Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Book Review: The Emperor's Knife

The Emperor's Knife

By:  Mazarkis Williams

Publisher:  Night Shade Books

Publish Date:  October 27, 2011

Format:  Hardback 346pgs

Genre:  Fantasy

Series:  1st book in The Tower and Knife Trilogy

Recommendation:  If you like conspiracies, and manipulating of characters, in a fantasy world with a secret magic.

Book Synopsis:
There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike.  Geometric patterns spread across the skin, until you die in agony, or become a Carrier, doing the bidding of an evil intelligence, the Pattern Master.  Anyone showing the telltale marks is put to death; that is Emperor Beyon's law...but now the pattern is spreading over the Emperor's own arms.

His body servants have been executed, he ignores his wives, but he is doomed, for soon the pattern will reach his face.  While Beyon's agents scour the land for a cure, Sarmin, the Emperor's only surviving brother, awaits his bride, Mesema, a windreader from the northern plains.  Unused to the Imperial Court's stifling protocols and deadly intrigues, Mesema has no one to turn to but an ageing imperial assassin, the Emperor's Knife.

As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence, the invincible Pattern Master appears from the deep desert.  Now only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who saw a path in a pattern once, among the waving grasses - a path that just might save them all.

First Sentence:
Hands found Sarmin through the confusion of his dreams and the tangle of his sheets.

My Thoughts and Summary:
Fifteen years Sarmin has lived in the high tower room, after his brothers were killed.  He receives a visit from his mother telling him she is sending for a Northern Felting woman as his bride.  Then a visit from the vizier, Tuvaini, sounding as he is trying to win Prince Sarmin to his cause but decided Sarmin was mad.  The few that know Sarmin is alive and hidden away are now turning to hoping he could lead the Empire, now that the King has the marks of the plague; marking him for death, by his law, or to become a Carrier for the Pattern Master, and bore no heir.  As tradition, when the King is crowned his younger brothers are put to death by the Emperor's Knife, leaving one King and his son's when he has them as heir - no question or fights for the throne.  But Sarmin was saved, foreseen by his mother and the Tower Mage as powerful and going to be needed.

This is going to be a tough review for me.  Not for bad as I liked this read, but I wanted more through out the book.  There were hints and mention of gods and the One God.  I kind of wanted more information on the One God and Mogyrk church.  I know the Cerani turned away from this belief, so not much remains or is known.  but also a lot of insinuation through happenings and remarks regarding the pattern magic.  I want to better understand it.

Yet I felt like always in suspense, wanting to know about the Patterns and meanings, or what each character had planned and who would prevail.  Then most of all, who is the Pattern Master and his plans.  I also wondered and worried about Sarmin and what he was capable to do and how to do it.  There is so much underlying in the scenes and conversations to think on.

The story starts with a prologue of Sarmin witnessing the death of his younger brothers by the blade of the Emperor's Knife, from his tower room.  Then we meet the people involved; Mesema, Eyul, King Beyon, Prince Sarmin, Tuvaini, the Empire Mother Nessaket, and a few others.  We bring all the people together, each having their own POV and know or see different things of the Patterns or workings of.  For the first 20-30 pages I was a little confused as we dive right in and the characters talk vague or double talk/cross each other, leaving me questioning their motives.  But not much later I get clarity, of some understanding to what's going on and what they might be up to.  I do suggest before starting the book to read the description completely.  It will help let you know what you are diving head first into.

Then the story opened up and started to fit together in my mind.  I started to realize the people who were playing the game and game against each other.  Once I knew who to "trust" and what to expect from them, it started to make sense.

I liked the touches of the magic here.  We got a touch of the Elemental Mages, neat.  I liked the Patterned magic, although I'm still piecing the pieces together on Sarmin's half.  And the knife, the Emperor's Knife... I wondered on it and the man with it, but I really liked it and the magic wound around it.

This is a very good start, debut into the fantasy genre for Mazarkis.  I do look forward to continuing this trilogy to see what Mazarkis has in store for Sarmin and Mesema.

I received a copy of the book when the author offered to send a select number out for reviews.  I read for my enjoyment and for review.


  1. It is without a doubt going on the TBR list. Sounds really awesome! I love the premise.

    Beth ^_^

  2. So far I have seen 2 reviews from people I trust. One from someone who could not even finish, and then yours

  3. Beth D - I do hope you enjoy it if you get it. It has some neat ideas to it.

    Blodeuedd - Um, well, I can see people stopping this one. In the beginning I was kind of confused. The characters had a lot of double talk going on, and I didn't know what they were suppose to be doing, or why. I didn't know what was going on. But then finally the story opened up, and seeped in and I started to understand. But I was wanting more from the book. I think I would grade it a 3 or C. But I'm curious to see where book 2 goes, if I get the more I'm wanting or not. Book 2 could make the deal if it starts slow or quick.

  4. I quite enjoyed this one when I read it. The non-traditional setting was definitely a point in its favour, as was the interesting cultures that Williams created. I'm really looking forward to the sequel; can't wait to get my hands on it!

  5. Seems to have had a poor start but is not without potential, my sister-in-law agreed with all your thoughts on this one.

  6. Almost sounds like this book had the same problems as many short stories have. Hm... Might have to wait for more to be produced.

    Btw, thanks so much for the well wishes and the concern. My eye is better, but the anti-histimines in the eye drops have made me so tired. :/ Yep, I get to keep my eye! LOL

  7. I can see how some people might stop reading; it does sound like a very involved and detailed worldbuilding. But if you wanted more, then the author must be doing something right!

  8. Petty witter - Oh, so glad to hear I'm not the only one that felt this way. :) Some days I wonder about myself. :) Thank you! Do you know if your sister-in-law will go ahead with the second book? I think I might to see where the author goes with this one.

    Melissa (Books&Things) - Yeah, it did. It's going to be a trilogy, so I'll see what happens w/the second book. And you are welcome! I'm glad to hear you got to keep your eye. ;D And glad you are better though.

    StephanieD - In the end, I think the author is on to something. But the beginning was rather confusing. :) Much potential here with the trilogy. :) Thank you!


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