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The Emperor's Knife: The Tower and the Knife    by Mazarkis Williams order for
Emperor's Knife
by Mazarkis Williams
Order:  USA  Can
Night Shade, 2011 (2011)

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* *   Reviewed by Wanda Plourde

A plague is spreading in the Ceraini Empire. It starts with a black mark on the skin and turns into a strange pattern. No one seems immune; it affects the young, the old, the rich and the very poor. But the worst occurs when it takes mind and will away. No one knows how it is contracted. By Emperor Beyon's law, anyone who suffers the plague will be put to death.

Now Lord High Vizier Tuvaini has learned that the childless Emperor has the plague and is dying. Beyon's younger brother Sarmin (the heir to the throne) has been locked in a tower for the last fifteen years. He has slowly gone mad. He talks to himself and sees the patterns on others. He has learned that he can use magic and that there is a Pattern Master behind the plague.

Eyul, the Emperor's Knife, is the only one permitted to shed royal blood. He embarks on a journey into the desert to find a hermit who might shed light on what is causing the plague or on a cure. Meanwhile we find out that Tuvaini has his own agenda for the throne. And that the Emperor's mother has sent for a plainswoman to become the wife for her younger son in order to secure the royal succession.

There are many different threads to follow in this complex epic fantasy, whose rich setting reminded me of Arabia. It was laced with political intrigue and characters to both love and hate. I found some parts of the book a bit tedious but they did leave possibilities for the storyline to branch off in new directions. I enjoyed The Emperor's Knife and recommend it to fantasy fans.

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