‘Brothers at War’ is the second of the ‘Empire of the Moghul’ series and begins in 1530, right where the first one ended. Babur is dead, and despite naming Humayun successor to the wealth and the new empire he has founded, and asking him not to do anything against his half brothers, there is dissension among them. Humayun thwarts an early attempt by his brothers to grab the throne, but spares their lives and sends them away to rule far away regions.
Despite early successes, Humayun fails to hold the empire together, and his preoccupation with stars coupled with an opium addiction ensures that he loses the hard earned empire to Sher Shah. After losing several strongholds including Delhi and Lahore, Humayun becomes an emperor without a kingdom. In addition to scheming feudal lords and other relatives, he also has to deal with the treachery of his brothers yet again. In the meantime, he marries Hamida, thus alienating Hindal, (who also loved her) the only (half) brother who had allied with him.
Humayun wanders further away from Hindustan, fueled by a belief in his destiny – to rule the empire again. He finally gets help from the Shah of Persia, to whom he gifts the Koh-i-noor, but who also extracts a bigger price. From then begins Humayun’s journey back.
The books seems to be showing a pattern – starting with a prince who has just ascended the throne and ending with the heir in the same position. Humayun’s failures are a tad repetitive, and are not helped by the fact that many of his journeys share similarities with Babur’s experiences, but the pace is more or less maintained and there are reasonable twists to keep the reader engrossed. Except for a few characters and events, history has been not tampered with much. Humayun comes across as a courageous, intelligent and driven man who, though lost the empire to begin with, ensured that he rectified his mistakes. If you’re interested in history, this does infuse life to the characters familiar from textbooks.