Tiger Claws: A Novel of India
In The Temple Dancer, John Speed immersed the reader in the mid-17th century Mogul Empire and, though that novel can be read as a standalone, it sets up the ambitious story to be told in this sequel, Tiger Claws. A few of the characters from Temple Dancer appear here, but only as subsidiary players (though the end of the novel seems to imply that some will be back in a big way in the final installation in this trilogy). Basant, a highly placed eunuch, provides entrée for the reader into the world of Shah Jahan and his intriguing (in both meanings of the word) children. As the Shah busies himself with drugs and sex (sadly, no rock ‘n roll), two of his sons plot furiously for the throne, aided by a cavalcade of nobles, the military, and eunuchs. Dara is the spoiled favorite, but he’s more than met his match in his clever, dangerous brother Aurangzeb, and while they wrestle for the throne, a Hindu thief, Shivaji, plots to reclaim his rightful place as ruler of his own small kingdom—which ultimately figures in Dara and Aurangzeb’s power struggles.
Like Temple Dancer, the setting in Tiger Claws is immersive—India is drawn with depth and detail, from the customs to the religion to the food, and the characterization is well-realized. While The Temple Dancer focused mainly on two female characters with strong male subsidiary characters, Tiger Claws is just the opposite, so readers expecting a linear continuation of the characterization and storyline from that novel may be a bit surprised. Tiger Claws doesn’t disappoint, however, and the epic, fast-paced storyline, while tying up some loose ends, leaves off rather suddenly—ensuring the reader will eagerly await the next and final installation in the trilogy.