Book Review: Empire of the Moghul - Raiders From The North

About the Author
Alex Rutherford is the pen name of Diana and Michael Preston

About the Series
This is the first book in a five-part series of Historical Fiction novels based on the Mughal Empire - how it was established under Babur, moving on to the tribulations of Humayun in the second book followed by the golden era of Akbar in the third. The fourth and fifth books deal with Jehangir and Shahjahan respectively

The Concept of the Historical Fiction Novel
This series has been categorized as a historical fiction novel, which means basically that it is based on historical fact, is generally true to events, especially the major events; includes all principal characters and stays true to established history. The historical basis is on documented Autobiographies of Mughal Emporers, third party accounts of visting Europeans as well as other established historical documents. The fiction part comes in 2 forms - firstly, some characters have been added to add substance and flow to the story and secondly, to set up the back ground. The attempt is look at history as it happens from the point of view of the Mughals, and paint a picture that helps us understand them and actually picturise them in our mind. The books clearly spell out what has been fictionalised in the appendix, which is a great plus

Raiders From The North
 This book is about Babur's life - starting from his father's demise in the early 1500's when he was in his early teens. It examines the phase of the boy who turns into a ruler overnight, aged only 13. The book examines his mindset, his thoughts and his reactions at each stage in his life- his successes and failures, his toughness and his internal doubts at each phase. This actually serves to take you into the mind of the man Babur. Obviously some of it is fiction, but the base is taken from Baburnama in which Babur faithfully recorded his day-to-day life. It details the life of Babur in good times and bad, his struggle and his incessant efforts at success. That makes this book a must read - if for nothing then just to learn how a man can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds if only he doesn't give up

The other bonus is it details the politics and the life of those days - the feudal set-up, the driving factors behind a stable empire, the dependency of the Emperor on his chieftains, the general society of the mid east and the mongols. It is like a window into the tumultuous past, as it creates a vivid moving picture of the society and helps you connect with the story. This treatment actually makes the story more vivid, lifelike and engrossing, making it an enthralling read. For example, just after Babur's father dies, the description of just how a child becomes the ruler with the support of some loyals is described in detail. In a particular scene, the young child is shown beheading a traitor - the impact of this action on the rest of the people is shown through young Babur's words - "I am the descendent of Timur - and the rightful heir to the throne of Farghana. Is there anyone who doubts this?"  The context of the society of those days - admirably described in the book - enables you to understand that had this boy behaved in any other fashion - he would probably have been deprived of his throne, or worse, dead... and that is what takes you into the story as you begin to relate to the prevalent society, norms, people and customs. It helps you understand that in those days, relaxing was not an option for a king - for relaxing too much could lead to death for him as well as for his family!

The book begins with Timur  - who had his kingdom Samarkand in Modern Uzbekistan. Babur, largely due to his upbringing and his father's influence, is passionate about recreating the days of Timur in whose time the Mongols were supreme. The family of Timur is still dreaming of the old days while trying to come to terms with the reality that they are now only one among several major and minor kingdoms in central and eastern asia. The once-great family of Timur is now ridden with in-fighting with the old empire having broken up. It is thus only natural that the descendants of Timur would want to recreate that ambition, one which has obviously grown stronger with the passage of time. It is this over-reaching passion which drives to Capture Samarkand twice - he succeeds only to lose it each time. However, the dream, the obsessive passion of wanting to emulate, and be a worthy successor to Timur is the guiding light of Babur Mirza throughout his entire life - which takes him to his struggles for Samarkand, loss of both Samarkand and Ferghana - taking him to Kabul where he rules for 10-plus years. It is while at Kabul where he learns of the glory of India first-hand - when he remembers that Timur had looted India. This re-stokes his ambitions and his passions - in his opinion he is the rightful heir to India as Timur had overcome everyone in his time.

The military strategems used in those days are well covered, which is a decided plus. This is based on fact, since the authors' have done considerable research on the topic. The vivid picture of battles will bring a lump to your throat, a wonder at the bravery of those warriors, an appreciation of strategies used and the scale of the human tragedy that follows. Our history lessons only tell us that Babur won at Panipat.. this book will tell you how he won at Panipat and against Rana Sanga etc, how he lost - who did what in the battles, the sending of commands to various sectors of the battlefield, the response to enemies breaking through etc. the protection around Kings - be it Babur or Humayun; Rana Sanga or Ibrahim Lodhi; how armies in those days were formed - or put together, to put it more accurately.

All in all, it is a great book which stays true to facts, takes you practically into those days and holds your hand as the story unfolds and leads you through Ferghana, onto Samarkand - then Kabul and finally Hindustan. The characters added - I wont reveal which - read the book to find out - only help to fill out missing details, like who must have supported Babur at age 13? How must his mother found out about the traitors' plans; the characters invented help in the telling of the story, the building of the central character and aid in the overall flow of the story... a superbly enthralling story! Dont Miss It!


  1. hello, I bought this from Flipkart. This is a nice one...

    BTW,,, I run a blog...


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