rameau's Reviews > The Emperor's Knife

The Emperor's Knife by Mazarkis Williams
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's review
Nov 24, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: arc-galley, genre-fantasy, read-in-2011, language-english-original, rating-meh
Recommended to rameau by: NetGalley
Recommended for: Recommended for: Insomniacs. No, really.

The cover is pretty, isn't it. It makes you think of assassins who live in a mountain empire and in castles covered in mist. It makes you think about creeping in the night and on empty streets. It makes you think of all the things an assassin or an Emperor might use his power for. Oh, that's just me?

Let's look at the blurb instead.

It looks... lengthy. Just a tad too long to really read though before picking up the pretty cover and removing the money from your purse to the retailer's, to publisher's, and ultimately, hopefully, to the author's pocketbook. I'm going to do you a favour and take you through it.

There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike, marking each victim with a fragment of a greater pattern.

You could call it a cancer, although, a tattoo epidemic would cover the symptoms just as well. That, and a new hobby among mathematitians.

Anyone showing the marks is put to death. That is Emperor Beyon's law . . .

Sure, if by anyone you mean everyone except the mighty and powerful like the Emperor himself. No, that's not a spoiler, it's revealed in the first chapter.

But now the pattern is reaching closer to the palace than ever before. In a hidden room, a forgotten prince has grown from child to man, and as the empire sickens, Sarmin, the emperor’s only surviving brother, is remembered. He awaits the bride his mother has chosen: a chieftain’s daughter from the northern plains.

Now, this sounds interesting. A forgotten prince to save the day. What they don't tell you is that he's an agoraphobic who can't leave that hidden room and will literally fall apart when he tries. This makes Sarmin a dull character regardless of how delightfully mad he might be.

Mesema travels from her homeland, an offering for the empire’s favour. She is a Windreader, used to riding free across the grasslands, not posing and primping in rare silks. She finds the Imperial Court’s protocols stifling, but she doesn’t take long to realise the politicking and intrigues are not a game, but deadly earnest.

It looks like there is a strong, independent female character in this story too. A survivor with a good head on her shoulders, a character who'll make the most of the unfortunate circumstances. What they don't tell you is that she's travelling for a HALF of the book and that when she finally reaches the Imperial Court things quickly fall apart and protocol is forgotten.

Eyul is burdened both by years and by the horrors he has carried out in service to the throne. At his emperor’s command he bears the emperor’s Knife to the desert in search of a cure for the pattern-markings.

Hey look, it's the titular character and it looks like he's going off adventuring. This also happens to be true, Eyul does go through some interesting events. Too bad this adventure happened during the first half of the book that is also responsible for my recommendations field.

As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence and rebellion, the enemy moves toward victory. Now only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who once saw a path through a pattern, among the waving grasses.

If by long-planned you mean three generations in the making, then sure, this is true. But if you mean one man dedicating his life to usurping the throne in an Empire where the Emperor separates heads from torsos on a whim, we'll have to discuss the meaning of the term long-planned at length.

Mazarkis Williams pieces together a complex mosaic of personality and ambition in a brilliant work of magic and mystery set in a richly imagined world, the first book in a fantastic new series.

Mazarkis Williams pieces together such a complex mosaic that I'm still trying to see the pattern in the writing a day after having finished reading the book. True, every character had a personality and an ambition of sorts, but that's no less than I expect from each and every story I read. There was magic too, but mostly it was described in a way that put me to sleep. Repeatedly. The only mystery in this book is the identity of The Pattern Maker and anyone who has read through a handful of Agatha Christie's can point out the culprit the first time they are mentioned–with the caveat that they are conscious while this happens.

...in a fantastic new series.

About that. You might have noticed how kept mentioning falling asleep or insomnia... no? Well, how do I put this politely?

The writing in the first half of this book cures insomnia. It's sleep inducing. They should patent it and sell it in pills to everyone who has ever had trouble sleeping. I frequently fell asleep reading it. It didn't matter if I was reading right before bedtime, long after my bedtime or in the middle of the day, I would literally doze off in the middle of a sentence. It took me five days to read the first half of The Emperor's Knife, but only few hours to finish the second half. It turned out that all that was needed was something to happen in the story for me to stay awake.

So yes, I had my troubles with the book but it could still be a fantastic new series. I don't know yet, I've only read the one book. I could be persuaded to pick up the sequel to see if the author has learned anything about pacing, but I'd be wary about it. Better, or just senior, authors have taught me this lesson.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
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Reading Progress

November 24, 2011 – Shelved
December 3, 2011 – Started Reading
December 4, 2011 –
2.0% "Paper and Ink would be all that he knows."
December 4, 2011 –
3.0% "These marked people remind me of Forged in Hobb's Farseer trilogy."
December 6, 2011 –
12.0% ""...he said in the affectionate tone..." THE affectionate tone? There's only one affectionate tone? I hope this is only in the ARC and not in the final product."
December 6, 2011 –
12.0% "Mesema has an unruly mouth and I like it."
December 7, 2011 –
29.0% "I'm trying not to fall asleep reading this."
December 7, 2011 –
45.0% "zzzZZZzzz They're still travelling. zzzZzZzzz"
December 7, 2011 –
46.0% "Why must she weep again?"
December 8, 2011 –
55.0% "Does this mean that we're done with setting things up and the plot can proceed now?"
December 8, 2011 –
59.0% "There are lots of afterwards in this book."
December 8, 2011 –
60.0% "Mesema arrives to her destination HALF A BOOK after she set off."
December 8, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Ken (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ken I had the same problem. I would be reading and suddenly found myself drifting off to somewhere else and not remembering what I've been reading for the past few paragraphs.

rameau Ken wrote: "I had the same problem. I would be reading and suddenly found myself drifting off to somewhere else and not remembering what I've been reading for the past few paragraphs."

...And then something semi-interesting would catch your eye and you'd wonder how did they get there, turn back few pages and try again with the same result.

It wasn't a bad book nor was the writing terrible, it was just boring.

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