A swift, novelistic spin through history in the manner of Tom Holland. The aim is just to tell an interesting story (or two) and not get caught up in scholarly debates and questioning sources. Not a bad read, but the parts don’t really fit together. None of the stuff on the Abbasid Caliphate, for example, seems connected to anything else, and the story of the elephant reads like a set piece worked up for another publication. Pop history that makes for a good read, but nothing to take note of.