Read The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams Online


There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that marks each victim with a fragment of a greater design. And as the geometric patterns cover the skin, so the victims fall under the power of the Pattern Master.The lost prince Sarmin, the emperor’s only surviving brother, lies locked in a hidden room. As the pattern draws closer to the palace he is atThere is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that marks each victim with a fragment of a greater design. And as the geometric patterns cover the skin, so the victims fall under the power of the Pattern Master.The lost prince Sarmin, the emperor’s only surviving brother, lies locked in a hidden room. As the pattern draws closer to the palace he is at last remembered, and now he awaits the bride his mother has chosen: Mesema, a Windreader from the northern plains. She is used to riding free across the grasslands, now she must learn the politicking of the Court is not a game, but deadly earnest.Eyul, imperial assassin, is burdened by the atrocities he has committed, and his advancing years. As commanded he bears the emperor’s Knife to the desert in search of a cure for the pattern-markings.Conspiracies soon boil over into open violence and the enemy moves toward victory. Now only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl who once saw a path through the waving grasses....

Title : The Emperor's Knife
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780857388018
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 450 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Emperor's Knife Reviews

  • Kat Kennedy
    2019-05-22 05:47

    3.5 StarsThis ARC was provided to me by the publishers. I picked this ARC because the cover kind of reminded me of Assassin's Creed.It does. It totally, totally does.Even the title is kind of the same. The Assassin's Creed, The Emperor's Knife... So I kind of thought it would be similar in that there'd be an assassin and a couple of sidekicks on a sweeping adventure with a lot of violence.Actually, it turns out there's a lot more sex. And romance. Then more sex. But mostly romance.Tuvaini's way of saying: Doesn't matter. Had sex. I don't know whether this book is classed as low fantasy or high fantasy. Whilst it's set in a fictional (albeit very familiar world) the emphasis on the magical element is very low. The Pattern and a few mages is about as magical as it gets. But for the review's sake, I'll just call it epic fantasy.I'm somewhat crippled in my review as epic (or even low) fantasies aren't my general reading fare. It would be helpful to have something to compare The Emperor's Knife to and thus judge it by those standards. Alas, I don't. The fantasies I've read were years ago and mostly forgettable.Williams has created a rich and diverse world with a varied and interesting cast of characters. Most of whom have sex (sorry, keep getting sidetracked by sex. Much like Williams did. Zing.) I enjoyed Sarmin's madness, brokenness and yet inner strength. I despised yet understood Tuvaini. Beyon was a very difficult character for me, shaking me between pity and revulsion, annoyance and sympathy.The writing is, for the most part, solid. The prose generally flow well and the novel has a seamless, polished feel to it.I was surprised how little violence there was. I mean, sure, people died, magical zombies, capricious emperor la di dah etc. But I would still scarcely call this edge-of-your-seat action. More like interesting side diversions. I didn't feel very concerned. There was no frantic, blood pumping battles that whip you into a frenzy of brutality that makes you punch your husband in the gut and tell him to "bring it, bitch".Note from Mr. Kennedy: Please, don't do that anymore.I suppose my only issues arose when the story chopped and flittered around like a child on a major sugar high. Often there were only a few paragraphs before a change, another few pages and then another change etc. It would have been easier to follow if we'd been allowed to stay with one character for a little longer between perspective shifts.Also, I'm not sure I ever really connected fully with the female characters - an issue that probably won't be experienced by the majority of this novel's readership as I expect the demographic leans more to the male side. But, having said that, I'm not sure this is a criticism against Williams because, in novels similar to this, I never have really connected to the female characters. Perhaps women in male-geared epic fantasies just don't do anything for me.Over all, it was a good read. The right kind of audience will probably greatly enjoy this book. Even if nobody leaps from great heights and lands in stacks of hay. It's still a good read.And maybe just for shits and giggles, I'll falcon punch Mr. Kennedy anyway.

  • Mark Lawrence
    2019-06-16 11:39

    Mazarkis Williams ... who is she? A mystery wrapped in an enigma and served with added Churchill on a sesame seed bun.I've even seen claims that I am part of the elusive Mazarkis. The legs perhaps. Maybe the only solution is to read the book and decide for yourself.Join my 3-emails-a-year newsletter #prizes.

  • Althea Ann
    2019-05-17 05:49

    Picked this up without knowing that the author's name is a pseudonym, and his-or-her identity is still a mystery to the world at large. There are a few clues on the Internet - but I still don't know who this is.I'd lean toward female - but I'd also recommend this to fans of Daniel Abraham. It's not actually a debut novel, apparently the author has been 'mainly writing' for 10 years. It does come across as a practiced, expertly-written story. This is the kind of fantasy I like - set in a vivid, well-thought-out world, with a focus on 'real' and interesting characters and plenty of danger and intrigue.The Cerani Empire (vaguely influenced by the Ottomans) is a paranoid monarchy of the sort that thinks nothing of assassinating or imprisoning all potential rival claimants to the throne. But an insidious threat has infiltrated all the way to the royal chamber none-the-less. A mysterious plague is spreading; its visible sign tattoo-like geometric patterns that spread over the victims' skin. At some point those infected lose self control, and become violent assassins. It is suspected that this is no true illness, but magic, and the marked individuals are tools in the plot of a Pattern Master.In this situation we meet Sarmin, a prince who's spent the last 15 years confined to his luxurious room. Mesema, a princess of the horse tribes who's been summoned to be Sarmin's bride by the scheming Queen Mother, Nessaket. The Emperor, Beyon, may interfere with those schemes, but it's unclear where Beyon's strength and cruelty end, and to what degree he may be a pawn himself. And of course, there is 'The Emperor's Knife,' the guilt-haunted assassin Eyul, and the sorceress Amalya...I definitely want to track down the sequels {edit: and, I've now done so!} and find out what happens next in this world, even if (view spoiler)[ by the end of this book, most of the characters end up dead.(hide spoiler)]

  • Matt Brady
    2019-06-06 13:56

    This was a nice surprise, in some ways, and a bit of a drag in others. I’ve found that I’m a lot less tolerant of fantasy as I get older. I’ve lost my patience for it, and I’m often quicker to give up on a fantasy novel than I am with any other type of story. I feel like there’s a laziness in many fantasy novels, a kind of short-hand that authors will rely upon rather than doing the actual work. Too many well-worn tropes, bland characters, silly made-up names, generic stereotypes and lazy worldbuilding. It’s not that I need a fantasy writer to be breaking conventions and subverting clichés, but I do look for someone who has used their imagination and put real thought and effort into this made-up world. Someone who pays attention to broader things, like characterisation, but also doesn’t lose sight of those little details, those tiny little flourishes that, when strung together, can really bring the story to life. Most of all, when I read a fantasy novel these days, I want a writer that has a clear vision for their story, and the skill to tell it. Mazarkis Williams definitely has the former, but falters a bit with the latter.The Emperor’s Knife starts with a lot of promise. There’s well drawn (if not terribly original) characters, an engaging premise, and a Middle Eastern inspired setting that feels more authentic than I’ve seen in other recent works. An Empire in peril, an ageing and remorseful assassin, a scheming vizier – there’s nothing particularly original there, but it’s told well, and most of the characters are more interesting that the stereotypical roles they seem to fill at first glance. As I worked my way through the first third of the story, I was actually getting excited... and then the problems started.As the story becomes larger, and more characters are added, the writing becomes inconsistent. Sometimes the prose flows well, simple and straight-forward with a few nice flourishes, very readable, but at other times there is a lack of clarity, especially in the problematic middle part of the book, which was often muddled and confusing. Pacing is another problem, and as a result the various storylines don’t really weave together neatly in the climax as they should, but instead sort of crash together. It felt like Williams was struggling to tie everything together and keep the story moving forward, and as a result, the sudden epiphanies and realisations that some characters have in the second half of the book feel a little clumsy and unearned, while some key plot developments are rather rushed.Despite those problems, I did enjoy parts of the book, and I think Mazarkis Williams has potential. He’s trying to do something a little different, and has an interesting take, and that’s enough to earn the book an extra star from me.

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)
    2019-06-16 10:37

    If there's one thing I can be certain of about my taste in books, it is that I can never resist a tale of dark fantasy -- especially one involving magic, assassins, and court politics. That Mazarkis Williams does it all in such a unique way is an extra added bonus.It's going to be a little tough to describe this book without revealing too much, but here are the basics: across the Cerani Empire, a disease is spreading throughout the populace, manifesting as geometric forms and lines that spread across the skin. The afflicted quickly worsen and lose control, becoming part of an overall "pattern" and losing themselves to will of the "Pattern Master". All those marked are believed doomed and put to death, so you can imagine the resulting freak-out when it is rumored that Emperor Beyon himself has begun exhibiting the tell-tale marks.Only a few people at court know the truth about Beyon being marked by the pattern, amongst them the Emperor Mother Nessaket, the crafty vizier Tuvaini, and the royal assassin Eyul. Of course, the question is, are these Beyon's loyal subjects there to help him, or might they actually be harboring their own ideas on just who should take the throne?Also, one would definitely not want to be a younger male child in this particular royal family. Following tradition, Beyon's brothers were all killed the day their father died and he took the throne; that is, all except Prince Sarmin, who was kept locked up in a tower as a secret backup -- just in case. One of the many schemes set in motion in this book involves the arranged marriage of the secret lost prince to a daughter of a Felt chieftain, a young Windreader seer named Mesema. Thus this intricate tale of court intrigue is woven together through the eyes of all these characters.And out of all of those characters, I think I have to say I enjoyed Mesema's narrative the best. On the surface, a story about a young girl being packed off to a foreign land to marry a total stranger is nothing new, but while many other reviewers have found her characterization to be on the weaker side, I actually felt most connected to her. It was a curious development, considering the male-dominated cast, but quite honestly, a very clear personality profile of Mesema emerged for me in her dialogue and interactions, whereas I felt all the other characters felt bland in comparison, almost like they were missing something.A similar sensation arose when I though about my feelings about the book overall. The Emperor's Knife features some gorgeous writing and superb storytelling, but once again, a part of me just wanted a little more. More action, perhaps? More excitement, more emotion, more "edge"? I know I hit upon several dry spots in the book which lost me briefly, and part of the reason for this is the frequent jumping around of points-of-view and scene changes. Rather than keeping me on my toes, my focus was instead hindered by the confusion of always trying to figure out where I was and who I was following. I'm happy to say the book finally finds its groove in its last quarter, though; from then on, the momentum was like one of an unstoppable freight train gloriously hurtling me all the way to the end.The book's world, too, is something I want to talk about. I already mentioned that the writing was gorgeous, and this is immediately clear from the way the author can bring beauty to what is otherwise a barren desert setting. There is one particular scene involving flowers in bloom and their sweet perfume amongst the sandy dunes that I know I will always remember. The skill with which the descriptions are handled are such that I have no problems envisioning it all in my mind.As it also turns out, one of the most impressive things about this book are its magic systems, something I did not expect at all when I first picked this up. Recently, fantasy authors have been coming up with all kinds of incredible stuff, and the "pattern concept" in The Emperor's Knife is probably one of the more unique ones I've read about in the last few years. First of all, the pattern disease itself has a sort of magical basis behind it, but there are also these mages in this book that harness their powers by sucking that energy from elemental spirits that they "imprison" within them. And it is most definitely not a symbiotic relationship, I can tell you that.Over all, despite some issues with pacing, this was a wonderful fantasy debut from Mazarkis Williams.Check out this review and more like it at The BiblioSanctum.

  • Marc Aplin
    2019-06-09 10:58

    Never judge a book by it’s cover… that’s the rule, right? Kinda broke it on this occasion. Yes, I know, I am a respected(?) reviewer of Fantasy literature and shouldn’t let such things draw me any longer… but damned, this is a beautiful, beautiful book. Yes, there is that now very, very common hooded man on the cover, but also, there is a beautiful city in the distance and these two are washed over with a kind of midnight blue. Most impressively, there are some beautiful, almost tribal type patterns that are embossed on-top of the hardback novel in a kind of vinyl (you will find out the relevance to these a little bit later in the review).Now, I don’t usually spend this long talking about things that are not printed upon the pages within a novel, because essentially, this review belongs to the author: ‘Mazarkis Williams’. However, I’d like to say a few words about the people who have brought this book to market, because I think it is very, very important that people recognise and take notice of how this book has come to market. A name for you: JO FLETCHER - for those of you who don’t know Jo, she is one of the most respected Speculative Science-Fiction editors in this country. She has been linked with a number of authors and publishing companies over the years, Gollancz and Pan for example, as well as authors such as: Ursula K. Le Guin, Sir Terry Pratchett, Gene Wolfe, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, Stephen Donaldson and more recently the likes of Charlaine Harris and Andrzej Sapkowski.Those who know of Jo Fletcher quite literally punched the air when in 2011 it was announced that she would be joining Quercus Books to start her own imprint, quite simply named: ‘Jo Fletcher Books’. Because their label is so open to submissions and Jo, in her own words has such a ‘wonderfully eclectic’ taste in all areas of fiction, fantasy and horror – we are set to see some really, really exciting titles coming from this imprint over the next few years. For more information, visit their website: Now, I apologise for going off on a tangent there – back to the review of this book.The Emperor’s Knife is a wonderfully difficult book to describe… It is by no means your typical fantasy novel. Amongst the Cerani Empire there is a disease that is spreading throughout the inhabitants.It seems that anyone can be infected at any-time and there is no known way to prevent it from taking hold of you.How it is caught isn’t known either, it doesn’t appear that direct expose is the cause (i.e. it is not a virus), all that is known is that once it manifests as a small mark on your skin, it will quickly get worse. Within a short amount of time, the mark will grow from simply a mark and spread across your body as a blue, vein-like pattern. Certainly, there seems an intelligence to it. Once the pattern has taken your body, you seem to lose your own mind and your actions seem to become a part of the overall ‘pattern’s conscience’. I don’t think I will am spoiling things to reveal that it becomes apparent fairly early-on that there is some kind of ‘Pattern-Master’ controlling those who display the marks of the pattern.The only thing that keeps the Kingdom calm and under control is the powerful ruler, Emperor Beyon. However, when Beyon himself is revealed to have the prominent patterns covering almost the entirety of his body, it comes down to a number of the highest ranked people in court to keep the fact that the Emperor is soon to die, or perhaps even worse, fall under the Pattern Master power a secret. Without an heir, Beyon’s followers each have their own ideas as to who should rule once he falls. His mother believes that the lost prince: ‘Sarmin’, who has been locked away in a tower in order to ensure he never forcibly tried to take power should be given the role. Others tell her they agree, but once her back is turner, can they really be trusted not to seize power for themselves?A number of plans are set in motion and the beauty of the book is that we never quite know who is being honest and how it playing with us. We meet a number of characters that are all pawns in this game, including: Medema, a type of seer from a far away country who has been put forward to become queen should Sarmin be allowed onto the throne. Her abilities have given her clues as to the Pattern Masters location, but can she grasp their meaning in time? We also meet Eyul, who is “The Emperor’s Knife”, an assassin, who actually turns out to be a relatively good guy. He goes on a journey to find a cure for Beyon, a journey that will reveal even deeper plots and show even more powers looking to take control of Cerani and indeed even beyond.It is certainly a fantasy novel to get excited about, there is a good amount here that won’t feel familiar and the plot will keep you guessing until the very end. For me, the characters are the most enjoyable aspect of the novel. ‘Sarmin’, the Emperor’s brother that has been locked away is a fantastically dark, manic and volatile personality that we never quite work out. He grows extensively throughout the novel, even trapped within his dark, isolated room and this never interest in him and interaction in him changes him dramatically. These changes are very, very nicely done and I think readers will have a pleasant struggle trying to decide whether to route for ‘Sarmin’ or one of the other characters. This is due to the authors purposeful ambiguity in regards to who is good and who is evil. Perhaps that is what is the biggest draw of this novel, because other than ‘A Game of Thrones’ there aren’t many novels in our genre that keep you guessing as to the characters real intentions.A lot of other reviewers have commented on the setting being the highlight of this novel. This is because the setting isn’t your general Arthurian age ‘knights’ and ‘swords’ type location. Instead it feels more Asian, maybe even Egyptian. We see a lot of statues, tapestries, beautiful buildings and even a dessert. I have to say though, for me, I think perhaps this was the one weakness of the novel. The setting for me never felt quite vivid and at times I lost where I was. Was I in a city, was I in a dessert, was I in a grassy area, was I in an extravagant building or a run down one. I’m not sure why I felt this, because Mazarkis is a wonderful, wonderful writer. His prose are some of the most beautiful I have experienced:The Carrier made no move other than to open his eyes, andEyul almost rolled clear at the sight of his fixed and un focusedpupils. Those eyes belonged on a corpse, but the body belowhim continued to struggle, lifting a free arm towards Eyul’sface – an arm twined with blue lines, half-moons and circles.Plague marks. Eyul pushed it back. They lay leg to leg, arm toarm, intimate as lovers.Beautiful.My inability to connect and realise the setting though is the one weak point in a great book. Overall, the exposition isn’t bad at all – the magic systems for example are very well explained. The Mages seem to harness within them two entities. Their human selves and an elemental who provides them with their powers. It is difficult to discuss these elementals without some major spoilers, but the mages will play an increasingly large role as the book goes on. The Pattern Master himself will keep you guess as well as everything else – why is he taking control of people, what is his overall plan, who or what is he, is there a cure? In a way, it feels familiar to ‘The Forged’ from ‘Assassin’s Apprentice’ by ‘Robin Hobb’. You get that seem horrible feeling when you hear about these diseases that take over your body… imagination your body being used against your will by another human being to carry out terrible and in the context of the story; treasonous acts – it’s quite a creepy thought.When we consider this is a debut novel, I don’t think we can ask for a huge amount more. The whole novel is fairly short, I think perhaps a few more words added in to give a stronger feeling of where we are and when would ‘complete’ it for me, but, perhaps the complex story line and pace of the book requires it to be the length it is. With ‘The Emperor’s Knife’, Mazarkis Williams has added his name to the very, very strong debutees we have had in 2011 (Douglas Hulick, Mark Lawrence and Elspeth Cooper leading the way for example). I think though, comparing this novel to anything else is very, very difficult and this is perhaps what makes ‘The Emperor’s Knife’ a must read – its fresh, its exciting and the ’Tower and Knife Trilogy’ looks set to get even better!

  • KostasAt
    2019-05-17 11:52

    8/10One of the most intriguing series that has been a cause for some eyes to be drawn to its side in the recent years but without having gotten the recognition it deserves is, I believe, definitely Mazarkis Williams’s Tower & Knife trilogy.The author, through the mystery around his/her true identity, has managed to make not only a particularly unique debut through his/her first book, but to build also and a quite original world, influenced by the Middle-Eastern countries, full with intrigues, plots and betrayals; as well as to bring and an even more impressive magic system.At the heart of the Cerani Empire lies, from a time now long forgotten, a curse that spreads like a cancer; a pattern of symbols that threatens anyone that touches to bring them forever to madness, or even to death itself.For many generations this curse has passed through many emperors, but now, with the death of Emperor Tahal, this burden will fall upon the hands of his first son, Beyon, who will take over the empire, and its power, through the deaths of his brothers.Except one. One’s life will be spared.Sarmin, against the laws of their father, will find himself mysteriously in a much different fate, locked and forgotten in a place like he was truly dead. But, through the days of his loneliness, and without being able to forget the unspeakable moments of the deaths of his brothers, he will begin to discover a truth; a hidden power that only he is able to see and can change not only his own life, but also of the whole world as well.On the other side, Eyul, the emperor's sworn assassin, burdened with the deaths he has caused over the years, will begin his own adventures in a search for answers, as well as for his redemption, of this pattern and its power; while Memesa, the daughter of a lord of the steppes, given as a gift to the Cerani palace for the interests of a war, will too find herself against in a place where betrayals are very easy to come by, as also against with a great love.However, these paths will lead them against the Pattern Master; an ancient enemy who only seeks to take the power of the empire, and will put them in a great adventure that may well bring them even to the their destruction.It is certain that no book is perfect and, indeed, Mazarkis Williams's debut proves to has its flaws too. Nevertheless though, what Williams has managed to do here is something that is not only quite impressive, but something also very fresh and original reviving all those things we loved when we began to read the Fantasy genre.Of course, that doesn't put aside that the biggest disadvantage of the book is perhaps that Williams's writing moves in a, relatively, fast pace, and as he/she passes through many characters without giving a particularly big depth other than the main ones, it may become and a bit disappointing at the same time.However, besides that, Williams brings a very entertaining story, without failing at any point at managing to keep you in suspense through all the twists and betrayals; as also managing to close the book with a strong, and unexpected finale that makes you wonder what will come next.Overall, it is a vivid and entertaining book that definitely deserves to be recognized a bit more as Williams proves to have a particularly unique talent, creating a wonderful world-building and an even more impressive magic system; and it’s, really, a shame to get lost so quickly through this vast world of the Fantasy genre.

  • Lucinda
    2019-05-27 11:59

    This remarkable, extraordinary fantastical masterpiece will have you glued to the page as you loose yourself within a magical world…This has to be one of the best and most outstanding debut novels I have ever encountered, and which has totally blown me away hence I am finding it hard to express my feelings with just mere words. Mazarkis Williams is the most spectacular author whose accomplished writing style, combined with inspired creativity and flair is just exceptional and whose work has really touched my heat; as an devoted reader to the fantasy genre. The cunning and clever plot that twists and turns to keep you guessing throughout until the very end is truly original, and which sends chills down your spine as you become lost within a tale that is so complex and surprisingly so wonderful. This beautiful book has the most beautiful, exquisite and striking covers I have ever seen and which really does in essence bring fantasy to life! Even the back cover image is so mysterious and mystical that it made me gasp the first time that I clapped eyes on it; just mesmerizing. Book one of the ‘tower and knife’ trilogy begins in the Cerani Empire where a deadly plague is attacking all citizens both young and old, which marks its victims with a fragment of a greater pattern. All those who are marked with this pattern are sentenced to death, under the laws of Emperor Beyon. The Emperor sickens and his brother, Sarmin, the once forgotten Prince is remembered. Sarmin’s mother has chosen him a bride; a chieftain’s daughter from the Northern plains, and he waits for her in the shadows of the Emperor’s sick bed. One then encounters Mesema who is a windreader and a being who roams freely across these lands, until that is when she comes into conflict with the Imperial Court whose protocols and strict ruling is greatly disliked. Eyul is burdened with his troubles and his tiresome service to the throne, hence he serves the Emperor by bearing his Knife and seeking out a cure to these strange markings that have brought death on his people….As violence and conflict reigns supreme and the King’s task (for the Emperor) begins, there are only 3 individuals who stand in the way of this deadly enemy; a lost prince, a world-weary killer and a young girl from the steppes…whom once saw a path through the pattern. This complex web and labyrinth of interconnecting threads leading to different, interesting characters is a real treat and one that makes this ambitious work just exceptional! Full of personality and originality this new work is totally unique within its genre, and which gave me Goosebumps for I am so excited about this author!! A brilliant tale of magic and mystery that is the first installment in an epic new series…I cannot wait to now read book 2 ‘Knife-sworn’ and delve back into Mazarkis Williams tremendous, phenomenal world. If I could rate this MORE than 5 stars I definitely would for it was such an intensely gripping, absorbing and exciting read that is something I urge you to discover too!! AMAZING & will leave you lightheaded and totally spellbound!!! *I would like to take this opportunity of thanking Nathan Washor for hosting a giveaway of ‘The Emperor’s Knife’ on his book blog… I concider myself to have been extremely privileged and so lucky to have won a copy of this amazing book.*

  • Bastard
    2019-05-18 09:36"Ambitious" is often the word I've seen used to describe Mazarkis Williams' debut novel, The Emperor's Knife. I find myself agreeing with that assessment. It's the first of The Tower and Knife Trilogy, which I recognize to be a fitting describer alluding to multiple aspects of what's found within the pages, and perhaps hints at what's to come.The Cerani Empire faces its greatest threat, an epidemic spreading through the population that allows an unknown enemy, the Pattern Master, to take control of them; the pattern has now reached the body of the Emperor. Few know of this latest predicament, and with the fear of losing the empire, a chain reaction has placed protagonists in the middle of schemes and conspiracies of treachery and power play. Eyul, an aging assassin is tasked with a quest in an attempt to unearth the nature of this epidemic, while he struggles with his conscience as he ruminates on heinous deeds he's done in the name of the empire. Mesema, daughter of a clan chief in the northern plains, is the subject of an arranged marriage and handed to a Cerani general who'll escort her to her intended prince, while conflicted with her self-interest and the sacrifice she's to make as the fate of her clan and that of the empire rests upon her. Prince Sarmin, sole surviving sibling of the Emperor, waits for his intended bride in the tower he's been imprisoned in since his childhood where few even know he exists, and he engages in a private war with the Pattern Master, or maybe he's simply battling his sanity.The story, much like the characters that experience it, is multifaceted and complex. It's natural to compare it to a Chess game, particularly given the Settu game explored in the novel which has similar qualities. The board is mainly controlled by side characters whose machinations propel the story forward without realizing that they may be "pawns" in someone else's game. As such, other than a few exceptions, it's hard to pin point characters as antagonists in the story, particularly when Mazarkis did such a great job in giving sympathetic aspects to some of them. While motivations were not always clear, it was with little effort with which I managed to put myself in their shoes.The story is set among deserts, camels and horses are used for travelling, you have caves in the periphery, and the plains with their clans. There's a clear gender divide, culminating with the Emperor's harem, where women have been placed predominately in roles of baby-makers. With fertility comes social standing, and it's interesting to see how similar the empire and the clans from the norther plains are in this regard despite being completely different culturally. I also found it curious how in some instances women could be used to show a sign of strength, yet also to illustrate perceived weaknesses. Following that, it was amusing how they were empowered throughout the novel given this setting and society, using their resources cleverly and in unexpected manners that affected the events of the story in considerate ways.Pace was a bit of an issue for me, particularly with two parallel storylines dominated by travelling through the desert during a good portion of the novel. It included an action heavy scene that didn't do much for me, which was one of the longest sequences in the novel, albeit an important one. In part because I had trouble grasping the magic system, particular with the use of patterns, and the role of religion in this world. Might just be a failure as a reader, but I found the magic hard to comprehend, in this context, and the religious aspects a bit ungrounded or simply hard to distinguish. The latter served a bigger role towards the concluding portion of the novel than I had envision.I also thought the blurb found inside the cover jacket was problematic, particularly as it comes to how it influenced my expectations of what I was about to read, but found it to not be representative of the story. Let's just say that portions of the blurb are of less importance than what it leads you to believe, and some of the alluded events don't occur until past the halfway point of the novel. I know I struggled to give the setup of the story above, so I won't give them much grief over it.While we're at it, I felt there was too much happening "off screen" and left unsaid. As such, some of the progression didn't seem natural. For example, characters that are enemies suddenly becoming friendly once we return to a respective POV, and we're left with a dynamic of playing catch-up while Mazarkis gives us a brief run-down about the change in their association. If I were to speculate it was a measure to make the novel more concise, and considering the pace it might have been for the best at the end of it all.I really enjoyed reading The Emperor's Knife, despite what my criticisms above might suggest. This world is quite brutal and violent. Not an action heavy novel, as drama dominates the book, it still has plenty going about, and at times quite ruthless. Mirroring the action, I loved how relationships were portrayed. There was an inevitability and matter-of-factness to it which I found refreshing. Some pairings might seemed a bit rushed, but I thought them fitting when considering some of the circumstances and the tone of the novel.In the limited scope we've been exposed to you can see the potential this world has. I don't know how much of it we'll get to explore in this trilogy (assuming those plans remain unchanged), but there has been some glimpses that could make this a special place. Despite my problems understanding the magic and religion, I think there's an underlying awesomeness to it that I really can't wait to learn more about.The story itself is nothing groundbreaking, but the sum of the parts makes it a compelling one. While some aspects were a bit too transparent and predictable, it was balanced with quite a few interesting twists. Some good characters to be found, but I found that Sarmin stole the show and I'm sure he'll be a favorite of many. One of those few amazingly unique characters one has the pleasure of discovering.While this might not be my favorite 2011, but certainly among the favorites, in my opinion Mazarkis showed he might just be the most talented writer of the ones I read. I found Mazarkis' words to have a great flow and rhythm to them, and a way of mixing bluntness with the subtle. There's a particular passage that really got to me as there's a character ruminating on how there are different ways to lose your innocence, and considering some of the recent happenings, it really has stayed with me. Needless to say, that it was one of the many examples of Mazarkis' writing that impressed me and I know that I'm missing out on some of the passages that probably required a bit more work from the reader.The Emperor's Knifeis a book I envision having great support and it's fair share of detractors. I think it's a novel that requires patience, but in my opinion the payback is or will be worth it. As mentioned above, Mazarkis is a talented writer, that at the very least one should keep an eye out for regardless of the opinion of this particular installment. As for myself, I'm counting the days until Knife Sworn.

  • Bec
    2019-05-29 06:55

    I read The Emperors Knife when it first came out 6 years ago so I don’t remember all the little details but I do still remember the story line as a whole and can recall various parts of the book which it pretty good after all this time and says the story made an impact. The magic system was interesting and the characters were fascinating. I’ll have to read the 2nd book now, it release got lost in the land before decent Amazon tracking and before I used Goodreads.

  • Jessie(Ageless Pages Reviews)
    2019-05-31 07:37

    Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!Mazarkis Williams tries for a lot with his fantasy debut, the tale of several key people within an ancient but decaying Empire here in The Emperor's Knife. With wildly differing, interesting characters and a shifting point of view between them, Williams certainly begins his story on solid ground - The Emperor's Knife feels new and created rather than rehash or a re-imagining of another, already established place. There might not be the most original of plot-lines at the heart of the novel, especially for the fantasy genre, but Williams has a way with his words and this is a novel that is quickly engaging, quickly read and quickly finished. I found several aspects of the book to be quite well done and thought-out, but had issues with pacing down the line as well as the too-frequent, often confusing, afmorementioned POV switches.In the land of the Cerani Empire, life is hard and life is often cruel. That way of life is shown in the culture and personalities of nearly the entire royal family, from the scheming Tuvaini to the emotionally dead withdrawn Nessaket. Sarmin, easily the most sympathetic and likeable guy of the whole book, is the sole survivor of the purge of his 5 brothers, excepting the Emperor Beyon. Broken mentally by seeing his male siblings cut down on Beyon's ascension to power Sarmin has remained in one room his whole life. Sarmin is a surprising character: for a room-ridden Prince that no one knows of you wouldn't expect much but he was by far the nicest and most well-rounded of all the cast. Imprisoned within silk and stone, Sarmin grows from a scared boy into a mature, thinking man. It's not hard to see that I was rooting for him (and even his love interest I didn't care too much for) for a happy ending.That love interest is the female protagonist of the novel, Mesema. Sent from the tribes outside the Empire to get an heir with the hidden Prince, she is the typical fantasy trope of an tribal fish-out-of-water in a cultured pond. Unkind, judgemental and even kind of racist, Mesema is a tough nut to crack. She knows the dangers of Nooria, and of the Empire (her mother warns her to get pregnant only once and then use a tar(?)/some substance to prevent more pregnancies. My question is: why didn't the previous Emperor's harem do the same if they knew their kids would be murdered when Beyon ascended? Blehhh.) Like the rest of the female characters Amalya, Eldra, Nessaket, I never felt a true affinity for the Windreader of the Felt tribe. She becomes fairly annoying and demanding as her journey progresses, and then almost abandoned after the halfway mark. She seems vastly underutilized in the second part, only popping up at the most random and opportune moments. I liked her best with Beyon, honestly and the romance love triangles are all OVER the place in The Emperor's Knife (Mesema, Beyon, Sarmin; Mesema, Sarmin, Banreh; etc.), though I appreciated her for Sarmin as well. She works best as protagonist when with other characters, with them in charge.It's also hard to get close to any of these characters, including ones I've not mentioned. Eyul, the royal assassin is a key part to both the past and the present of the Empire and of Sarmin's health, is a decent anti-hero. I wished for more time and more detail from the reticent character but the way too frequent POV shifts, one after another, from Eyul to Sarmin to Beyon to Mesema was disjointing. Nessaket also had potential to be the kind of villain that a reader could really enjoy, but she seemed to be tossed aside in favor of a less compelling, less interesting character the further the novel progressed. There was very little continuous time with just one or two characters at length, instead jumping perspective in what seemed like five page increments. With a lack of any real tension until nearly the very end and character deaths that had little to no impact upon me, The Emperor's Knife is not a novel that cuts to the heart of the reader: it's a bit superficial and the occasional gorey death does a lot to keep interest from flagging. I was also probably more upset by the deaths than excited for the romances because none (welll maybe just one) of them felt entirely believable or honest for the characters within the relationship: I didn't like Mesema and Banreh's interactions, I didn't like Sarmin and his carrier's complications to the plot, etc. The romances just seemed joined with the easiest candidates and I wanted some chemistry.Much like a favorite of mine, Brandon Sanderson, a prolific author that both manages to write huge intimidating tomes of novels (Way of Kings, anyone? It clocks in at a tidy 1007 pages) and create unique magic systems for them, Mazarkis Williams has at least two different known magical systems in play for his novel. Both of them, in my opinion, are quite inventive and... well, I believe "awesome" is the most applicable word. The pattern marks that appear on the inflicted are much more than they appear to be, and while I won't spoil the ending, I though it was a marvelous spin on the predicted outcome. It's vague and unexplained until it seems almost obvious, and I have to credit William's authorial sleight-of-hand on that magical count. The other magic, which I will go into a bit more, is that of the mages of the Tower. They are few in number and each mage corresponds to a certain element: fire, earth, water, air, spirit. While that aspect of elements for power might not be the most original, Williams' spin on the trope is: the element the mage most relates to is actually an elemental spirit that will be encased within/made part of the mage, fighting to get free as the mage continually siphons off the power of the spirit. I loved this: the mages aren't immortal or all-powerful in this world. They have to trade, to barter away their very lives for a tenuous grip on power for, at most, a few decades of magic. It's an interesting idea for an Empire that relies so on its magic - it's an unsteady and unreliable but essential part of the Cerani Empire.It's a mixed bag for The Emperor's Knife for this fantasy fan. I liked the worldbuilding that was present: quiet but with an Arabic or Asian touch, especially the shifting sand dunes and relentless heat made for a newish locale with imported homages from the real world. I loved the magical aspects and limited appearance they had on the plot and characters, I just wished for more oomph, for better female characters and less POV jumping. There's a lot to enjoy in this world and these characters, I just want there to be more to it. Less hiding, more showing to Eyul, Govnan, the Pattern Master, etc. It's thoroughly engaging if not the most action-packed fantasy fare, with an ending that left me mildly anxious for the second in the series. I'd tell any hardcore fantasy fan to give The Emperor's Knife at least a try - it has potential to grow into a truly epic story with flawed, real characters. Here's hoping for book 2.

  • Ranting Dragon
    2019-06-02 09:42 Emperor’s Knife is Mazarkis Williams’ stunning debut and the first book in the Tower and Knife series. This stunning tale of magic and political scheming is published by new UK publisher Jo Fletcher in October and will be published in the US on December 1st by Night Shade Books.Dying empireA work of high fantasy in every way, The Emperor’s Knife takes us to the Cerani Empire—an empire that’s dying from the inside out. A disease, or perhaps an old magic long lost, is threatening the Cerani. Those that get mysteriously “marked” will either die or become Carriers—human vessels for some divine power to use as he pleases. This has been going on for decades, but now the Emperor, Beyon, is marked… and that’s a serious problem.The Emperor’s Knife follows the tales of Sarmin, the brother and only heir of the emperor, who was locked up in a tower during the succession years ago, and Eyul, the Emperor’s Knife, appointed assassin by the emperor and the only one allowed to slay royals by using his magical knife. We also follow Tuvaini, a noble trying to scheme his way to the throne, and Mesema, a young foreign girl who is taken to Nooria, the empire’s capital, to marry Sarmin against her will.UnfleshedAs their story unfolds and perspectives seamlessly overlap, it becomes clear that unlike other high fantasy authors, Williams’ talent is in not fleshing out his world and magic. Yes, you read that right: Williams tends to keep a lot of open threads. While it becomes clear from the start that there is a lot to this Arabian-influenced desert world, we only see little pieces of it as they become relevant to the story. Furthermore, there are two very original magic systems in The Emperor’s Knife, but both keep an air of mystique. This never reaches the point of confusion, however. A reader is simply eased into the story by the characters that drive it.Magic, mystique, and ambiguityMore than anything, The Emperor’s Knife reminded me of works by Brandon Sanderson like Elantris, Warbreaker, and Mistborn. Like those stories, this is a tale of unlikely and sometimes naive people, thrust into a situation of political schemes where they have to save the world by solving a magical mystery. While Sanderson’s novels often have a magician protagonist who is slowly educated in the ways of the magic system, Williams’ protagonists are regular folk, having to deal with an entirely alien magic, the origins of which remain unknown for the better part of The Emperor’s Knife. Their fumbling around with magic they are unfamiliar with only adds to the air of mystique in this novel.Unlike the characters in Sanderson’s debut, however, Williams’ characters are among the most intriguing in the epic fantasy genre. These are no flat goodie-two-shoes but morally ambiguous protagonists, each with their own hopes, dreams, and fears. What’s more, these characters truly develop. For example, Eyul, the Emperor’s Knife, was chosen for his blind loyalty, but throughout the story, he faces situations in which he is forced to make his own decisions. In these events, and through dialogue, he showcases the ability to reflect upon his choices and a wish to better himself. The development of this character and many others alike felt real and genuine.A game of chessThe Emperor’s Knife isn’t, however, a page turner. While the story always intrigues and entertains, the movement of characters—it often feels like they are chess pieces on Williams’ board—to get them in position for the ending grew a bit dull and tedious in the middle part of the book. While slow, these movements definitely seemed necessary for the story to continue. I just wish Williams would have given each movement a little more attention. For example, there were multi-day breaks between scenes, and the events during those days are never explained and don’t make much sense. The resulting story is still a good one, though, and this movement of chess pieces adds to the intelligence of The Emperor’s Knife. Don’t expect a thriller, but rather a real, grown-up and utterly, brilliantly well-wrought epic fantasy.Why should you read this book?The Emperor’s Knife has everything a fan of epic and high fantasy may need. It has mystery, intrigue, amazing characters both to love and to hate, and original magic systems. Fans of Brandon Sanderson or Robert Jordan will love this, but it also holds similarities to talented authors like Stephen Deas and Mark Lawrence. Beyond that, the large amount of open threads promises a great deal for future installments. Mazarkis Williams is a debuting author to keep an eye on.

  • Katy
    2019-06-02 11:56

    Please note: I read and reviewed this book in December, 2011 from a copy I received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Just adding that disclosure and formatting.My Synopsis: The Empire, with its capital in the city of Nooria, is the strongest power around. Beyon, the emperor, was brought to power one blood-soaked night when, after the death of his father, all his brothers were killed in order to prevent any problems with the dynasty. Well, all but one – Sarmin was kept alive, as a back-up. It appears that this was a good thing, because there is a terrible disease that is sweeping through the Empire, one marked by patterns appearing on the victim’s skin. Those who succumb either become mindless and obey the commands of the mysterious Pattern Master, or die a terrible death. And Beyon … is Marked. In the midst of treachery, betrayal, and fighting over power and position, what will happen to the two brothers? Who is the Pattern Master, and what is his ultimate goal? And will anyone survive his terrible plague?My Thoughts: The Emperor’s Knife is a very complex and interesting story, a high fantasy with aspects of suspense. The twists and turns just keep on coming and it is impossible to know who to trust or who to believe. The characters’ development is done very well, and the plot moves quickly from one point of view to another, which at times left me a bit confused. By maintaining careful focus while reading the story, it is possible to keep up with everything, however, and the careful reader is rewarded with many subtle subplots. Fans of high fantasy and the sort of intricate, twisting plots often found in spy novels should enjoy this book.

  • Justin
    2019-05-28 11:44 of the most important decisions an author has to make is how much to tell, how much to imply, and how much to show.  In fantasy this even more true in creating a secondary/alternate world.  For a debut fantasy author it's triply difficult, because no one (editor or consumer) is going to buy an 800 page book from a total unknown.  An author, looking through the world he's created and the plot he's weaving, has to start bailing water to offer a manuscript that's tight enough to sell and verbose enough to be clear - no mean feat.I bring this up because I think Mazarkis Williams had more water to bail than the average fantasy debut.  Not a criticism, I say that because The Emperor's Knife is incredibly ambitious.  Heavily flavored with Persian, Arabic, and Asian influence, it is a riff on epic fantasy with a deep magic system, complex political intrigue, and a complete story arc all contained in well under 400 pages.There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire.  Geometric patterns spread across the skin causing those who bear them to become Carriers - mindless servants of the Pattern Master. Anyone showing the marks is put to death by Emperor Beyon's law.  Now the pattern is running over the Emperor's own arms. His body servants have been executed and he ignores his wives - 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 being at court 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 Pattern Master appears. The only people standing in his way are a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes.That's a complete and utter hatchet job on the plot in an effort to briefly summarize the general direction of Emperor's Knife.  I went over to read the blurb on Goodreads and it was six paragraphs long.  Is it becoming clear why I said Williams' had a tough road ahead of him?  Somehow, the novel comes together in in 346 pages - a commendable accomplishment.  Unfortunately, on my second point - making sure everything was adequately explained - I'm not sure it was as successful.  Having finished the novel I still don't fully understand the motivations and actions of the novel's primary instigator - the Emperor's vizier Tuvaini.  Very little time is spent on the primary system of magic whereby a mage is a vessel for an elemental living side them, and while more time is spent on manipulating "patterns" the why or how of it isn't addressed at all.  So the question becomes, is that a problem?The truth is... not really.  At the end of the day, Emperor's Knife is a big success, largely on the back of interesting characters and a compelling plot.  Williams engages his readers in the early moments posing mysteries that demand to be uncovered like a carrot dangling in front of a donkey compels him to walk.  The plot is brisk to start before leveling off where we're given an opportunity to come to care about each of Williams' pieces before he brings them back together in devastating fashion.As I mentioned before the tone of the world is very Middle Eastern in a time period reminiscent of the Crusade Era.  Through Masema, Williams also brings in a steppes culture that would fit well in a Henry Sienkiewicz novel and hints at far more beyond the borders of his map.  Naturally, when an author walks into a culture grounded in male chauvinism he runs the risk of being labeled as such himself.  Character's opinions are often attributed to the author, almost always unfairly.  Williams manages to avoid this, crafting three very enjoyable female characters only one of which comes off shallow and reliant on the support of men around her.  Masema, the central female character, comes off far stronger though some of her romantic entanglements felt rushed - something I again attribute to a need to keep things tight in a novel whose scope would seem to predicate otherwise.Reading through the novel and being an active tweeter lead to a conversation with Williams and fellow 2011 debut author Mark Lawrence (Prince of Thorns) about Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy.  Williams admitted it was one of his favorites so I hope he takes it as a compliment that I saw elements in Emperor's Knife that reflected Hobb's influence.  Sarmin (the closest thing to a protagonist) is a character of some similarity to Hobb's FitzChivalery.  He disbelieves in himself and struggles with understanding his place in the events that rage around him.  Farseer fans will also notice that the Pattern Master's Carriers call to mind Prince Verity riding along through others' eyes to interact with and bear witness to events far from him.  If it is an homage, it is well done, although I suspect mere coincidence is more likely.  Had I not had the conversation prior to reading the novel, I doubt very much I would have made the connection.Despite some unevenness that manifests in the form of esoteric scenes and absent or unclear foreshadowing, Emperor's Knife is a well imagined, well plotted, and [mostly] well executed addition to the epic fantasy codex.  While it's satisfying as a standalone work, the fact is well advertised on the book's cover that The Emperor's Knife the first installment in The Tower and Knife Trilogy.  If Sarmin returns he has an opportunity become an iconic character and I hope he gets that chance.  More emphatically, I hope that Williams will continue to explore some of the details that were left out in his debut; the lack of which will hold me back from putting this near the top of my best of 2011 list.I said it at the beginning, and I'll say it again, this is an ambitious debut novel.  Thankfully, it's also a novel that demonstrates great deal of promise in its author.  I for one very much look forward to the sequel and Mazarkis Williams' continued growth as a writer.The Emperor's Knife will be published in the UK on October 27 by Jo Fletcher Books and in the US on December 6 by Night Shade Books.Follow Mazarkis Williams on Twitter @Mazarkis_W and visit his blog

  • rameau
    2019-06-14 12:41

    The cover is pretty, isn't it. It makes you think of assassins who live in a mountain empire and in castles covered in mist. It makes you think about creeping in the night and on empty streets. It makes you think of all the things an assassin or an Emperor might use his power for. Oh, that's just me? Let's look at the blurb instead. It looks... lengthy. Just a tad too long to really read though before picking up the pretty cover and removing the money from your purse to the retailer's, to publisher's, and ultimately, hopefully, to the author's pocketbook. I'm going to do you a favour and take you through it.There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike, marking each victim with a fragment of a greater pattern. You could call it a cancer, although, a tattoo epidemic would cover the symptoms just as well. That, and a new hobby among mathematitians. Anyone showing the marks is put to death. That is Emperor Beyon's law . . . Sure, if by anyone you mean everyone except the mighty and powerful like the Emperor himself. No, that's not a spoiler, it's revealed in the first chapter. But now the pattern is reaching closer to the palace than ever before. In a hidden room, a forgotten prince has grown from child to man, and as the empire sickens, Sarmin, the emperor’s only surviving brother, is remembered. He awaits the bride his mother has chosen: a chieftain’s daughter from the northern plains. Now, this sounds interesting. A forgotten prince to save the day. What they don't tell you is that he's an agoraphobic who can't leave that hidden room and will literally fall apart when he tries. This makes Sarmin a dull character regardless of how delightfully mad he might be.Mesema travels from her homeland, an offering for the empire’s favour. She is a Windreader, used to riding free across the grasslands, not posing and primping in rare silks. She finds the Imperial Court’s protocols stifling, but she doesn’t take long to realise the politicking and intrigues are not a game, but deadly earnest. It looks like there is a strong, independent female character in this story too. A survivor with a good head on her shoulders, a character who'll make the most of the unfortunate circumstances. What they don't tell you is that she's travelling for a HALF of the book and that when she finally reaches the Imperial Court things quickly fall apart and protocol is forgotten.Eyul is burdened both by years and by the horrors he has carried out in service to the throne. At his emperor’s command he bears the emperor’s Knife to the desert in search of a cure for the pattern-markings. Hey look, it's the titular character and it looks like he's going off adventuring. This also happens to be true, Eyul does go through some interesting events. Too bad this adventure happened during the first half of the book that is also responsible for my recommendations field. As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence and rebellion, the enemy moves toward victory. Now 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 through a pattern, among the waving grasses. If by long-planned you mean three generations in the making, then sure, this is true. But if you mean one man dedicating his life to usurping the throne in an Empire where the Emperor separates heads from torsos on a whim, we'll have to discuss the meaning of the term long-planned at length. Mazarkis Williams pieces together a complex mosaic of personality and ambition in a brilliant work of magic and mystery set in a richly imagined world, the first book in a fantastic new series.Mazarkis Williams pieces together such a complex mosaic that I'm still trying to see the pattern in the writing a day after having finished reading the book. True, every character had a personality and an ambition of sorts, but that's no less than I expect from each and every story I read. There was magic too, but mostly it was described in a way that put me to sleep. Repeatedly. The only mystery in this book is the identity of The Pattern Maker and anyone who has read through a handful of Agatha Christie's can point out the culprit the first time they are mentioned–with the caveat that they are conscious while this a fantastic new series.About that. You might have noticed how kept mentioning falling asleep or insomnia... no? Well, how do I put this politely? The writing in the first half of this book cures insomnia. It's sleep inducing. They should patent it and sell it in pills to everyone who has ever had trouble sleeping. I frequently fell asleep reading it. It didn't matter if I was reading right before bedtime, long after my bedtime or in the middle of the day, I would literally doze off in the middle of a sentence. It took me five days to read the first half of The Emperor's Knife, but only few hours to finish the second half. It turned out that all that was needed was something to happen in the story for me to stay awake.So yes, I had my troubles with the book but it could still be a fantastic new series. I don't know yet, I've only read the one book. I could be persuaded to pick up the sequel to see if the author has learned anything about pacing, but I'd be wary about it. Better, or just senior, authors have taught me this lesson. I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

  • AMythicalBeast
    2019-05-24 06:33

    3.9 stars.The Emperor's Knife is a good book, but it is not a fantastic book. The best thing about this book is how it gives at least four very different characters enough time and sufficient voice to introduce and explain themselves to us. And you need to understand them if you hope to understand the book.Its strongest point has to be the intricate court politics that keeps the reader on tenterhooks as a coup, many years in planning, is finally carried out.The Emperor's Knife is Eyul, an assassin chosen in his boyhood because of his inability to take a life out of vengeance. He was given the Knife to wield, to carry out the Emperor's will and only he could ever spill royal blood without damnation. In the very first chapter we watch as he carries out a dead king's last command and earns the hatred of two young princes.The most intriguing idea that this novel explores is that of a prince kept a prisoner in a high tower (Rapunzel, anyone?) from the day his father dies to his manhood, with only his mother an occasional (if cold and distant) visitor. Sarmin is the spare, kept alive in case something happened to his elder brother, the boy-king - Beyon.They live in a land plagued by inexplicable marks that appear suddenly on a body and takes over ones soul. In a distant land, in a tribe that prepares to ally itself to Beyon's empire as they ready for a war, the chief's daughter is promised in marriage to the Emperor's brother. But Mesema knows nothing about the patterns that plague the Cerani kingdom, nor of the tradition that demands the lives of young princes when their brother ascends the throne.And finally there is Tuivani. A cousin to the Emperor, a keen eyed Vizier, a patriot in his own way and an unwitting tool in the hands of the Pattern Master as he spins a web that will soon unseat Beyon and bring the empire to his own feet.Sarmin, Eyul, Tuivani and Mesema are the eyes that tell the tale from their own corners. Sometimes their paths intersect and information is exchanged, but most of the time they are each stumbling around blindly as they try to make best of situations thrust at them.Tuivani is the man who kept Sarmin imprisoned most of his life, for he feared that a living brother might have the Emperor's ear more than a distant cousin and adviser could. So he whispered the wisdom of keeping the young prince segregated from all to a vulnerable and insecure Beyon, and Beyon - strong and weak - listened and hated him for it.But I couldn't hate Tuivani. Individually the characters are given so much soul, so much complexity that I came away with an odd sense of empathy for each of them. Unfortunately, when the characters interacted this wonderful complexity fell short of what it could have been. There were dramatics, but suddenly all the feelings went missing.Sarmin and Mesema spent a better part of the book imagining what the other might be like and yet when they did meet, it was a sadly flat union. [UPDATE 19Dec'11: I made an unforgivable mistake with one of the character names that confused me very much as I neared the end of the book. The author's right, there are too many names with 'B'. ;) So there's a change in the spoiler below.]MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD(view spoiler)[There is an instance of insta-love that made me grit my teeth really hard. Sarmin saves a girl who had originally tried to kill him under the influence of the pattern. He cures her (yep, the prince has magic - and of the oldest kind) but is injured and needs her to run for help from the mages. For reasons I wont clarify he can't leave his tower even when the doors are open and his guards dead. He finds that he can slip into her mind (more like a companion instead of a puppeteer) and guide her to the Tower. In the very next scene when he's waking up after being cured by a mage, he decides he wants the girl (the first one he's seen in years) and in two more scenes decides he's in love with her. And despite all this, he's still deeply fixated with Mesema. :headslap: (hide spoiler)]ENDThe world created is rather fascinating. The rituals and traditions, intriguing. The magic is curious and divergent, and the palace's wariness of the Tower of the Mages is understandable. But the Tower has kept the empire protected and so it must stand. The Cerani empire is the picture of a once great kingdom rotting and leaning towards its downfall despite the apparent prosperity of the nobility (Think: fall of Rome).I'll read the next two installments, of course, though this book stands alone and complete all by itself - the end, exactly what you would hope it should be with most of the strings brought conveniently and rather simplistically together. But if the author wants to tell me more about this world, I'm willing and happy to listen.DISCLOSURE - I was originally given a copy of this book by netgalley, whom I have long owed a review for this, but now I have a hardcover copy of my own. The coverart might be over-used but I love the pattern marks. :)

  • Mihir
    2019-05-22 07:41

    Full review originally at Fantasy Book CriticANALYSIS: Mazarkis Williams’ The Emperor’s Knife is a debut book which has been under the radar for most fantasy readers. The book’s blurb details an empire which has been rotting and rests upon three individuals to stop the events, which might lead to its annihilation. Such a blurb wouldn’t necessarily give a clear picture of the actual book and it does seem to make the plot out to be very generic as well.That’s the first mistake you make about the book assuming that the plot will be generic. While the book’s plot does feature court intrigue, a traditional story structure and individuals who have the power to change the course of events, there’s much more to The Emperor’s Knife including a plague that causes colorful geometric shapes to appear and make them mindless drones who act as a singular entity.The story opens with a prologue set years in the past and details a crucial event which shapes Prince Sarmin’s life from that moment onwards. The book then shifts to the present time as he awaits his life within an environment that he does not fully understand, but is comforted by. From here, the plot begins rather suddenly as the reader is thrown into the world of the Cerani, the Felt people, etc. and the reader has to pick up on the clues and descriptions provided by the author and connect the dots to gain an understanding of the story and the problems which are occurring. The main mystery thread consists of the aforementioned plague and the Pattern Master.At the core of this story are the three main POVs of Prince Sarmin, Mesema and Eyul. Mesema is a Felt girl who has been chosen by her father to be a bride to Prince Sarmin of the Cerani empire. Mesema is not thrilled by this decision, but cannot disobey her father. Eyul meanwhile, is an assassin who’s the only person appointed by the emperor in the line of the Knife-Sworn to wield the royal Knife with which royal blood can be spilled and the wielder is not damned. There’s also Tuvaini, the court vizier who wants to do right by the empire and shares an important part of the story, although whose side he’s on is never made abundantly clear. There are a few other supporting characters who take part in the plot, but they do not get their own POVs and it would be better for the reader to find out about them via the book.As a whole, characterization is a major plus as each voice is distinct from the other, with each chapter opening up a new facet for each character. Prose, though good, is a bit spartan in its approach; while the author provides the bare requirement when it comes to world-building, which can hamper the reading experience at times. Another point which undermines the novel is the pacing of the story. On the plus side, the overall mystery is wrapped up satisfactorily with most of the plot threads reasonably concluded except for a couple. Which of course lead to the second book in the trilogy, Knife-Sworn.Overall, I enjoyed The Emperor’s Knife for telling a story of people broken by the psychological nature of past events and their striving to do the right thing. Even though Mazarkis Williams’ debut did not possess the gritty violent aspect of the Prince of Thorns or the fast-paced nature of The Whitefire Crossing, The Emperor’s Knife is a very good book, especially for those who like to be surprised by plot twists and enjoy clean economical prose. In short, I am looking forward to the second book in the Tower and Knife Trilogy as I am very curious to see where Mazarkis Williams takes the characters and plot next...

  • Megan Rose
    2019-06-14 12:46

    Good but a little confusing in places with information seemingly popping up from nowhere. However I'm interested in the story and I have the whole trilogy so I will be continuing soon.

  • Graham Austin-King
    2019-06-06 12:35

    This is not a simple story. That's not to say this isn't a good book, this is a great book, but it's a story that needs time and attention. Is it an easy read? No. It was clearly never intended to be an easy read. If you want an easy read then go and get The Belgariad by Eddings. If you want a multi-layered story with depth and complexity then this is the book for you.There are three main stories which all intersect and come together beautifully in the end. The story of Eyul the assassin. Mesema the girl from the horse tribes - traded for the demands of politics, and Sarmin the imprisoned prince, kept captive by his family and by his own fears.This is not your standard fantasy novel, if there is such a thing. It's certainly not your stereotypical fantasy novel. There are no other races but man, no wandering adventurers, no dragons or rampaging orcs. Instead the setting is an empire in flux, as one emperor dies and another takes the throne in a time of peril, as an insidious force reaches out across the sands to ensnare and subvert.Politics feature heavily, and although the reader is never entirely sure what is going on, this is very clearly by design. It's enough to realise that there are machinations at work and you, the reader, are not privy to all of them. You have been afforded a glimpse and no more. The full extent of them will be revealed as the story unfolds.The magic system is not explained in any real sense, though the notion of mages bonding with elementals to gain a portion of their power is a new and interesting concept to me. As with the politics, the reader is afforded a glimpse of how things work without having them explained.Mazarkis Williams is brilliant, she doesn't condescend the reader, she doesn't spoon-feed. Instead she allows the reader to work towards their own conclusions and slowly grasp the pattern that she is weaving.I'll be honest and admit that I've probably missed at least a large chunk of the elements of the book. It's one that's going to need a reread. As an introduction into her world though, it's wonderful and I will work through the trilogy in a gluttonous fashion before returning to savour the flavours more fully.

  • Nathan
    2019-06-16 06:48

    I see the issue with my ranking system here. ‘The Emperor’s Knife’ is not a one star book. There is too much good in it. Highly ambitious, fairly unique, and with some fairly strong writing in the early going. But as loose as my ranking system is, a book I can’t finish is a one star affair, and for god’s sake this book bored me to tears. Not at first, I got to the half-way point with no problems. But from there I was doing anything BUT reading. I watched a few bad TV shows, played a lot of Candy Crush, and stared at my Kindle.A lot of time spent in a dreamlike state, another plain in which someone is touching the minds of many others. I have enjoyed this in some book (such as Wooding’s Weavers trilogy). But I found it to be quite a mess in this effort, some cohesion is necessary and I wasn’t seeing it. I also had almost no connection to any of the characters. Reluctant assassin just kinda drifting though the story, Jafar (or some other generic advisor) is of course working behind everyone else’s back .Perhaps in another state of mind this would have worked better, perhaps I may give it a try again if I am in the mood for something a bit trippy. But when I got through forty percent of the book the first day, and it took me three more to get through another twenty, I think I made the right decision. Recommended for someone looking for a challenge, but not me.A side note, that is a sharp damn cover. Dark guys in hoods may be trite, but this one looks damn good.

  • Ron
    2019-06-03 10:33

    More like 3.5 stars, but excellent world building and characterization. Her characters were so ambiguous and conflicted that the reader had a hard time following who was doing what because we were also being loading with what many characters thought other characters were doing, not to mention their motives. Having second sight doesn't necessarily allow you to correctly see the future, even when your visions are correct.What pushed the rating higher for me is Williams' ability to effectively and satisfyingly end the first story while leaving the possibility--no, the necessity for stories to follow. Only a minority of serial writers seem capable of that feat these days.A very good read.

  • Mark
    2019-05-23 06:51

    An awesome novel of sweeping scope. It's rich in history, politics and magic - all the things I love.But best of all it felt like a fantasy novel - not a novel filled with contemporary sounding dialogue and set in a 'medieval' world with magic - but a like a novel by a writer who 'gets it' and knows how to use language.My only gripe is that it wasn't long enough ;)

  • Milo (BOK)
    2019-06-11 07:55

    I’ve wanted to pick this book up ever since I first saw the cover-art. I don’t know why, but I tend to like cover arts that fall into the ‘hooded man’ category. The Painted (Warded in the USA) Man by Peter V. Brett, The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks, The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller, Low Town: The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky and Assassin’s Creed 2 are examples of that, and it seems, for however long we’re around, there’ll always be at least one hooded man cover on a novel in the bookshop, or on your bookshelf. Did I mention, there’s another thing that everything in the category has in common – they’re all really enjoyable, and fun to read/play. So, would this be the case with The Emperor’s Knife?I’m pleased to say that yes, yes it was. The Emperor’s Knife, despite its flaws, I found to be a really enthralling read, and I can safely say that I will be eagerly looking forward to Book Two of the trilogy.There. I’ve said it. But, in order to make this a ‘proper’ review, I have to write more than just that. So, you’re probably wondering what the heck The Emperor’s Knife is about. Well, let me tell you. Or rather, let Goodreads tell you, because I’m lazy:There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike, marking each victim with a fragment of a greater pattern. Anyone showing the marks is put to death. That is Emperor Beyon’s law . . . But now the pattern is reaching closer to the palace than ever before. In a hidden room, a forgotten prince has grown from child to man, and as the empire sickens, Sarmin, the emperor’s only surviving brother, is remembered. He awaits the bride his mother has chosen: a chieftain’s daughter from the northern plains. Mesema travels from her homeland, an offering for the empire’s favour. She is a Windreader, used to riding free across the grasslands, not posing and primping in rare silks. She finds the Imperial Court’s protocols stifling, but she doesn’t take long to realise the politicking and intrigues are not a game, but deadly earnest.Eyul is burdened both by years and by the horrors he has carried out in service to the throne. At his emperor’s command he bears the emperor’s Knife to the desert in search of a cure for the pattern-markings.As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence and rebellion, the enemy moves toward victory. Now 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 through a pattern, among the waving grasses. Certainly ambitious for an author’s first novel, huh? I’d like to say that I was slightly cautious about reading The Emperor’s Knife before I actually did read it, but alas, that was not the case, I dived into the book with little more than the blurb to see my way through. And, after the first few pages, I wasn’t confused. I wasn’t wondering who these characters were and I wasn’t wondering what the hell was going on. Neither does Williams overload you with info-dumping, the bane of many fantasy authors.The characters are certainly well developed, and intriguing enough to keep you reading along with the captivating plot, that although is unoriginal when you look at previous fantasy novels, is certainly enjoyable, and combined with a well-designed world that has obviously had a lot of thought put into it.Unfortunately, not every novel is perfect, and you will often find the pacing a bit uneven, with parts (especially towards the end), where you are turning the pages desperately to find out what happens next, and other times where you aren’t turning the pages as fast as you should be, which is a letdown, but one that I’m not too fussed about.The novel itself draws upon several Middle Eastern influences, which is something that I’ve not encountered in fantasy before, so Williams gets +1 on the originality front (if there are more fantasy novels that draw from Middle Eastern influences that I haven’t read yet, drop me a line – I’d love to read them). You can tell that the world has been carefully constructed with a lot of research put into it, especially when you look at the magic system.If there’s something else that let the novel down, again a minor issue, is that the ‘big reveal’ wasn’t as good as it could have been, and people who’ve read this novel will probably share my thoughts on this thing. Also, there’s romance, lots and lots of romance in this novel, although don’t let that put you off from reading The Emperor’s Knife. Romance or not, you won’t want to be missing this. It contains several elements of a dark fantasy novel, yet at the same time it still feels like you’re reading an epic fantasy, a novel that could be fit into the same sort of genre as George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.I’d also like to point out that although The Emperor’s Knife is technically part of a trilogy, aside from a few parts where Williams sets the scene for the rest of the novel, it could effectively be read as a standalone. However, my advice is, don’t read it as a standalone and buy the next book as soon as it comes out! For one, I can’t wait to read it, and if Williams sorts out the pacing in the next novel, it will be truly superb. I strongly recommend this novel to any fans of fantasy that are looking to try something new.Verdict: 4.5/5More Tower and Knife: The Emperor’s Knife, Knifesworn (Coming Soon) Original Post:

  • Leontii Cristea
    2019-06-04 05:36

    The Emperor’s Knife, the first in a new trilogy (The Tower and the Knife), is Mazarkis Williams’ début novel—and one of the first offerings from brand new SFF imprint, Jo Fletcher Books (Quercus).I recently interviewed Mazarkis (interview link to be added when it goes live over at Fantasy Faction), before I’d finished up with the book, and found him to be a great guy who told a great story. It may sound obvious, but sometimes in the modern market, writers are so bogged down with what they “should” be writing, that sometimes the story suffers. Williams tells a story; nothing more, nothing less. And for it, The Emperor’s Knife is an engaging, interesting book that really whets the appetite for the following books in the series.The Emperor’s Knife offers a setting with a definite Persian/Arabian flavour—picture both Prince of Persia and Arabian Nights, then meet somewhere in the middle, and we’re there—which is both exotic, a break from the pseudo-European worlds that permeate fantasy, and exciting. We’re treated to tall towers, hot desert sands and nomads, glittering palaces, and an almighty Emperor, seen as the Son of Heaven. It’s a spectacular setting that stretches from the beautiful palace and the urban expanse it sits at the heart of, across the desert, and to flat plains where the grasses are tousled by the winds and the Windreaders dwell. It’s a beautifully set book, with a very clear sense of imagery: you are very aware of what everything looks like, and the level of immersion is unusually deep.For a début novel, this is utterly stunning. Williams weaves a deeply subtle and mysterious story with very little effort, and to the very last page, the plotting is tight, clean and strong. In fact, the book was an absolute pleasure to read: a pleasure to identify with each and every character, even in a small way; a pleasure to turn each page, constantly guessing at the nature of the villain and his “weapon”; a pleasure to reach the final page with a huge grin, eagerly seeking the rest of the story to see what happens to the characters you’ve come to know.Williams’ styling is different, cleaner, and definitely more simplistic in parts, than what I’m used to. My ideal fashion of prose is somewhere between Patrick Rothfuss and Elspeth Cooper, with Blake Charlton’s exposition thrown in. Williams’ style is close to none of these; it is entirely different. Whilst he does flirt with exposition in parts, the presentation is so different and integral to the narrative of his characters, that he comes exceptionally close to the idea of “show, not tell”, for a fantasy novel. Personally, someone tells me to “show, not tell” and I want to run a thousand miles in the opposite direction. It reminds me far too much of non-genre lecturers slowly killing the art of exposition, word by word. However, I enjoyed Williams’ style: it added to the mystery and effect of his setting, somehow.It’s an incredibly subtle novel, but one that compels you to keep turning the pages, right until the very end. The characters are interesting and likeable—Sarmin, trapped and kept from the world; Mesema, taken from her home by duty, and thrown into a tangled web of intrigue; Eyul, ever seeking forgiveness for the blood on his hands—and keep the reader’s attention rooted, even when there’s little action taking place.In fact, there isn’t much in the way of action, and this certainly isn’t a “swashbuckling” tale of scimitars. Instead, it’s a fantasy-mystery with one of the most subtle, yet ingenious plots I have seen in a long time. Perhaps what really makes The Emperor’s Knife succeed as a fantasy-mystery, is that is lacks the necessary components that make a classic mystery: there is no hint of a “whodunit”, and no real way of tracing events to their source in order to figure out the villain. Of course, throughout the story a list of “possible suspects” is built up, but it is a small one, and one of the characters was struck from the list immediately, following the same line of thought of “the butler did it”. Williams’ is too slick for the blindingly obvious. (I am fairly proud that I guessed the villain (of course I won’t reveal the identity here!), and prouder still that it was a single line that led me to guess just who was behind the Pattern.)As one of Jo Fletcher Books’ first offerings, The Emperor’s Knife has definitely sealed my initial opinion at least: this new imprint is one to look out for. Williams’ début was an anticipated read, for me, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. A fantastic book with a deep vein of emotion and thought about human nature beneath, The Emperor’s Knife strikes a chord because it is such a human story—yet an ultimately positive story.A brilliant, slick, and well-crafted début.

  • Anne Lyle
    2019-06-11 05:37

    The Emperor’s Knife is one of a flush of Middle-Eastern-inspired fantasies that came out in 2011 – an encouraging trend, since that milieu has been sadly neglected in the genre despite being a rich source of myth and story formerly very popular in the West. The setting is a secondary world rather than the historical Middle East, but with its deserts, grand viziers and palace intrigue it manages to capture an Arabian Nights feel whilst allowing Williams a broader palette for storytelling.The central conceit of the book is the Pattern, a magical analogue of the elaborate pattern of a Persian rug. The Pattern is generally believed to be a disease: once it appears on a victim’s skin (somewhat like a tattoo), the person either dies or becomes a kind of zombie, physically alive but with their old personality gone. However there’s literally much more to the Pattern than meets the eye, and the characters of The Emperor’s Knife became enmeshed in it in ways they never imagined.Four main characters carry the narrative: Prince Sarmin, who has been kept locked in a tower since childhood as a secret backup in case his brother the emperor fails to produce an heir; Eyul, the emperor’s Knife, i.e. assassin; Tuvaini, the obligatory scheming grand vizier; and Mesema, daughter of a nomad chieftain and intended bride of Sarmin. These four offer very different and often opposing perspectives on events, and the frequent switches between the four helps to keep the story moving along even when not much is happening in an individual’s timeline.The narrative pace did sag somewhat in the second quarter; it felt like Williams was struggling to fill the time whilst all the pieces moved into position, resulting in several scenes where characters had long conversations that didn’t amount to much. It didn’t help that some of these conversations were almost too realistic, wandering around a topic that neither character wanted to discuss—or even think about—directly, and in one case I was left very confused as to what was actually going on. However once everyone got back to the capital city the pace started to pick up and I read the second half of the book in a couple of days.Also, whilst the characters were generally interesting and well-developed, I felt that the assassin Eyul lacked something. Maybe it was just a combination of the aforementioned confusing scenes, Eyul’s own repressed personality and my being unwell whilst reading the book, but his emotional arc didn’t quite work for me.Flaws aside, though, there’s a lot to enjoy in this book. Prince Sarmin is a delightfully gender-reversed Rapunzel, spurred into action by unexpected visits to his lonely tower, and Mesema is the kind of strong female character I love to read about: not a “kickass warrior babe” male fantasy but a resourceful young woman coping admirably with the scary new world she’s been thrown into. Also, the magic of the Pattern is pleasingly organic, woven into the fabric of the world, its mysteries unrolling before the reader like a…(OK, enough with the Persian rug metaphors! Ed.) *ahem*In summary, if you’re looking for an action-packed fantasy epic you’re going to be disappointed by this book. If on the other hand you enjoy a character-driven tale of political intrigue as subtle and intricate as the Pattern itself, I can strongly recommend it. It’s a solid debut, and I’ll certainly be picking up the next book in the series.

  • Mia
    2019-05-28 09:41

    The Emperor's Knife is a story about the diseased Cerani Empire, suffering from a blight as well as from conspiracies at the highest levels.An affliction plagues the lands. Marks appear on the skin of the afflicted and spread until the entire body shows the pattern. A mystery surrounds the pattern. No one knows its origin or how to prevent it. It is feared that it serves some sinister purpose, masterminded by a hidden architect with unrighteous designs for the empire. Great measures are taken to protect the kingdom-- all marked persons are put to death. But what happens when Emperor Beyon himself shows the marks? The Empire is also being decimated from within. The people who enjoy the Emperor's trust plot against him, wrapping self-interest with a cloak of concern for the future of the Empire. In truth, old resentments and ambition lie at the heart of the deceptions.Three unsuspecting people are caught up in all the machinations. Sarmin, the Emperor's only surviving brother and successor, has been locked up most of his life purportedly for his own protection. He possesses powers he has yet to discover. Mesema, a woman from a faraway tribe, is on her way to Cerani to be a bride for Sarmin, political bartering at work. Despite the mercenary horsetrading, however, her intended union with Sarmin seems pre-ordained by her talents. Eyul is the Emperor's Knife or assassin whose loyalty to the crumbling empire engenders to find a way to save it.Mazarkis Williams employs a restrained, deliberate pace. The first quarter of the book is steeped in mystery and suggestion. It indicates something magical and sinister but it doesn't quite tell you what it is. There is a decidedly mysterious tone permeating the whole of this book. This increases the intrigue factor and keeps you reading. Most of the characters are fascinating and engrossing, carrying out their unique parts in this tale. It stalls a bit when it comes to some of the interpersonal, romantic relationships. Some suffer a bit from not having enough background while others seem to come to an abrupt halt. This is a double-edged sword-- the only reason to feel the lack of a foundation is because of great curiosity and interest in these relationships. The magic system is intriguing and powerful. There are mages that have elemental powers. There is precognition and clairvoyance. The magic that surrounds the pattern is also very fascinating. I do wish I knew more about how it all works. It shows you much about what it can do, but not enough of its source and its inner workings.It is in the political subterfuge and machinations where this tale is most particularly developed and absorbing. Events unfold slowly, always indicating an unknown grand design. But the seemingly isolated and disjointed events are painstakingly tied together. All the planning and plotting lead to a comprehensive and satisfying resolution. The Emperor's Knife will be enjoyed by those who are fond of exotic settings. There are palaces, deserts, horse tribes. It also has many Middle Eastern elements. It is a world with harsh, old-world traditions-- the primacy of royal blood, male dominance, familial possessions, class distinctions. While there is sword and sorcery, this tale is more mystical and cerebral. I am more than sufficiently intrigued to want to read the next book. I'm attracted to the tone and mood of this tale and can see a vast landscape within which it can proceed.

  • Emmanuel
    2019-05-24 13:53

    A magic of Many.A review of “The Emperor’s Knife” by Mazarkis Williams.When discussing fantasy with a thorough reader it is hard to come up with an element or idea he has not already read in some other book. This is why, in general; the ability of writers to come up with innovative ways of delivering these ideas keeps marveling me. I’m not implying “The Emperor’s Knife” is not a thing of novelty. What I’m saying is that the struggle to protect the realm from the menace of a hidden enemy has been brought to life in a new way throughout the pages of this book.“The Emperor’s Knife” is a book of magic and yet magic is not its main focus. It is a book of politics, of schemes and hidden players and yet, it is much more. “The Emperor’s Knife” is a tapestry made of the hopes and fears of its many characters, characters shackled by their power, by their duty, by their greed, by their fears and the fears they inspire. And a unique as they are, these all too real characters are naught more than lines and shapes in the greater pattern of their enemy. Reading this book put me in mind of those people who make shapes out of string, and you never know what shape will be revealed until that last tug of the string is made. I like to consider myself an experienced reader and being able to predict how things will end. But on many occasions the answers that were being hinted at were those I had not had the questions for. One other interesting thing about the story is the detail poured into each character to such extent that I could not point one over the others as being the main character. This does not mean there is not someone to root for, or to relate to. Be it the old assassin weighed down by age as much as he is tormented by the things he was made to do; be it the young bride traded as a currency on the scales of statehood or the Emperor and his brother, both lonely and isolated. One by the power he wields, the other by fear of the powers he might one day command.All in all, there is no reason not to read this book and a lot of reasons to read it. The plot is a marvel of complexity but from what the prologue of the next volume lets us glimpse of following events, it may well not be the apex of the serie.

  • A.E. Marling
    2019-06-06 06:38

    If you love NK Jemisin's innovative prose, you may enjoy the way Mazarkis Williams paints with words. At times, the reader is given an impression of what is happening, a flavor, a flash of color, rather than told with commonplace sentences.I think the cover of the Emperor's Knife might cause false expectations. Yes, the story includes an intriguing assassin who is servant to the empire, but he is but one of four viewpoint characters, who receive more or less equal time. The other is a prince held prisoner in case his brother, the emperor, dies without producing an heir; he fights against madness in his solitary confinement, his only company the angels and demons who speak to him through the walls. Next comes a middle-aged vizier fighting for the recognition he believes he deserves from long years of service. Last is the noble princess of a tribe of horsemen, secreted away to be the bride for the imprisoned prince, so they may produce an heir in hiding. This is necessary because the emperor is turning into a beautiful zombie.That's not quite true, but I feel it captures the essence of the story's allure. Blue patterns are spreading over people, a pox of crescents of geometric shapes which are pooling their consciousness into one diabolic entity. The vizier (and others) fear that once these deadly designs spread far enough over the emperor, he will become a thrall to an unknown master. This plague of beauty is sweeping over not only humanity but the landscape itself, patterning into the grass on windy days as well as etching the sand dunes.Speaking of sand, the setting has all the richness of a journey into the heart of a desert empire, a palace of painted rooms and grand towers, along with the coarseness of the vermin living in alleys. One last note about the cover. As far as I understood it, the titular knife is more like an honest dagger than the double-bladed weapon shown on the illustration.

  • Lisa Bouchard
    2019-05-22 11:31

    The Emperor’s Knife, Book One of the Tower and Knife Trilogy, by Mazarkis Williams4.8 out of 5 starsPros: multi-layered political intrigue, non-European style setting, strong women Cons: not enough on the religion and magic systemsI read much more Science Fiction than Fantasy, but the gorgeous cover and inside flap description sucked me right into buying this book. I know, shame on me for judging a book by its cover but in this case I am glad I did.The Cerani Empire is besieged by a plague which leaves tattooed patterns along the skin of the afflicted, who are called Carriers. The Carriers who do not die a horrible, painful death are eventually controlled by the Pattern Master. The emperor has ordered all who show even the slightest sign of the marks be put to death. Unfortunately, he succumbs to the patterns.Being the Emperor in Cerani is a risky job and by the time this novel ends, four men have sat on the throne. I am fascinated by the patterns and how the Pattern Master reads and uses them to control his victims. At first I thought they would be like zombies, shambling along to do their master’s bidding, but I was wrong. They are much more like a hive mind, working in concert. This is similar to something else in the book that I won’t tell you about. It’s too spoilery and you’ll just have to read the book to see what I mean.I wish there was more on the religious and magical systems of the book, and how they intertwined. I am hoping Williams saved that for the second book.A compelling read – don’t wait for the paperback version.

  • Meera
    2019-05-21 06:30

    I was surprised by how good this book was! It's a little like "A Game of Thrones" with it's intricate court schemes, but with a lot more magic. I particularly like the pattern magic, but I hope the elemental side will be developed in the next book. The characters were solid and well developed. There were a few plot points that didn't seem quite right, but considering this is Williams' debut novel it's not so surprising and I expect his/her writing will mature. Although this is the first in the trilogy, the story is self-contained, so even if the book isn't quite your cup of tea you won't be left hanging! Hopefully there will be a greater story arc spanning the entire trilogy, which I believe is not beyond Williams' capabilities.