feature of aha it's success were the very supporting family and friends who also shared this remarkable belief in his destiny. So correct support is vital to fulfil any dream which are all delusions to start with. This support is successful history for a young struggling nation like Pakistan on the macro level. Without owning our great Moghul past and understanding the real reasons for their huge success, how can we succeed?
I humbly salute the two writers for undertaking such a wonderful project. I remain a lifelong fan.
4.0 out of 5 stars Whistlestop tour of a great man's life,
2 days after this arrived, the question 'which empire was founded by Emperor Babur in the 1500s' turned up on a pub quiz. I had no idea of the answer 2 days before, but thanks to this book we won the quiz by a point - I almost gave it 5 stars straight off!
The book follows the life of 'Babur', descendant of both Timur ('Timur the Lame' or 'Tamburlaime' to us) and Genghis Khan from ascent to his first throne to his death. It starts off at a solid pace with his father's death and immediate political intriguing, and then jumps through the major parts of Babur's life; often with years between chapters.
It covers political intrigue, battles, subterfuge, personal trials, epic journeys, attempted assassination, family problems... The jumping between years can make it feel a little disjointed at times, but it means that almost every chapter drives the story forwards, keeping you gripped.
Babur was a truly great man, overcoming great adversity to achieve epic things. The writing gets across the highs and lows of Babur's life and is genuinely interesting - I was soon wikipedia-ing my way through 'Shaibani Khan' and 'Moghal dynasty' to find out more.
I think this is well worth a look if you're a fan of historical fiction in the vein of Iggulden, Scarrow or Cornwell.
Unfortunately, the story's pace makes it difficult to empathise with all of the characters; although Rutherford does sneak in scenes demonstrating Babur's fairness and personal feelings which really won me over. The way the battle scenes are written makes them somehow feel less 'intense', I felt detached and unsatisfied by these (generally short) scenes; especially after reading Abnett, Martin & Cornwell.
I think that more gripping action would have really done the book a favour. The lack of empathy and curiously detached battles are why I didn't give the book 5 stars; but it was still a great page turner. It takes an interesting story and goes through it at a gripping pace. I definitely look forwards to reading the next one!
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid novel about a little-known, but important, historical figure,
"Raiders from the North" is the first is a projected quintet about the emperors of the Mughal Empire. This first book deals, unsurprisingly, with the life of Babur, the conqueror of Delhi and the first Mughal Emperor - it was his grandson (I think that was the relationship) who built the Taj Mahal.
I was delighted when I first saw this book, as Babur was a fascinating character, who is relatively unknown in the West - it was a good decision by the publishers to pick up the manuscript where they might easily have thought Babur too obscure. Of course, he wasn't obscure at all - at the start of the 16th century he carved out the beginnings of an empire that endured until 1858, when the last Mughal was deposed by the British. Hardly an insignificant figure!
Also, Babur's life was fascinating and full of adventure that one might only expect to find in a novel. A direct descendent of Tamerlane (and possibly of Ghengis Khan as well), he became king of a smallish area of Central Asia when he was around 13 years old; he managed to conquer Samarkand, only to lose it, and his original fiefdom, within months. After that he lived as a guerrilla fighter for some years, gradually whittling away at his foes, until he was able, at last, to carve a new kingdom in Afghanistan, and extend his dominions in the Indus valley.
Alex Rutherford, the author, has travelled to many places visited by Babur, and his knowledge of the region comes through a little in his writing - I wouldn't say that he couldn't have written the book without that first-hand travel, however. Overall it is a solid historical novel - he's researched his material, travelled to the region, and constructed a good story out of it all.
My only real complaint is about the battle scenes. Mr Rutherford writes about the politics well, and makes the characters believable as humans; but unfortunately he doesn't write about warfare as well as he does the others. It's a shame, because the battles could have been tremendously exciting if written in a Cornwell-ish style; but I actually found them a bit dull. It's a pity that this aspect mars the book.
Overall, though, a highly enjoyable book, about a fascinating and important historical figure, which I would recommend.
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting topic let down by a florid, forced writing style and poor narrative,
I found that Raiders from the North, whilst mildly enjoyable, to be overly long, with a poor narrative flow, forced and unrealistic dialogue and weak characters.
For example, at one point a horseman on campaign says "Lets pause under cover of those trees and eat some of the dried meat we still have in our saddlebags while we send some scouts ahead." This seems a very weak use of dialogue - it may be a small niggle but regularly I found myself frustrated at the way the dialogue in the book seems so unnatural.
As for the characters - at one point in the book a major character (I won't say who to avoid spoiling it) dies in the heat of battle. I can only assume it is supposed to be one of the most emotive parts of the book, but I didn't feel anything at all, despite the character being developed over the previous hundred or more pages. I neither warmed to, nor felt hostile to Babur, the central character. And because of this the 400+ pages dragged.
Other reviewers have noted that the story doesn't seem to go anywhere, with battle scene after battle scene with little of interest in between.
I feel as if I am being overly harsh about the book - I didn't particularly struggle to finish it and it was enjoyable in parts. But I really don't think this is worth your purchase, even if you are a fan of the genre. As for the book being the first of five - I'm amazed if it even gets to a third in the series. I'll be staying well away.
4.0 out of 5 stars Descended from Genghis Khan & Tamburlaine,
A new author for those that love historical novels. This novel covers the period around 1500AD and countries that I have not read much about - the area around Kabal in modern day Afganistan, and Delhi, modern day India.
This novel covers the whole life of Babur, who lived from 1483 to 1531. Babur becomes ruler in Ferghana (modern Uzbekistan) upon the death of his father and he feels that he has a destiny and not only that but he has to live up to his ancestors who conquered vast lands and left behind them great Empires. The path that Babur finds himself on is full of surprises that makes this a really interesting story.
The main source for the story is Babur's biography written by Babur himself. His memoirs are known as the Baburnama and are considered the first true autobiography in Islamic literature.
Babur is said to have been extremely strong and physically fit. He could allegedly carry two men, one on each of his shoulders, and then climb slopes on the run, just for exercise.
Not as flowing as the Bernard Cornwell The Last Kingdom (Alfred the Great 1) novels, but I really enjoyed this and will definitely read part 2 Brothers at War (Empire of the Moghul) of the 5 part series. If you enjoyed Wolf of the Plains (Conqueror 1) series by Conn Iggulden then you should enjoy this.
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing,
I found this book a great disappointment on several fronts: the characters are flat and flaccid, the action is drawn out and repetitive and the descriptive narrative misses by a mile. Based on historical figures and events, there is nothing of the intensity and urgency one hopes for from such a period in history and the people do not come to life. There is no swooping down like the wolf on the fold, no feeling of being swept along on the raging tide of history. Not a ripple.
The writing style is sporadic, changing from page to page, almost as if written by two different people; the reader takes the luck of the draw, depending who is at the desk. There is little attempt to work within the mood and mores of the period and sometimes the dialogue lapses into present-day vulgarity. No doubt there has always been the vulgar vernacular, but I expect the phrasing and choice of words were different in Central Asia in 1494.
The most interesting part of the book is the last two pages of Author's Notes; here we learn the author has trodden the same hills, eaten similar food and breathed the same air as the main character. There is an underlying feeling of belief in these notes that is markedly absent in all that goes before. And this is to be the first novel of a quintet?
Not for me, thank you.
2.0 out of 5 stars Battle..siege...battle...plunder!!,
Switching between a two and a three star for this one. Its a historical novel set in Central Asia/Northern India in the early 16th Century, and it does romp along quite happily telling the tale of the first Moghul Empire. I chose it because it was a place I know next to nothing about, and I did find the history quite interesting and (presumably) quite accurate.
The plot, however got a little wearing after our hero had been booted out of his home city, Samarkand, for the third or fourth time, following another mini-saga of betrayal etc..etc...! The somewhat repititious plot was not helped by some very mediocre charactarisation, and some appallingly stilted dialogue. The main problem for any historical novelist is to capture the sound and rhythm of the way people spoke in that time, and to make it comprehensible to a modern reader. When done well (see Patrick O'Brien) it adds to the plot, rounds off the character and emphasises the feeling that you are really IN the period. When done badly (see most other historical fiction including this one) it sounds pure comic Hollywood!
I know more about the period than I did which is good, but was on the whole disappointed with the novel.
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Empire of the Moghul: Raiders From the North by Alex Rutherford (Hardcover - 11 Jun. 2009)
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