cover image The Emperor’s Knife

The Emperor’s Knife

Mazarkis Williams. Night Shade (, $24.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-59780-384-7

Williams’s riveting and intense debut is driven as much by the emotional scars of a ruthless court as by the court’s intrigues. The Empire is haunted by a mysterious, incurable curse: soon after the strange markings of the Pattern appear on people’s bodies, they either die or become the murderous puppets of an unseen force. When heir-less Emperor Beyon becomes Patterned, his mother and the vizier plot to use his brother, Prince Sarmin, to their own ends. Sarmin, however, is embittered by a lifetime spent hidden in a luxurious prison—an emperor is allowed no surviving brothers—and joins forces with his fiancée, Mesema, a nomad chief’s daughter, to put an end to royal assassinations. Their plans are then derailed by the discovery of a person manipulating the horrifying Pattern, more dangerous than any coup. Compelling characterizations will keep fans of grim fantasy entirely enthralled. (Dec.)