We return to the Cerani Empire and the isolate prince Sarmin now sits on the Petal Throne as Emperor. Sarmin soon discovers that victories are never so simple and the repercussions will leave ripples across the Empire. A new war is starting in the north and the palace has its own inner turmoil to combat. It seems the only person the Emperor can trust is the same person he fears the most. This will be a spoiler free review but I will be discussing spoilers from the previous novel.
Sarmin has been removed from the tower and elevated to the throne following the death of his brother Beyon. Sarmin is also married to the tribal girl Mesema, whom is also pregnant with child and conceived by the late Emperor Beyon. The Pattern Master is dead and his curse has been lifted from the land with the help of Sarmin and his magic, but the people are still disheveled. The people once afflicted with the pattern feel empty and when seeking comfort to fill that void they turn to Mogyrk, the god of their ancient foe. Also present in the palace is Sarmin’s mother and her new-born child with the now dead traitor Tulvani. Soldiers, servants, and the political powers alike believe this new child to be a threat to the Petal Throne and plead Sarmin for its execution. Sarmin having lived through the deaths of his family to protect the heirs at the hands of the Emperor’s blade refuses and creates enemies for himself. It is for this reason that Sarmin still hasn’t filled the role of his blade to anyone and this is seen as a sign of weakness.
In Knife Sworn we get two new POV perspectives and they were both a joy to read. The first new character is Grada, once a Carrier of the curse and almost executioner of Sarmin, she is now freed and shares a special bond with the Emperor. Sarmin gives Grada a secret mission that may go against her morals and virtues. The other new character is the servant girls Rushes and we see the effect the patter had on normal citizens. Rushes eventually is responsible for taking care of the new infant prince when she starts to hear talks of betrayal and secret alliances. The one character whom is not a POV after book one is Mesema and this was a bit disappointing, but as I made my way through the story I realized the author was looking to expand the reach of the story through other characters as Mesema spends almost all the book at the palace. All the while, Sarmin is still haunted by the ghost of his brothers and more recently Beyon. He bears the weight of the lost souls of the knife and they seem to be driving him mad. How the author dealt with this plot arc was beautiful and you can see through the writing how much care was put into this.
Knife Sworn does suffer a bit from being the middle book in a series as it has a lot of build up and tension with very little in the terms of big payoffs. What this book does offer is a link to the moral implications of being in power and the costs any one person would have to bear. How someone’s mental illness can have a devastating toll on even the most simplest task and how help can come from the most unlikely of places. I got all of this and more from reading Knife Sworn and I wish more readers know about this series. I can’t guarantee that everyone will love this series like I did, but it is one to be remembered after ten years of life passing me by.