Thursday, 30 March 2017

Traitors in the Shadows (Empire of the Moghul #6) - Alex Rutherfurd

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A well told fragment from the drama ridden Moghul dynasty.

I loved reading Indian history at school way back as a primary school student. As an older reader, when I came across historical fiction, I found it a bit frustrating to see the absence many Indian historical warriors. Indian writeres seem more interested in the mythological genre, bringing to life so interesting peripheral characters. Although of late, Indian writers are taking an interest in historical fiction, it is yet to take off like the boom in mythology genre.

Therefore, my excitement at coming across the Empire of the Moghul series. Here was the story written by a "non-Indian", and that somehow made it more alluring. My reason for it? The perspective was not going to be biased and therefore bound to be more interesting.

I remember picking up one from the middle of the series Ruler of the World - the story of Akbar the Great, some time back. Akbar is one of my favourite historical characters. This book lived up to its expectations: it breathed life into the historical contexts. Soon, I began looking for the other books in the series.

Perhaps I harboured high expectations or maybe the later stories seemed a lot more formulaic. The subsequent books were a bit dissapointing. The mughal legend is full of stories about conquests, the fight for power and then the battle to hold on to it. It is very easy to miss the precarious balance between the violence and the plotting of the story. 

Traitors in the shadows, however, seemed to promise balance and and with some really interesting characters, it was too good to resist.


Usurping the present ruler, his father Shah Jahan Aurganzeb is now the Moghul Emperor of the dynasty. He tries to make peace with his siblings who have been the collateral damage in this journey. 
On the other hand, he needs to keep a tight rein - rebels like the Rajputs, Jats and the Marathas are constantly looking for that weakness to break his defence.

On the family front, sons have always been the boon and bane of a Mughal warrior's life. Will 
Aurangzeb manage to stop history from repeating itself or will he be powerless in the face of fatherly love?

What works:
  • For me it was the introduction of Shivaji in the opening chapter that did it. I recall fond memories of reading about the Maratha warror in my history textbook. Seeing one of my favourite parts of history (Shivaji- Afzal Khan scene) come to life in the pages was such a delight.
  • History has Aurangzeb down as a tyrant and the story does not show him any different. But it shows how he struggles with his decisions, even when unjust and cruel. Loved the perspective and the way it was handled here.
What doesn't:
  • The action can get repetitive and there are places where the passage of time is not clearly marked. Events happen very quickly, but it takes time to understand that significant period has passed in between. 
Apart from this, the book was a great read. A thoroughly entertaining piece of Indian historical fiction.

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