When people talk of the greatest generals of all time in the West it invariably boils down to Napoleon or Alexander the great. Some may point towards the like of Genghis Khan, however all pale into comparison to Tamerlane (correct name Temur). Alexander was undefeated in 8 years, Tamerlane undefeated in 30.
This is a man who went from nothing to creating one of the largest empires the world has ever seen, all in one lifetime. He successfully captured the likes of Delhi and Moscow and even had the Ottoman Sultan locked into a cage after a key battle. Added to this fact is in early adulthood he suffered injuries that led to him not being able to use 1 arm and 1 leg (hence how Temur the lame got mangled to Tamerlane or Tamburlane). Yet he was still a fearsome warlord just further adds to this amazing tale.
Justin Marozzi however does not shy away from the other side of all war mongers- death and destruction, because just like all steppe nomad warlords, unless capitulation was total and immediate then horrific acts of barbarity ensued. Indeed where as Attila was the start of the period of invasion from the steppe nomads, Tamerlane nearly a thousand years later was to be the last however the barbaric treatment of various civilian populations (particularly in Persia) are not forgotten or glossed over.
There is a careful balance between the man and the campaigns, between the Timurid society and the details of war. The use of source materials from all over the world is highly impressive and really brings the man alive, flaws and all. It is first and foremost a cracking read which really sucks you in and the story is so much larger than life that you can't wait for the next ludicrous (but true) turn of events. Any tale that includes armour plated war elephants with flamethrowers on their backs has to be a must read!
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