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on 7 April 2017
This is a really good book which you wont put down until you finish it. Only problem with this book is that early on the author wanders off and writes about stage plays and other irrelevant things - these could have been put in the appendices. But once the book really gets gooing it becomes addictive. And when you finish it you think you have seen a movie. Doubly better for me as I have visited many of the sites in Uzbekistan which are mentioned in the book.
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on 29 May 2017
Never really understood the depth of Tamerlanes deeds until I read this. Ruthlesroms at times but also a great empire builder. Sadly apart from buildings + statues not much left but what is left must be a site to see.
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on 4 July 2017
i really enjoyed this as I knew a lot about the mongols but not much about Timur. Great read.
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on 18 August 2014
An engrossing read detailing the rise of this brilliant yet ruthless man.
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on 22 October 2015
Very happy with the product. Thank you.
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on 27 May 2005
For we Europeans, mediaeval history prior to the age of the great explorations tends to revolve around our own neck of the woods, possibly because what happened here was to shape the world as we know it, and continues to do so. However, at the time, when Europe was ploughing its own little furrow, momentous events that utterly dwarfed European ones were taking place elsewhere. To the east, in what contemporary Europeans regarded as barbarian territory, there arose and fell great and terrible empires and great cities bulging with wealth and sophistication, and there took place great battles (making contemporary European ones look like minor street brawls) and astounding military feats.
This book tells the story of the greatest of the Asian conquerors, Temur, derogatorily nicknamed "Tamerlane" (Temur the Lame, after a wound sustained in youth). Tamerlane was a military genius, a patron of the arts and architecture, a devout follower of Islam (when it suited his purposes) and a conqueror of astounding cruelty and barbarism (when he deemed people needed to be taught a lesson - he was a great believer in pyramids of heads as an educational tool). At his zenith, he ruled an empire that extended from the borders of Europe to those of China. The former was spared conquest because it didn't have enough booty to be worth the trouble, the latter because Tamerlane died en route to there. As the empire revolved around this one man (the Mongol and Tatar conquerors weren't big on establishing permanent institutions), it fell apart after his death, Its final flowering was in the supremely civilised Mughal Empire of India, which was to endure in one form or another until the 19th century. Since the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Temur has, pyramids of heads notwithstanding, become a national hero for several of the former Soviet Asian republics, complete with statues, to replace those of those other liberating influences, Lenin and Stalin. Apparently a local version of Teddy Roosevelt's "our sonuvabitch".
Justin Marozzi tells this fascinating story in a mixture of history and travelogue (he followed Tamerlane's footsteps where he could). One thing's for sure, Mr. Marozzi is A Fan; he acknowledges the frightful massacres (mostly of fellow Moslems) and destruction of Tamerlane, but he also argues strongly for the intellectual side of Tamerlane and his contributions to the arts and architecture (for example, he built Samarkand and imported the best craftsmen and scholars to enrich and enliven it). This is in contrast to Genghis Khan's Mongols, who, with complete contempt for the sedentary inhabitants of the world, knew only how to demolish things. The book is an eye-opener into this other world, almost a parallel universe, which, when it wasn't scaring the willies out of them, only dimly impinged on the consciousness of contemporary Europeans.
In my opinion, the book's one fault is that it falls into the trap into which travel writers tend to fall, it is sometimes too self-consciously literary. Occasionally Mr. Marozzi strays across the hazy line that separates writing for the purpose of informing and writing for the purpose of showing off how clever and erudite the author is. This notwithstanding, this is an interesting and entertaining book, and one that makes one (this one anyway) want to go off to Samarkand and the plains, mountains and deserts of central Asia, to see where it all happened.
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on 31 May 2017
The book is partly about Tamerlane, not only about his conquests, but also about his Empire building. The author keeps repeating that "Kublai Khan destroyed everything", while"Tamerlane just destroyed properties of people who opposed him". More strangely, even, once in a while the book is about the current state something, like of Samarkand - at least that part had some relevance - but also about other current things. I found it a strange book.
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on 25 August 2009
This is a very good book, a highly efficient biography (in so far as this can be achieved) and history of the Emperor Timur/Tamerlane, about whose astonishing conquests in vast swathes of central Asia, India, and the borders of Europe and China too little is generally known. Interspersed with these are Marozzi's impressions of modern cities in present-day Uzbekistan, such Samarkand, Shakrisabh and Bokhara, to give some relief from the history of brutal sieges and massacres, and some sense of Timur's legacy (although, having recently travelled to the country, I can say that these impressions from before 2004 already seem a little dated).
The writing style is readable and lively, making effective use of near-contemporary sources like Arab historians or the Spaniard Clavijo. The analysis of both the reasons for Timur's staggering military successes (rewarding his troops well, exploiting the element of surprise and a range of ingenious ruses, as well as instilling utter terror among his enemies),and the other sides to his character (intellectual interests and architectural ambition)make for a balanced assessment.
Plenty to commend it, then, but for me a less impressive book than travel writing on the area,such as by Colin Thubron, which manages to be more evocative of today's Central Asian places and persons, or than histories of neighbouring powers, such as Michael Axworthy's impressive history of Iran. And the battles and massacres, though very vivid at times (the Indian campaign) do sicken the reader. Four stars, not five - good but not great.
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on 13 November 2011
I found the book to be compelling when it is being factual - the stories of the battles, for example, had me glued to the page. In fact, I was left hungry for more information of this type.

But when discussing the legacy of Temur, the text is too verbose, too flowery in its language and several pages too long, for my liking anyway. And the switch between the two types of text is often abrupt, which I found very frustrating.
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on 21 June 2017
We've all heard of him - but how much do we actually know about him?

A self designated heir to Genghis Khan, Tamerlane spread terror where he went but beyond that not much is really discussed in the west. In this history he's tackled with aplomb - though the constant massacres and conquests become dry at times and it's hard to keep track of where he hasn't pillaged.

Worth a read if you're interested in an influential figure that's overlooked
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