Review of The Emperor’s Knife by Mazarkis Williams
Overview from www.bn.com: 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 am back to fantasy with this Free Friday offering from Barnes and Noble. It is called The Emperor’s Knife and is the first in what I think will be a trilogy though so far this is the only book of the series that is out.
My opinion on this book was mostly positive but I have to clarify this. I liked it but I didn’t love it. The negatives for me were mostly the dark tone it often took and the fact that it took me a while to figure out this world and get interested in it.
The part about this book that confused me the most, especially in the first third of the book, was the idea of a “pattern.” The first few times I heard it mentioned my first thought was that patterns are for sewing so why do they keep talking about this pattern as though it were so important?
It turns out that it is important—very important. In fact, the whole idea of the novel practically revolves around it. Patterns are seen everywhere here but particularly when the characters are in the desert or anywhere near the Cerani Empire.
There are two important countries in this novel. The Cerani and the Felt. The Cerani are plagued by patterns as there is some type of illness going around that manifests itself by marking its pattern on the skin. The victim will either eventually die from this illness or become a slave to the maker of the pattern who is known as the Pattern Master. These slaves are called Carriers and are basically zombies who do whatever the Pattern Master directs them to.
The Cerani law prescribes death to any person who is found with these marks on his or her skin. Unbeknown to most of the people of the land, the Cerani Emperor bears these marks. By his own law he should die. Still he manages to hide his illness from just about everyone.
Add to the problem that despite having four wives at his disposal, Emperor Beyon cannot produce an heir. This is where his brother Sarmin comes in.
Sarmin and Beyon’s mother arranges a bride for Sarmin from among the Felt people to both cement an alliance between the two people groups as well as produce an heir for the throne. But will their mother find a way to bypass Beyon in favor of Sarmin or simple wait until the couple produces an heir and then use that heir to bypass Beyon?
As more and more character in this novel succumb to the pattern, who will be left to fight the Pattern Master? Who will rule the Cerani Empire? Can the pattern be stopped before everyone in the land dies or becomes a Carrier? Of course, you will have to read the book to find out. In the end, it is worth the read.
Contains: some violence and sexuality