The Cerani Empire is on the brink of destruction with the outbreak of a the pattern. This sickness infects everyone equally whether: young or old, rich of poor. The emperor has decreed that anyone contacted by the pattern must be put to death, but with the growing number of cases he fears his kingdom will soon be over run. Citizens who come into contact with the disease either die or become carriers. His servants fear the worst and soon they may need to turn to the Emperors brother Sarmin, who has been trapped in the Tower for 15 years. Suspense, mystery, assassins, and so much more await you in this amazing first entry into the Tower and Knife series which has been under the radar for far too long.
Beyon is the emperor and he received this honor by being the first born son of his late father. When a new emperor is appointed, it is the duty of the Emperor’s Knife, Eyul, to execute the plan of the empire an extinguish any and all children whom may also have a claim to the throne, Beyon’s brothers. Each one is put to death except Sarmin, and he was “quarantined” in a high tower for the past 15 years with nothing but 5 books to occupy his time. In his 15 years of isolation, Sarmin is starting to go mad and starts have dreams of the present, future, and he has an affinity for the mage arts. Beyon gets infected with the plague on his arm, leaving his skin prickled with geometric patterns and Sarmin is able to decipher the pattern and learns that there is a darker magic at play here. Eyul is dispatched by the emperor to the dessert in order to contact the Hermit in hopes of finding a cure for the pattern, but what he finds will change the empire forever.
In the meantime, the imperial vizier Tulvani has plans of his own of obtaining power and he plans on using the mages, Sarmin, and the emperor’s mother to accomplish his task. Mesema is a tribal girl and an enemy of the Cerani Empire. When an opportunity for peace arises, Mesema has been chosen by the chief to be the latest bride for the emperor as he has yet to produce an heir. Through Mesema, we get a look at life outside the capital and maybe a glimpse into what the imperials take for granted. She becomes a key pawn in the plot of Tulvani.
This is a character driven story but the ever evolving plot and mysteries will keep you turning the page into the early hours of the morning. Nothing is at all what it seems as the tension, suspense, and thrills keep building throughout the course of the story. Sarmin is a fascinating character to read as I could never quite tell if his dreams and visions were real or a figure of his imagination. What would happen to your mind if you are locked away in a tower for years with little to no human interaction? Given that he is also gifted, you will never feel bored when reading his chapters. Mazarkis Williams has a very beautiful and at time poetic writing style when it comes to descriptions and setting a scene. Williams also knows how to build suspense and to keep the reader engaged. Although the magic system and pattern aren’t explained in great detail, I feel it just makes the reader want more and that is never a bad thing.
All in all, I enjoyed this book when I first read it and it stills holds up now upon a reread 10 years later. This is a layered fantasy story with enjoyable characters to hope for. Don’t let the low ratings on goodreads be a deterrent for you to try something different and The Emperor’s Knife will be a breath of fresh air to modern fantasy reads.