Review Blog

Jul 09 2012

The tainted throne by Alex Rutherford

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Empire of the Moghul. Headline, 2012. ISBN 9780755347612.
(Age: Senior students, 15+) The Tainted throne is the fourth in the Empire of the Moghul series which explores the history of the Moghul conquerors of India. Jahangir, heir of Akbar, has finally come to power as the fourth emperor. His first challenge is to suppress a revolt led by one of his sons. This he does, brutally, and attempts to form closer relationships with his other sons. Another significant act is to order the murder of a nobleman whose wife, Mehrunissa, would then be free for Jahangir to marry. Mehrunissa quickly discovers that she can control Jahangir and therefore the empire by both feminine wiles and the careful addition of opium to his wine. She alienates Khurrum, his most capable son, who is forced to flee with his family. Jahangir anoints a less able son as his heir but is little concerned with the fate of his empire. On the death of Jahangir Khurrum mobilizes nobles unhappy with the control of Mehrunissa and seizes the throne. He will be known as Shah Jahan. A lot of bloody battles and gory punishments are described in some detail, as are the banquets, often following the battles, and other celebrations. A sense of the sweep of history and time is given, as the emperors remember the actions and advice of their forebears. The flow of people across the subcontinent, Persians, Armenians, Portuguese, English attracted to this most wealthy empire indicates the power of the empire. The many battles are described colourfully and realistically. The clothing, the buildings and the jewels could not be more lovingly depicted by the Moghuls themselves. The account is based on some historical records, but there is no analysis of the political or economic realities of an empire of this size and wealth. This is a novel of derring-do, full of men of action who do a little regretful musing on the burden of power but who mostly celebrate the ruthless, and two wives who although supposedly in purdah are strong influences on those men and their empire.
Jenny Hamilton

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