Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Emperor's Knife - Tower and Knife #1 - Mazarkis Williams

Release Date: October 27th, 2011
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 450
Format: Paperback

Source: Bought

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.


I'm all for shaking up the usual Fantasy setting and Williams has done a wonderful job accomplishing just this. We enter a Middle Eastern scenery with the matching silk robes and exotic weather and buildings, while being introduced to the rather harsh culture of the Cerani Empire. (They ride camels! I was so used to reading about characters riding horses it didn't sink in at first. Off course they're riding camels in the desert, that's kind of logical, but it was still a nice "ha!" moment for me.)

Political intrigue and betrayal is a central theme in "The Emperor's Knife", but interweaved is the imaginative plot of a disease threatening to overwhelm the people of the Cerani Empire. And it's not just any disease, but a blue/red Pattern of circles, crescent moons, triangles, diamonds, ... that slowly spreads over the body and when complete, kills you or makes you a puppet doing the bidding of the Pattern Master. Big thumbs up for this original idea, the mystery about the Pattern and its Master got me hooked right away.

I'm a big fan of Williams' writing! There are lots of writers that can write fairly good, but don't give me that extra, special feeling. Mazarkis Williams is definitely in the group of authors that can write beautifully. I love the way she describes everything and how she can make her character's thoughts sound so philosophical and put so much meaning in them.

Although I enjoyed the story, I didn't get a "wow" feeling while reading it. There's definitely room for improvement and some growing. I can't really pinpoint a real problem, but I missed some sort of connection with the story, it could have used more depth on some occasions. I'm really frustrated I can't put a definite 'why' on the problem, I want to give the author an explanation if a make a remark about their book.
At times the story confused me a bit, everything happening at a rather fast-moving pace, which is where I missed the depth sometimes, this especially in the second halve of the book. Williams did succeed in surprising me about certain decisions the characters had to make (Eyul and Amalya) and I would have liked more of these shock moments in the second halve.
The ending was good, but not as explosive as I'd hoped it would be. I kind of already guessed who the Pattern Master was (but not why he did it). But still, I'm curious about the rest of Sarmin and Mesema's story.

I'm starting the second book, Knife Sworn, in a few minutes and I'm really hoping I can find what's missing in the first one in there. 


1 comment:

  1. I am glad you liked it. I love books with The WOW element; it keeps me happy with the book but still sound like a novel I would enjoy...