The second in the tri series by Alex Rutherford, Empire of the Moghuls – Brothers at War begins with the following note right on the cover itself – India, 1530. A great army, A new Empire, Four princes prepare for battle.
Post Babur’s death, Humayun has a tough task ahead. He not only has to save his empire from enemies outside but also himself from enemies within. His half brothers – Hindal, Kamran and Askari are plotting against him and he needs to suppress them with a hard hand. But bound by a promise given to his father that he will never do anything against his brothers, howsoever they may deserve it, he pardons them. End of the problem? No, as another trap lays right ahead of him. Kamran and Askari’s mother, Gulrukh cleverly manages to make him dependent on opium. This clubbed with Humayun’s fascination with stars make him appear an incompetent king in many eyes. Humayun ends up losing his kingdom and his forced to flee from one place to another with a continuously depleting army and one after another misfortune. The differentiation between allies and enemies is difficult to judge. But the burning desire to reconquest Hindustan and expand the Moghul dyansty in the country far exceeds any problem. It takes a number of years, immense patience and loads of efforts and perseverance from Humayun and his men to fulfil their dream but they finally do so..
I had never read so much about Humayun so this novel made for an informative and interesting book to read. Humayun, indeed at times appear to be a bad choice for a kings role. His opium addiction, and star fascination makes him appear very weak. His brother plotting against him makes you feel sorry for him but just at a time when things begin to improve with Hindal, Humayun does something that yet again worsens situations. He falls madly in love with Hamida who Hindal is also interested in. Despite knowing his brother’s feeling, Humayun goes ahead with his decision to marry Hamida and quiet predictably looses a precious and hard won support from his one brother. This time you really do not feel sorry for him. But then again Humayun suffers a lot at the hand of his other two brother who even kidnap his infant son Akbar to keep him away from becoming a threat to them. Humayun’s end is also poignant. A king who struggles all his life to reestablish the empire that his father found dies just after six month of his victory and that also by falling off from stairs.
The book is extremely engaging and informative, though like the first part, few liberties have been taken with narration and characters. The basis of the book is Humayunnamawritten by Gulbadan, Humayun’s half sister and Hindal’s real sister. The book draws information from Tadhkirat al – waqiat written by Humayun’s attendant Jauhar.
A completely readable piece. Recommended thouroughly.
Read My Review of the First Part – Empire of the Moghuls – Raiders from the North