Dispelling the Myth: Mazarkis Williams’ The Emperor’s Knife

Hi, my name is Lucian and I’m coming to the end of my work experience at Quercus, and Nicola, Jo’s assistant, has asked me to write a review of Mazarkis Williams’ The Emperor’s Knife. Rest assured that will follow, but I kind of wanted to do something more. . .

You see, I’m in no way familiar with the genres Jo Fletcher specialises in. I’ve probably only read one science fiction book in my life (Brave New World), my grasp of fantasy ranges from J. R. R. Tolkien to, well . . . J.R.R. Tolkien. As for horror, asides from Goosebumps as a kid, I’ve never read a single book.

I like lots of horror films based on books, but I’ve never sought to look any further. I suppose at this point I should guiltily admit that I’d assumed all of it wasn’t for me, that these genres were only of special interest: The idea of a vampire novel conjured the thought of a million teenage girls screaming obnoxiously at Robert Pattinson, a fantasy book made me think of a ‘larper’ picking cereal out of his beard and a horror of a leather jacketed stranger with an intense stare, who I was a little worried to talk to.

Now, after working closely with Jo Fletcher Books for two weeks, I am proud to say, yes, drum roll please, that all such myths have been dispelled.

Where does The Emperor’s Knife come into this I hear you cry? Well, Mazarkis Williams’ brilliantly rendered novel gave me a different perspective on the genre; this isn’t something that only certain people will enjoy, principally because, at the heart of it – as at the heart of any good book – is a great story. Having since delved into both The Vampire Shrink and A Book of Horrors  I am delighted to say I can vouch the same for them.

The Emperor’s Knife entertained me with its vivid realisation of court politics, of the challenges of empire and its refusal to paint anything, or any character, as good or bad.

As a result, we’re kept guessing to the very end, never sure of any of the characters full intentions. This is not to say the characters are not fully wrought, they are: Assassin Eyul is as enigmatic a character as I’ve come across, Mesema is by turns touchingly vulnerable and excitingly feisty, Tuvaini every bit the Machiavelli of his world.

Everyone has a journey and the terrifying spectre of the harmful, virus like, pattern imbues the whole book with a sense of intrigue and wonder. Things unveil themselves dramatically at the end, but enough is left open for me to want to get stuck into the remaining two books of The Tower and Knife Trilogy – a truly exciting prospect. Come on Mazarkis I’m waiting with baited breath!

The Emperor’s Knife is an awesome read and it’s taught me a lot, next time I fancy delving into a good book, I won’t automatically stroll past the fantasy, sci-fi or horror sections.

The next time I hear someone talking about these genres like ‘they aren’t for them’ I’ll steer them towards some of the great titles I’ve come across whilst working with Jo Fletcher. Hopefully they’ll open their minds too, because, ultimately, they’re the ones who are missing out the most.



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