History has never been as readable - intriguing, engrossing and gripping! By weaving fact and fiction together, Alex Rutherford has brought the historical characters of the bygone era to life in his Empire of the Moghul series. The Serpent’s Tooth is the fifth novel in the series, devoted to the reign of Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan who ruled over a colossally wealthy empire of 100 million souls in the early seventeen century.
One can feel the presence of Shah Jahan as he swings his legendary sword alamgir in the battlefield; as he conducts court from rubies and turquisos studded silver throne; and as he spends romantic moments with his beautiful wife Mumtaz. Rutherford shows historical characters not just as names in dull history textbooks, but as people with emotions and passions, loves and jealousies, dreams and insecurities not too different from any one of us.
Like his ancestors, Shah Jahan had to follow the savage ‘throne or coffin’ tradition to gain his throne. It goes without saying that through the Moghul history, brother had fought brother and sons their fathers for the throne, and Shah Jahan has been no exception. Shah Jahan had fought his brothers and half-brothers to the throne, his sons were no less ruthless and murderous towards each other. Caught in the crossfire, Shah Jahan had spent last few years of his life imprisoned in the historic Agra Fort. As he sat alone in the darkness he had wondered why there had been so much death and destruction within his family. What had the Moghuls done to deserve it? God had allowed them unbounded power and wealth but denied them the peace and harmony that even the humblest family had a right to expect. His name meaning ‘Ruler of the World’ had mocked him.
Rutherford not only handles historical text with care but adds value to the narrative from his travels through some of the important landmarks of then Moghul Empire. The end product is a totally absorbing narrative, an amazing page turner. The characters are authentic and the actions are real, as one gets a ringside view of the shifting sands of politics, the tragic consequences of deceit, and the horrifying view of raw savagery. Rutherford makes the reader relive every moment, at time as an onlooker and at other moment as a courtier. The beauty of the story lies in the writing.
In his impeccable style, Rutherford transports the reader into another world. So much so that this reviewer could not hold himself back from reading the previous four volumes in the series. The Empire of the Moghul has been full of colour and beauty, joys and tears, love and deceit set against the backdrop of a glorious period in Indian history.
If you haven’t read Alex Rutherford; your lessons in history shall remain incomplete.
Empire of the Moghul: The Serpent’s Tooth
by Alex Rutherford
Hachette, New Delhi
Extent: 421, Price: Rs.599
SS / YS