The Tainted Throne (Empire of the Moghul) – Alex Rutherford

Title – The Tainted Throne (Empire of the Moghul)

Author – Alex Rutherford

Published – 2012

Genre –  Historical Fiction

This is the fourth book in a series about the Moghul Empire. The series began with the ruler Babur in 1494, and The Tainted Throne is set in 1606, so quite a bit has already happened. I do enjoy historical fiction but most of what I read is set in Ancient Rome, so this was a new period and setting to me. I have to confess that I was a little cautious, coming in at the fourth book in a series.

Initially the book centres around the current ruler Jahangir, Moghul Emperor and ruler of most of the Indian subcontinent. When the book opens he is about to go into battle against is eldest son, Khusrau, who is trying to take the throne for himself. The battle is bloody and when Khusrau is defeated Jahangir’s punishment is stomach-churningly harsh.

Despite the action at the start of the book, the story is a mixed bag, with quite a large part of it being more of a love story.

I was disappointed that I didn’t learn more about the Moghul Empire – I never felt that I had really been transported to either India or the period. I can’t put my finger on why, there is certainly plenty of detail and description but it just didn’t hit the mark. I felt I was missing out on some of the background, for example about how the court or the Emperor’s household worked, but perhaps that’s the disadvantage of starting in the middle of a series.

It also seemed that compared to something like Simon Scarrow or Bernard Cornwell, the battles were very quick affairs not the large action sequences I expected.

The story is full of well-drawn characters but I never really cared about them. Jahangir is cruel but ultimately easily manipulated, his wife is devious and scheming. The second half of the book features Jahangir’s son Khurram and his wife, and I think it was them that I was supposed to be rooting for, but I wasn’t really that concerned about the.

I was surprised to find from the historical notes that much of the story and characters were based in fact and it made me wonder if trying to stick to some of the facts got in the way of making the story more engaging. I also found that “Alex Rutherford” is a husband and wife writing team, and I would be interested to know about how they write together.

Not a series that I will want to read any more of – although the setting has piqued my interest.

Thanks to Headline books for this review copy.

Score – 3/5

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