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The Emperor's Knife (Tower and Knife) Paperback – June 26, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews
Book 2 of 3 in the Tower and Knife Series

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Editorial Reviews


'A riveting and intense debut ... compelling characterizations will keep fans of grim fantasy entirely enthralled' Publisher's Weekly.

'It makes for a rich and entertaining storytelling environment, and Williams creates a twisty and enjoyable tale ... this is strongly recommended' SFX.

'The Emperor's Knife is a well-crafted narrative The story flows well and the writing strikes a great balance between description and action' British Fantasy Journal.

'The Emperor's Knife is a tale of fear and fluidity, of evolution and ego, and is one that is dictated in a style so visual and penetrating that it will have the Pattern invading your dreams long after the final pages have turned' Fantasy Book Review. 'sophisticated and thoughtful' SF signal. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Mazarkis Williams is a writer with roots in both the US and UK, having worked in and been educated in both countries. Each year is divided between Boston and Bristol and a teleport booth is always top of the Christmas wish-list.

Williams has degrees in history and physics with a diverse set of interests accumulated while misspending a hectic youth. Cooking has always been a passion and in addition to feeding six children and a sizable herd of cats Williams regularly caters for crowds of permanently hungry friends.

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Product Details

  • Series: Tower and Knife (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Night Shade Books (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597804029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597804028
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,364,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Justin Landon on October 27, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
One 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. 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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The overall story was decent, full of magic and intrigue, and I thought that it was a decent effort for a first novel. Other reviewers mentioned that the constant perspective shifts were tough to follow and while there are a lot of perspective shifts (sometimes multiple shifts in one chapter), I thought the author handled these just fine - I never had a hard time figuring out which character was the POV character. The only criticisms I'd make about the story are that sometimes the descriptions of the magic (the pattern) and the action seemed to a bit blurry - I felt like *something* was happening, but I wasn't sure what it was because the description was so esoteric that it distracted me from the purpose of the moment.

My second main criticism was really this book's weakest point, which was the role of women in the story. I'd read other reviews that mentioned there was a lot of sex, which didn't scare me off, but what those reviews didn't mention is that this story essentially portrays women as eager sex kittens who have only two real goals in life: to be sexually available for any male that comes along (and thus get pregnant) and to do their best to eliminate any competition for sex kitten status. Now I'm not usually a champion of the feminist perspective, but this story really just hit a nerve for me I guess. The women were described in the story as being devious, clever and backstabbing, but they never really demonstrated any of these qualities, aside from some a few snide comments here and there. The Queen Mother was obviously in a position of respect and importance, but was still relegated to bartering sexual favors to accomplish goals.
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