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on 15 January 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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VINE VOICEon 16 December 2009
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.
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VINE VOICEon 6 January 2010
This historical fiction lark is harder than people realise.

Empire of the Moghul has a lot going for it. Babur - the first Moghul emperor - is a great subject for a history/action time-waster as, not only was he good enough to have a really event-packed life, he wrote chunks of it down in the 'first muslim autobiography.' Conn Iggulden has already blazed the near-East trail with his extremely good Genghis Khan books and, from the Author's note at the end, Mr Rutherford clearly loves his period and the area.

However, it just doesn't quite come together. Mr Rutherford's writing style needs an editor. He tends towards the florid, which lurchs into the turgid to the extent that you find yourself skimming whole pages. He then seems to chuck away details that are important so you have to go back and re-read. If there hadn't been so many images and metaphors strung together in the first place, one might have been paying more attention. The initial set-up - twelve year old boy suddenly facing up to being King with lots of people wanting him dead - is fine, but resolved way too quick and for the next hundred pages or so, Babur is just too young to do the things he does; infiltrate the city of Samarkand on his own; fight a 'Goliath' type to a bloody death; grow six inches and a wispy beard. I don't know if this stuff is in his autobiography, but, even if it was, I wouldn't believe it. Historical sources have been known to exaggerate a bit, you know.

The fact that this is a new area for historical fiction (for most of us) cries out for the type of semi-anthropological approach of Iggulden's first Khan story. We need to be able to understand this fundamentally alien world, but you don't get it with this book. The telling little detail is absent or, possibly, lost in the 'here's my research' chunks which pall before page 50.

This is the kind of book that if your mate penned, you would read and then say; 'nice try, now tighten it up before you send it away to an publisher.' As it is, Mr Rutherford has a multi-book deal - apparently. Candidly, it's not good enough for that. The marketing push behind this - three for two and the like - may get it to a third in the series, but I would be amazed, and rather disappointed, if it went on beyond that without a real improvement.

Let's not be too harsh, it's not bad. I have havered between two and three stars and plumped for the latter because I read the thing and didn't give up, but compared to the masters of the genre - Bernard Cornwell, Stephen Pressfield, Patrick O'Brian, Simon Scarrow (Roman books) and Iggulden, it's just not there.
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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love historical fiction- although I am usually more interested in Celtic or Roman stories. This is the first historical fiction novel that I have read based in Central Asia.

Raiders From the North is the first in the series, but stands well on it's own. The book follows the story of Babur, a young prince who, after the sudden death of his father, becomes King at 12 years old. As I have never taken much interest in Asian history I was able to read the book purely as a good story- without concerning myself with historical accuracy. Raiders From The North is a great story- a real page-turner. Babur is a fascinating central character who we see grow and mature throughout. I found on occasion that the book became a little repetative, mainly due to the numerous battle-scenes. It felt that the author was merely filling-in between fights in some areas. Despite this I thought the descriptions were brilliant- whether they were conveying the horrors of war or the beauty of Central Asian cities and landscapes.

There is a short but interesting historical note at the end which increased my appreciation of the novel. Until I read this I had no idea that Babur and many of the people and exploits described were actually real. I think if I had known this beforehand I would have enjoyed the novel even more than I already did.

I would definately recommend this novel and I look forwards to reading the rest of the series.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've become something of a fan of historical fiction over the last couple of years. I know more about Roman society than I ever did, together with early-modern murders in England, and tales of the Mongol Empire.

This book is refreshing in that it covers a period - set around 1500 - and location - central Asia - that in combination I've read nothing of before. So this first book, in what will become a series, describes early attempts to establish the Moghul Empire in, what is today, north-western India.

The book sets a fast pace. In common with much fiction of this genre, the book follows one character, the sometimes King of Samarkand, and rather more successfully, Kabul and Dehli. The book differs from most novels in covering a long time period - almost the whole life of the lead. This results in a truely epic experience. The work is readable (perhaps after you've covered the first couple of chapters) and seems well researched. In some instances following the adventures of some of the more minor characters is difficult due to difficult person-names. This is not particularly helped by the list of characters at the front of the book. In addition the map of the area could be better and include more places in the book.

This novel, despite these minor issues, is one I'd recommend and I'll certainly be reading the next in the series. It seems that there is yet another strong author in historical fiction.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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on 4 November 2013
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.
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on 5 January 2015
I read this book based on a recommendation from someone who knew I had recently visited India. I had found the buildings and history fascinating, too much to absorb on a short guided tour, and this book helped to set some aspects in a realistic context. Because it is based on fact it helped to clarify a small part of the history of a small part of the huge continent of India, that I was fortunate to visit. The story was compelling, I had to keep reading to find out more about Babur's exploits. I look forward to reading the next book to find out what happened to his sons.
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on 26 March 2016
i was struggling to find a new gendre and this has filled the bill.i new very little about this period in history but with just enough to fiction to make it exciting its a great read.suffice to say i downloaded the set.
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VINE VOICEon 15 November 2009
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have read all of Valerio Massimo Manfredi's books, the whole Ramses series by Christian Jacq, & the Alexander trilogy by the marvellous Mary Renault, so I'm no stranger to historical novels. Now, here comes a new name to add to the throng. I have the hardback version, & the beautiful dust jacket drew my attention to it with its ornate but deadly-looking battle axe dominating. I also like the first 5 pages being dedicated to 2 maps, & an extensive list of all the main characters. Sometimes, when reading a novel that has a plethora of characters, I find I become a little confused as to who is who, but not this time with the handy list!! The book covers a period I know little about, so it was enthralling to learn about this, especially knowing the story is based on real figures & events. I don't know how historically accurate it is, of course, but it certainly carried me along with its well-fleshed characters, fast & flowing narrative, intrigue & plotting & exciting battle scenes. I found I cared about the people in the book, especially Babur, & now want to procure each of the next three books in the series when they are published. If I have any negative feedback, it's that perhaps a little too much attention was given to the quite plentiful battle scenes: though well drawn & exciting, it had the effect of somewhat interrupting the flow of the narrative; also, the writing was fluid & descriptive, but not as rich as, say, Manfredi's. A book well worth getting your nose into however, & experiencing the believable characters, exotic locations, danger & rivalries.
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