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The Emperor's Knife (Tower and Knife Trilogy) [Hardcover]

Mazarkis Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
RRP: 14.99
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Book Description

27 Oct 2011 Tower and Knife Trilogy (Book 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 his 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. When Beyon's patterns are revealed and the Grand Vizier seizes the throne, the Knife spirits her to safety. 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.

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The Emperor's Knife (Tower and Knife Trilogy) + Low Town: The Straight Razor Cure + Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, Book 1): 1/3
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 388 pages
  • Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books (27 Oct 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857388002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857388001
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 491,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'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 novel puts great writing to the service of vivid characters, a compelling plot and a wholly convincing fantasy world' Ben Aaronovitch. 'A fascinating, original and enthralling début that will leave the reader eagerly awaiting the next instalment' The Founding Fields. 'This amazing tale of magic and political scheming is a work of high fantasy in every way ... A grown-up and utterly brilliantly well-wrought epic fantasy' Ranting Dragon. 'A must read - it's fresh, it's exciting and [...] looks set to get even better!' Fantasy Faction.

'Fans of fantasy intrigue will want to try this new author' Library Journal. 'A strong fantasy novel with a fresh setting, rich characters and an enjoyable storyline' Adam Whitehead, The Wertzone. 'An ambitious debut novel ... demonstrates great deal of promise in its author' Justin Landon, Staffer's Musings. 'A debut with great potential' Stefan Fergus, Civilian Reader.

'Mazarkis Williams ... immediately ranks among the year's most exciting new fantasy authors' Fantasy Book Critic. 'Some wonderfully imaginative ideas that will [...] keep you reading' Book Monkey. 'It's a highly complex novel, filled with devious sub-plots, and enough twists to satisfy even the most demanding reader' Popcorn Reads. 'Replete with political intrigue and mystery, The Emperor's Knife is a story I will remember' Tim's Book Reviews. 'An ambitious, sophisticated and thoughtful debut novel' SF Signal.

From the Inside Flap

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... In 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 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 towards 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. 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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing debut, with great promise 6 Nov 2011
"The Emperor's Knife" is a debut fantasy with both an original and classic feel. It draws on some classic fantasy elements, but puts a new spin on them, making this a refreshingly original politics-infused novel. While not a page-turning action adventure, the novel has a strong grasp on political intrigue and a slow-boiling plot that will draw the reader in and work its way under your skin.

Williams has created an interesting culture for his series - it is partly influenced by Middle Eastern nations, with a quite a strong (apparent) Turkish or Ottoman feel, only set in a desert location. Some fantasy tropes are featured - for example, the conniving Lord High Vizier - but the world, characters and plot manage to steer it away from unoriginality and deja vu.

"The Emperor's Knife" is steeped in palace politics, intrigue and power squabbles. The Emperor describes the Imperial Palace as a "garden full of snakes", filled with factions vying for attention or power, manipulating others into position for maximum gain and effect. There is also some well-placed commentary on the historical nature of international and royal relations, comprised of "deals with wombs and weapons" - which is probably one of the best phrases I've read in years, fully encapsulating the reality of much of the history of international relations.

To delve too much into the events of the novel will potentially spoil things for a first-time reader, so I'm going to keep the review pretty general and focus on impressions of characters, plot and style.

The novel follows a number of perspectives, but there are three that are more central to the story. Mesema, the daughter of a lord from the steppes, traded to the Cerani in return for favour.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A real slog to get through 6 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
New author and new publisher, I really wanted to enjoy this but sadly failed to.

I bought this on it's release and since then have picked it up many times before putting it down and reading something else and I only finished it this Christmas through determined effort and insufficient pleasure.

It is a fantasy with deep and complex politics, against a consuming evil known as the 'pattern' - princes locked in towers, visions and infanticide. The Emperor's Knife is an assassin who takes blood on behalf of the Emperor and is a central character. He, like many of the characters in the book was hard to like and to emphasise with and this was a main failing in the book - insufficient people I actually cared about. Then these people are placed in a deep and complex plot that you have to work very hard to get any joy out of.

Maybe there are those readers who love complex plots and want to absorb every word but for those who like fast paced, entertaining fantasy with engaging characters, this is probably not the book for them.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something Missing at the Heart of the Empire 2 July 2012
"The Emperor's Knife", first off, is a beautiful-looking book. Embossed hardback, with the obligatory "mysterious hooded fantasy figure" in the foreground, and an exotic city of dreaming spires in the background, ringed around with the pattern so central to the plot. Jacket design is by Ghost, and the front cover is credited to Archangel images, but I'd like to see the artist credited on the jacket, as it's a stunning piece of work. But we try not to judge books by their covers round here, so on to the content.

The novel, Williams' first, is set in what appears to be a fantastic version of the Middle East - there's more than a spicy whiff of "Arabian Nights" about it, with its deserts, marbled palaces, harems, assassins, and scheming Grand Viziers (is there any other kind of Grand Vizier, I wonder?). Prince Sarmin is spared from death and imprisoned to provide a spare should anything befall his older brother, Emperor Beyon. He is trapped in a tower in the palace while a curse stalks the city, a mysterious pattern that marks the skin of the afflicted, killing the sufferers or turning them into mindless zombies. The Emperor has decreed that all who carry the marks of the pattern should be put to death. But now Beyon himself has fallen victim to the disease, and it's time for Sarmin, the forgotten brother, to be pushed into the spotlight.

Williams' ideas are original and fascinating; the Pattern, controlled by a mysterious Master, that stains itself on to the skin of its victims, mysterious cities rising and falling in the desert, mages bonded with an elemental spirit that will eventually destroy them. The ideas are rich, and the language that conveys them is lush and ripe, flowing like poetry, or patterns on skin. But...but...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not convincing 20 April 2012
Hate to be the first doubting review, but I really didn't find this book to be amazing. It was OK, not awful, just not great. Probably a personal thing, but I didn't enjoy the prose style, I found it a bit dreamlike, verging a tiny bit on magic realism, which I detest. I never felt that I was drawn in enough to be reading it with 100% attention. The pattern magic isn't really explained enough to be solidly convincing and there is no real feeling of depth given to the world. I didn't really care about any of the characters and probably won't want to find out what happens in the next two books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great find
First book that promised much, good concept and fast paced read. More of a dark ages storyline with the fantasy side well executed nd realistic.
Published 3 months ago by S. K. Webb
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting start to the Tower & Knife trilogy
Mazarkis Williams is an author I've been aware of for a couple of years. They - since Mazarkis Williams is a pen name and the author's identity and gender is unknown (to me at... Read more
Published 6 months ago by W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada
4.0 out of 5 stars Where it starts
The first in the series and enjoyed the introduction to the "new world" where the story takes place. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Good start
Not a bad start to what i assume will be a trilogy, it took me a couple of chapters to get into the story but once there it was entertaining.
Published 7 months ago by Rich
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a struggle
I struggled with this book. Whilst I like the concept of the story, I found the narrative tended to bounce around between plots and characters and at times i struggled to follow... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mark
4.0 out of 5 stars An Awe-Inspiring Journey for the Imagination
Enter a world where power lies in patterns painted in the sand, the grass and on the skin of the people. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Hypervorean
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply similar yet different
It's a common story used by most and yet the finer details of the plot set it aside from the common fodder. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Steven Jarrad
5.0 out of 5 stars This remarkable, extraordinary fantastical masterpiece will have you...
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... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Lucinda
5.0 out of 5 stars great debut
I loved this book. A fresh new style and unusual characters. It's not a hack and slash assassin book but there's lots going on. It's like fantasy for grownups.
Published on 7 May 2012 by bookster1
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastical release
Jo Fletcher is a name that most people know in the fantasy world, not only because she's a huge fan of the genre but mainly due to the sheer volume of books she's helped bring to... Read more
Published on 29 Feb 2012 by Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog
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