The Emperor's Knife
By: Mazarkis Williams
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publish Date: October 27, 2011
Format: Hardback 346pgs
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.
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.
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.