We reviewed The Emperor’s Knife, Book #1 in the Tower and Knife series by Mazarkis Williams, when it was published late last year (link to review provided below). I’ve been anxiously awaiting Book #2 and it’s finally here. Knife Sworn picks up fairly soon after The Emperor’s Knife ended. For those of you who haven’t read Book #1, this series blends court intrigue, political conspiracy, thriller and fantasy into a world that’s absolutely fascinating. The stakes were high in The Emperor’s Knife but they get even higher in Knife Sworn.
A lot of times, I find each book in a series to be fine as a stand-alone read; however, I think this series is best read in order. Of course, that’s your call. If you plan to read them in order, this review contains spoilers for Book #1. There’s a link at the very end of this article to our review for Book #1. For everyone else, read on…
Sarmin’s rule over Cerani is not an easy one by any means but then he never thought it would be. After all, being locked in his tower room for most of his life couldn’t prepare him for the profound issues he has to deal with much less the kind of court intrigue that surrounds him. Someone is always scheming to gain advantage, some more adeptly than others, and it’s wearying just trying to keep up with all the plots.
“’This emperor has yet to name a Knife, though seven candidates have been offered for judgment. Only a fool walks the Maze unarmed. Sarmin walks far worse places and thinks he needs no Knife. His enemies won’t see a new way of thinking in his empty hands, they’ll see he represents an opportunity entirely different from the one he thinks he offers…Innocence, that is a dangerous state of mind in which to rule. Better a bloody-handed murderer than an innocent on the Petal Throne.’ [Rorrin to Grada]”
In many ways, Sarmin is barely treading water as he tries to contain the havoc caused before he became emperor. It’s not just the Cerani court that’s in turmoil; the whole world seems to be. The world’s magic is turning on its inhabitants. War is being waged in the forests and mountains far from the desert country of Cerani, a meaningless war brought by Sarmin’ scheming mother, Nessaket, and her advisors. The Mogyrk one-god religion is spreading and finding converts even among the Cerani palace servants and other citizens, filling a void for those previously touched by the Pattern Master. And some mysterious illness or magical force is beginning to strike down people Sarmin cares for. Buildings and even towns are disappearing. And it finally becomes clear that, as much as he’s fought the idea, Sarmin needs a Knife-Sworn!
“Aldryth felt it in the core of himself, the Unwinding, the essence of his life coming undone, not a peeling of skin or a breaking apart of bone, but a dissolving, the falling away of component pieces for which he could no longer find the words. Now he understood. Mortals were built upon many patterns but the god had only one: a single pattern stronger than the many, one pattern to cover the world. Mogyrk.”
“The stonework towered at the four corners, eaten away elsewhere, and in the midst of it all a blankness, the color of forever, blinding the eye. Sarmin couldn’t say if it were grey or white, perhaps black. The emptiness of it filled his mind and drowned out the screams of the Many as they hid behind his thoughts…
Sarmin tore his gaze from the space within Beyon’s tomb…
‘My emperor?’ And at last he looked away, meeting Govan’s eyes, dark with concern.
‘What is it?’ Sarmin stepped away, not wanting to look, not wanting his back to it.
‘Nothing, my emperor.’ Govan bowed his head. ‘There is nothing there. That’s all my magic can tell me.’…
‘This is of the desert.’ Notheen waved toward the tomb. ‘This is the unwriting that grows in the dead heart of the sands, beyond even the djinn. It spreads from the secret.’…An emptiness that devours.”
Can Sarmin trust anyone enough to make them Knife-Sworn? Is anyone safe from the ever escalating threat they face? How can the world even survive this newest threat when no one understands it?
Knife Sworn continues to build on the characterizations begun in The Emperor’s Knife. Sarmin and Messema have matured in their relationship in a way that makes them even better. They make mistakes, particularly Sarmin, and that humanizes him. After all, we all make mistakes, even emperors. The villains, who shall remain nameless, are still as nasty as ever – and there are some additions to the villain roster who made my skin crawl. Featured even more in Knife Sworn is Grada, the untouchable. I really like this character, who is devoutly loyal and courageous. Her journey on behalf of Sarmin is critical.
“Grada knew what it was to be alone. For the longest time she had been alone and yet not known it, as if her life had been lived blind, until the Pattern Master gave her sight, until Sarmin showed her beauty. Now that sight had been taken. Now she knew she walked alone.”
“Sarmin, for all his cleverness, for all that he’d shared her skin, did not truly know her [Grada]. Perhaps he understood no woman, and maybe no man either. He had stepped from that room they raised him in, but she wondered if he would ever truly leave it.”
Mazarkis Williams (a pseudonym) has done an excellent job with Knife Sworn. It keeps the tension growing that began in The Emperor’s Knife. World building continues in this second novel, which may seem odd on the surface; however, the world is a character in this series as much as the people living on that world. The danger to their world is escalating and time is growing short to find an answer. Book #2 has all of the twists and turns found in Book #1; however, the pace is not quite as frantic because the story, like the characters, is maturing. I can hardly wait to find out what happens in Book #3!
Can’t wait to read it?
Knife Sworn was published on November 13, 2012, so it should be available from your favorite online bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to get it. As an example, Amazon and Barnes & Noble have priced it at $14.66 for the hardcover; however, neither has it in e-book form as of November 14, 2012.
I’d love to get your comments on Knife Sworn, Mazarkis Williams or his other work, and/or this review.
To read our review of The Emperor’s Knife, Book #1 in the Tower and Knife series, click here.
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