This review was originally posted in the March 2013 issue of Into the Willows magazine. Since it has been a while now and I will soon be publishing my review of the sequel, I take the liberty of reposting it on my own blog. See the original article here.
Tower and Knife Trilogy #1
by Mazarkis Williams
Published by Jo Fletcher Books, 2011
Hardback copy, 450 pages
Enter a world where power lies in patterns painted in the sand, the grass and on the skin of the people.
Enter an imaginary universe where one invisible enemy can make an entire empire crumble under his touch.
Enter a time where angels and demons speak the words of prophecy and where magic might be mistaken for madness.
This is the setting of Mazarkis Williams’ grand fantasy epic and at the heart of it all stands The Emperor’s Knife.
This book was given to me by Jo Fletcher Books in exchange for this review. My thanks go to Nicola Budd for this great honour.
I find myself having somewhat mixed feelings about this book, though mostly I stand in awe of the great imagination that have made this story spring alive before the sensors behind my eyes. I feel positively inspired after putting this one down; my fingers are all but itching to get hold of the second book that should hopefully take the adventure to yet new heights.
The Emperor’s Knife offers exactly the kind of universe I love to encounter in fantasy; it is brimming with strange phenomena, captivating characters, mystery and suspense. It did not take me more than a couple of days to swallow up every word of it.
The book is very fast-paced, which is sometimes a very longed-for quality in fantasy series. However, I am of the mind that this one was perhaps actually TOO fast-paced. There were moments where I had to go back and read a paragraph over again because I thought I had missed something, only to discover that that something was indeed not there.
While I think the author has intended the fast pace and small omissions to bring up a sense of mystery and/or suspense in the reader, I think that more often than is quite alright it just ended up confusing me, making me worry if the fault was on my part, that maybe I had been inattentive at the wrong moment and missed something vital to understanding what was going on. Yet I don’t think so. I have seldom read a book as attentively as this one, namely because of its intensity – there aren’t really any filler-sentences in this book. Every other line seems to offer some important scrap of information or action.
Again, as I said, my feelings are of a mixed nature. I absolutely loved the intensity of this piece of fantasy literature, I just thought that the literary part could maybe have been handled a bit better, making the whole book a bit clearer. When I think of this book in my mind, I don’t picture it written with black on white, I picture it rather written like the blue and red patterns it describes; in some places it stands out bright and clear, in others the patterning is so pale you can only just make it out, while in yet other places it is not quite connected.
Even though the story featured many intriguing and sympathetic characters - my favourites especially include Sarmin, Mesema and Eyul - it lacked something; a depth of sorts. All of them encountered troublesome events and grief, yet I did not really feel it. I shed no tears for anyone, nor joined no merry laughter. I sat by like a passive witness, watching and understanding, but never really feeling.
Maybe what I really miss in this book is a greater attention to details. It is all the small things that are missing; the silly little things that makes you BE the character instead of just seeing it. There are some nice details, but those are mostly in connection with the universe and the plot. The story is not very character-driven at all, they are all just pieces of the grander scheme, again much like way the people in the empire are only pieces to be used by the pattern. The book itself is a pattern just like it.
In the end this is definitely one of those books that I will heartily recommend to any fan of the genre and to all others as well. All books are written to be read, though not all books are worthy of it. This one is. This one should never be considered a waste of anyone’s time.
My review of the sequel, Knife Sworn, will be published right here tomorrow!