The Emperor's Knife

The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams, The Tower and Knife Trilogy #1

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

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

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

Another title that I have had my eye on for quite some time is The Emperor’s Knife, the debut of Mazarkis Williams and the first book in the Tower and Knife Trilogy. The Emperor’s Knife was originally published in the US back in 2011 but was brought to the UK in October the same year by Jo Fletcher books, lately I have been steadily reading more and more epic fantasy, really to my pleasure, I have been missing this genre too much! Mazarkis Williams has written a very strong debut. The world is dynamic and interesting, the characters nicely fleshed out and offered a lot of interesting perspective and more over the magic and action in the book is brutal and graphic, but also has an engaging storyline that leaves you wanting more.

The Emperor’s Knife centers around several different characters, each with their own storyline but they do have one common cause. Those three perspective consist of an aged and highly trained assassin Eyul, Mesema a Felting of the Northern Plains and Prince Sarmin, the only surviving brother of the current Emperor. I found each of these different storyline quite interesting as they each showed really how the characters thought and how they perceived the enemies that threatened the Cerani Empire. Eyul, the assassin, set out to find out exactly how and what is happening with the Pattern Master (this is cool stuff but I will get to it). His journey takes him to the desert and a lot of other different places and in his adventure there is plenty of action from blade to blade to magical interferences. Though the action is pretty tight, it’s not where the emphasis lies. Eyul has this wicked blade, that he uses in his assassinations, I for one found this Emperor’s Knife very interesting and led me on many question one of which whether these powers were from Eyul himself or if the blade would hold something itself.

 Mesema offered another perspectives from a different range. Mesema is the daughter of an Felting Clan Lord who is charged with a pre-arranged marriage. She is accompanied by a Cerani general to finally meet up with her new husband. Mesema is in a interesting position that really brings out her womanly attitude and characteristics in the story, she is surrounded by only other male soldiers which make her actions all seem that more determined and powerful, the theme of self development, preservation and caring about your origins really ring true in her part.

The last perspective is that of Sarmin, the only surviving younger brother of the Cerani Emperor Beyon. Sarmin is locked in a tower with only a few people even know that he is still alive. But now that the Pattern Master has gotten hold of the Emperor Beyon, Sarmin could be the last hope to save the Cerani Empire, as long as he can produce an heir. However with Sarmin being locked away in the Tower, he is steadily losing his mind and this could be a problem… Sarmin’s point-of-view added a whole new different flavor into the mix, yes there was already a bit of courtly intrigue playing the background with the history of Eyul and Beyon and how he got to power, but with Sarmin this element really start to ring through. And the ending of the book… yes yes yes! I think that with this ending and all that Sarmin has become a lot of people will be having Sarmin high up their like list.

Ok so these are the three main story threats that you follow, the great thing is that they are all connected with each other and on the first go it might seem they are separate but they all actually fight for the same cause, stopping the Pattern Master. Some of you might wonder come on tell what is the Pattern Master well. Here goes. There is a sort of disease spreading throughout the Cerani Empire known as the Pattern, once it’s on your body you will be slowly covered by more and more of the Pattern and finally you will turn into a Carrier, one to be controlled by the Pattern Master, and in many cases probably for the worse of it. The ruling is clear in the Cerani Empire and everyone who contracts this disease is terminated on the spot… however now that the Emperor has been starting to show signs of the Pattern… desperate measure are being undertaken. If I am going to be honest, I have to say that I really but really liked this concept of the Pattern Master, it pretty awesome and shows to inspire all the Cerani people in a state of fear. Even more so is that the Pattern Master itself stays on the background a lot and action remains elusive.

Another great aspect of the book is how the actions scenes and magic systems were told. It’s all with it’s own flourish. The magic in The Emperor’s Knife consists of two different things an elemental side and their own human side. And once the mages start unleashing their power full force it takes you right there to the edge of your seat. The whole story is further bolstered by the writing style of Mazarkis Williams, I hardly had to get used to it. It felt natural and once I was into the story I was there till the finish. His usage of words and how to expose several scenes were done in great ways and mainly when the action got heated it felt like I was right there. Considering that this is his debut makes it all even more impressive, the ending of the story does leave it all on a bit of a cliffhanger, which I am eager to explore further. The second book, Knife-Sworn and the third book, The Tower Broken are already out by Jo Fletcher books, be sure to check them out!

The Emperor’s Knife is a great debut by Mazarkis Williams, it has a lot of cool idea’s, some of which you are already fully introduced to while he keeps other still more elusive for the sequels to come. If I would have to judge both the storyline and all the surrounds it the world building and characters I wouldn’t have dared to say that this is a debut. Mazarkis Williams writes in an elegant, approachable and addictive way and lets the full story come to life. Most epic fantasy book all feature in a particular world setting kingdoms and knights, and though in some cases this is still true for The Emperor’s Knife, the story takes place in a desert area, middle eastern, steppe inspired and this adds a lot of flavor. If you are into Epic or High Fantasy you really have to give The Emperor’s Knife a try, you won’t be disappointed.

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