Nov 5, 2012

Book Review: The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams

Book Cover for The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams
Title: The Emperor's Knife
Author: Mazarkis Williams
Series: Tower and Knife Trilogy #1
Genres: Fantasy

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Source: Bought
Format: ebook
Pages: 365
Publication Date: October 27, 2011

Check it out at: Amazon | Goodreads

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 tell-tale marks is put to death; that is Emperor Beyon's law...but now the pattern is running 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 aging imperial assassin, the Emperor's Knife.

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

Mazarkis Williams picked deserts and middle eastern inspired culture as a setting for his debut novel. It's a refreshing change from medieval based setting that most of fantasy authors use. Add to this two magic systems:
1) commanding one specific element (fire/stone/air..) by forming symbiotic relationship with elementals;
2) spell-casting by drawing intricate patterns on objects and hive-mind group behavior;
and we have a base for great fantasy book. I love a good unique magic in a book, and on this The Emperor's Knife did not disappoint me. My only regret is that there is almost no explanation how that magic actually works.

The story is told through four point of views:
• Prince Sarmin, locked in a tower from childhood;
• Eyul, royal assassin, whose honorary tittle Emperor's Knife is the name of the books also;
• Mesema, Sarmin's fiance from horse-riders tribe in norther planes;
• Tuvaini, the high vizier - emperor's chief adviser.
They all plot and scheme trying to fulfill their desires. Whether they yearn for freedom, forgiveness for past sins, love or power, each of them weaves another strand in a web of court intrigues that can have only one winner.
I usually love multiple viewpoints in a book because they offer us different perspective and view on plot, but in this case they only added to the general confusion. The descriptions jump from one character to the other randomly and sometimes just after one page or even paragraph of text. I think that it is better if writers stick to rule one chapter per character and to use multiple POVs in one chapter only when there is a culmination of plot.

If we disregard the POV confusion problems, I must admit that there is a good character development for all main and even some side-characters in a story. The only front where this failed is romance/love. There was a lot of sex happening, but I could not feel the love, affection or sometimes even motivation for it between characters, even where it should be. But I'm a girl, so maybe male readers won't even notice this.

'The Emperor's Knife' is an interesting start to a series and Mazarkis Williams is definitely a new promising fantasy writer. I only hope that point of view jumps will not be so sudden and quick in Knife Sworn, next book in a trilogy. This book is next on my to-be-read list so I will find out soon enough. :)

I recommend this book to: lovers of fantasy with court intrigue theme or middle-eastern setting.

My Rating: 3 out of 5


  1. Just wondering if this book would be appropriate for high school readers.

    1. I would say yes. I know I am complaining that "there was a lot of sex happening" but it's not descriptive, it's just casually mentioned in a couple of words. Nothing that high school readers can't read.


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