Top critical review
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So much potential, but hard going in places
on 15 January 2010
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.