The Emperors Knife

The Emperors Knife

3.4 198
by Mazarkis Williams

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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. Geometric patterns spread across the skin, until the victim dies in agony or becomes a Carrier, doing the bidding of an evil intelligence.

The lost prince Sarmin, the emperor's only surviving brother, lies locked in a hidden room…  See more details below


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. Geometric patterns spread across the skin, until the victim dies in agony or becomes a Carrier, doing the bidding of an evil intelligence.

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: now he awaits a bride, Mesema, a Windreader from the northern plains. She is accustomed to riding free across the grasslands and finds the Imperial Court stifling, but she soon realizes the politicking is not a game. It is in deadly earnest.

Eyul, the imperial assassin, is burdened by the atrocities he has committed. As commanded, 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, 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 saw a path in a pattern once, among the waving grasses.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Williams’s riveting and intense debut is driven as much by the emotional scars of a ruthless court as by the court’s intrigues. The Empire is haunted by a mysterious, incurable curse: soon after the strange markings of the Pattern appear on people’s bodies, they either die or become the murderous puppets of an unseen force. When heir-less Emperor Beyon becomes Patterned, his mother and the vizier plot to use his brother, Prince Sarmin, to their own ends. Sarmin, however, is embittered by a lifetime spent hidden in a luxurious prison—an emperor is allowed no surviving brothers—and joins forces with his fiancée, Mesema, a nomad chief’s daughter, to put an end to royal assassinations. Their plans are then derailed by the discovery of a person manipulating the horrifying Pattern, more dangerous than any coup. Compelling characterizations will keep fans of grim fantasy entirely enthralled. (Dec.)
Library Journal
A strange plague that marks its victims with geometric patterns before it kills them or makes them a carrier for the evil Pattern Master sweeps across the Cerrani Empire. The Emperor has decreed death for anyone infected, but now he, too, has the marks and hopes that his agents can find a cure. Meanwhile, Sarmin, the Emperor's sole surviving brother, awaits the bride chosen for him, Mesema, a windreader of the nomadic horse tribes, and Eyul, the Emperor's "Knife," grows tired of killing for his lord. VERDICT Williams's fantasy debut, the first volume of a projected trilogy, details an exotic world that combines Asian and Middle Eastern cultural references with subtle intrigue and a touch of romance. Fans of fantasy intrigue will want to try this new author.

Product Details

Night Shade Books
Publication date:
Tower and Knife , #2
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Barnes & Noble
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549 KB

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The Emperor's Knife 3.4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 198 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This one's hard to judge for me. On the one hand, I couldn't put it down and know I'll buy the next one. At the same time, over and over again the character's actions felt forced, too fast. Not that anyone ever acted in a way I didn't think was plausible...eventually. But the change of heart, the bold, brave decision, the sacrafice, whatever usually happened without enough set up. All of a sudden the decision was made without any debate or struggle. It was very frustrating, especially because the first half had felt a bit slow, and the last half tumbled along far too fast to be satisfying or feel like anything but skimming on the surface, only touching the most important parts and ignoring everything that should stitch them together. That said, the story and early character development was good enough that, at the end, my overall feeling is that I enjoyed it and want to know what happens next.
ffred1932 More than 1 year ago
This novel, set in a fantasy land which could be central Asia before the rise of Islam (but isn't), is peopled by a cast of finely drawn characters who bring the action forward briskly. The writing is taught, the plot not artificially complicated, and, in spite of being fantasy, is logical, one event building securely upon the last. The villain is a disease, and the story unfolds with the action various characters perform, often at odds with one another, in their quest to find a cure or conceal its depredations. The character of Sarmin develops over the story arc, from an inexperienced young man held hostage for years into a -- well you'll see if you read the book. This reviewer is an avid reader, and can recognize good writing. This novel is on a par with Gaiman, Martin and the rest. Williams has hit the bulls eye on his first attempt.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mazarkis is a talented, new author. He brings you into the Deserts of the Cerani Empire. You follow his characters along their tales as they try to figure out the workings of the Pattern Master. I personally couldn't help but fall deeply in love with all of his characters. His scenes are gripping and vivid. His characters are diverse and creative. I personally cannot wait for the next installment in his series. A great read and worth it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really dislike fantasy. I go out of my to avoid any form of fantasy, even comic books. This free Friday book just happened to fall on a week when I was desperate for something to read, did not have time to sort through the freebies and could only dream about purchasing books. So I gritted my teeth, and started to read. I enjoyed every line. What a pleasant surprize. There is nothing to complain about, in this book. Recommended to all readers, ages 14 and up. AD
Sarah_JaneMA More than 1 year ago
I barely came up for air in reading this book. The personalities are so well drawn that the twists of plot (and the reach of disease) feel like they affect the people who are part of your everyday environment. There are moments when I sputtered out loud -- or laughed. I typically read more nonfiction than fiction. I am glad that I picked up this novel for a weekend getaway. I got lost in it. That makes two getaways in one. One tribe in this novel is known as 'the Felt' (as in wool felt), and there is a female Felt character I hope to meet again. As this is billed as the first in a trilogy, I'm thinking my hope might actually be realized. Hope you're listening, Mazarkis!
SmalltownSR More than 1 year ago
This was a very interesting book; great story line, good action, and intriguing. Very hard to put down.
EverReaderBC More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader and am always on the lookout for new authors in the field and this is one to look forward to. The characters and world building were top notch and I am looking forward to continue reading in this world. I would have given five stars but the ending of this first segment was a little trite and I saw it coming from a long way off, but still a very good read.
atsmith9 More than 1 year ago
I thought it was a pretty good book. It was a little slow getting going but I think it was because of all the characters involved. It was definitely worth the read though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little hard to get into. But once there it holds your attention,left me wondering an then what?
MamaLucy More than 1 year ago
Intriguing fantasy. The characters are very well developed, with even the "villains" showing emotional depth. I love a book that doesn't stick me with one-dimensional bad guys. The use of magic and fantasy is a bit more unique than what you usually see. All in all, I really recommend this to fellow fantasy readers. The story wrapped up nicely, so I'm curious to see where the sequel will take us...
Katya_Sozaeva More than 1 year ago
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? ¿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.
MRR62 More than 1 year ago
This author's style is different, and it may take some time to acclimate, but the story makes it well worth the effort. The setting is not earth, though parallels can often be glimpsed. Spiritualism and magic weave through the entire tale in ways sometimes unexpected, which keeps the intrigue high. I would not recommend this for pre-adolescents, as the violence can be rather upsetting (though understandable in many instances). The plot centers around a kingdom with a king who's not been able to produce an heir, and his younger brother who's been kept alive and hidden from all for several years, a prisoner in the tower. A force that masks itself as a disease threatens to overtake the kingdom, possessing its citizens and marking them with tattoo-like markings. The markings seem to be evidence of the possession, and the king has ordered all those possessing the markings to be killed... until the king finds the markings on his own body, and knows that he is not yet under the control of the force invading his kingdom. The Emperor's Knife is the person charged with carrying out the dirtiest deeds required by the king, and the only one allowed to kill one with royal blood. What will happen when the king's infection is revealed? How will the surrounding characters carry on around him? Will either brother be able to seat the throne? Or will the invader succeed in the effort to reign? I'm not saying. I encourage you to read this work. I found it well worth my time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It takes a while to read your way into the characters and actions. The setting is so foreign and strewn with unusual names that you may read the first couple of chapters in confusion. But! The writing style is so delicious, the wording so rich, and in the end, the characters so interesting that the depth of the piece gets to you soon. I could not put it down. One of my favorite reads this year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this one. It took a while to figure out what was going on but got your interest to keep "turning" the pages to see what was going to happen next. You'll be surprised to find out who is behind it all at the end. Looking forward to reading the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once I got a hold on the authors writing style it wasn't at all confusing or hard to read. I enjoyed the fact that it was familiar with the ideas of different factions and cultural differences. However it was its own tale and not just a knock off of some other story. I hate it when a popular story gets recycled and slightly altered just so a author can ride on another authors success. Could the book been a little smoother? Sure, but it was still a good enough read for me. I'm looking forward to reading book two.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brilliantly written. A complex and rich fantasy in an almost arabian setting. This isn't a hack and slash book but a subtle and passionate work, marvelously crafted.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not usually into fantasy but this one will keep your interest. :-)
Melhay More than 1 year ago
Fifteen years Sarmin has lived in the high tower room, after his brothers were killed. He receives a visit from his mother telling him she is sending for a Northern Felting woman as his bride. Then a visit from the vizier, Tuvaini, sounding as he is trying to win Prince Sarmin to his cause but decided Sarmin was mad. The few that know Sarmin is alive and hidden away are now turning to hoping he could lead the Empire, now that the King has the marks of the plague; marking him for death, by his law, or to become a Carrier for the Pattern Master, and bore no heir. As tradition, when the King is crowned his younger brothers are put to death by the Emperor's Knife, leaving one King and his son's when he has them as heir - no question or fights for the throne. But Sarmin was saved, foreseen by his mother and the Tower Mage as powerful and going to be needed. This is going to be a tough review for me. Not for bad as I liked this read, but I wanted more through out the book. There were hints and mention of gods and the One God. I kind of wanted more information on the One God and Mogyrk church. I know the Cerani turned away from this belief, so not much remains or is known. but also a lot of insinuation through happenings and remarks regarding the pattern magic. I want to better understand it. Yet I felt like always in suspense, wanting to know about the Patterns and meanings, or what each character had planned and who would prevail. Then most of all, who is the Pattern Master and his plans. I also wondered and worried about Sarmin and what he was capable to do and how to do it. There is so much underlying in the scenes and conversations to think on. The story starts with a prologue of Sarmin witnessing the death of his younger brothers by the blade of the Emperor's Knife, from his tower room. Then we meet the people involved; Mesema, Eyul, King Beyon, Prince Sarmin, Tuvaini, the Empire Mother Nessaket, and a few others. We bring all the people together, each having their own POV and know or see different things of the Patterns or workings of. For the first 20-30 pages I was a little confused as we dive right in and the characters talk vague or double talk/cross each other, leaving me questioning their motives. But not much later I get clarity, of some understanding to what's going on and what they might be up to. I do suggest before starting the book to read the description completely. It will help let you know what you are diving head first into. Then the story opened up and started to fit together in my mind. I started to realize the people who were playing the game and game against each other. Once I knew who to "trust" and what to expect from them, it started to make sense. I liked the touches of the magic here. We got a touch of the Elemental Mages, neat. I liked the Patterned magic, although I'm still piecing the pieces together on Sarmin's half. And the knife, the Emperor's Knife... I wondered on it and the man with it, but I really liked it and the magic wound around it. This is a very good start, debut into the fantasy genre for Mazarkis. I do look forward to continuing this trilogy to see what Mazarkis has in store for Sarmin and Mesema.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Original story. Strong characters. Only negative is the subtle point of view shifts within chapters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dark and sinister,but it kept my interest throughout. Sad with very little hope, yet a good look into human nature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This another created world book that is extremely engrossing. If you read for the brief escape into other worlds this one will do it. Like many, it takes a few chapters to begin to understand the many characters and the mystery, treachery, heroism, etc. that makes them what they seem to be. Although I am only halfway through, I find it difficult to find a good stopping point when real world demands require bookmarking. Events whip before you a bit too fast and perhaps without enough development or clarity of "how come" but this is a fantasy... It draws enough similarity to the real world for one to somewhat relate to the intrigue/politics in play and the characters eventually become believable although more development might be useful. In all, I find it a thorough escape and a good read. Just gotta find time to finish and wait for the author's next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a challenging book to get into. So many characters introduced in the first few pages, I thought I needed a way to keep track of them all. But for those who can persist, the reward is a story and world as intriguing as the teaser makes it sound. The next book in the series is set up to be even better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book on a whim as part of the "free Fridays" promotion. It is a fantasy novel ... in a vaguely Middle Eastern setting ... with magic. But hear me out! There is a web of political intrigue and a shadowy enemy of the Empire. The novel raises questions of racism and religious difference. As the story plays out, alliances shift and the reader begins to wonder who is really loyal to whom, and who can be trusted. I even began to question whether the Empire is worth saving. One character seems to have a personality transplant about three-quarters of the way into the book. Another unfortunate aspect is the paucity of strong female characters. This would be a worthy novel from an established author. For a first novel, it is outstanding. I hope the author continues to perfect his craft.
Stories-fuel-imagination More than 1 year ago
This was a wonderful change in a Fantasy world.  The story was full of twists and turns that often leave you wondering how it that could happen.  The characters are diverse and full of promise.  This book is hard to put down once your eyes  start taking in the maze.   Enjoy the ride.  
CFishback More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic story and beautiful world! Mazarkis Williams is a master of seamless world building. The descriptions he uses gives just enough to give the reader an idea of the area without bogging down the action or the story. His writing style is poetic without being too "purple" as some call it. I was immediately sucked into the story and the characters. Wonderful book from start to finish. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the kind of fantasy that isn't filled with fantastical creatures and ridiculous amounts of magic. It's a very real feeling book. I can't wait to read the next one in the series!