Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Mazarkis Williams
(2012, Night Shade Books)

Tower and Knife Trilogy, book 2

Trying to keep the peace while being haunted by memories of the Many, Sarmin welcomes a baby into his family and gains insight from his old enemy.


-- First reading (ebook)
June 7th to 27th, 2015


Unfocused, and with not much happening, either from a story or character standpoint. I felt that by the end of the book, we were back at the starting point, with a small exception that Sarmin suddenly decides to be a stronger Emperor.

Spoiler review:

I must admit to being completely distracted while reading this book. However, every time I put it down for a few days, it was easy to do, and it didn’t draw me back. When I picked it up again, I felt like I was restarting, as the characters were not evolving, and the story barely so. It is also telling that there are many things alluded to in from the previous book that I don’t remember, and never quite figured out –and that I wasn’t really interested in going back to refresh my memory.

As previously, the story takes place from a few points of view, and they each have their more-or-less independent storylines. Sarmin, who easily killed the pattern-master in the last book, has become Emperor, but he is haunted by the spirits of the Many whom he freed, but who no longer had any bodies to return to. The Pattern-Master has left his mark on everybody, as many of them are struggling because of withdrawal symptoms, and others remember skills from the Many that they never had in their own lives. So it's interesting that the characters can do things that they would have learned as a collective.

But the Many who reside in Sarmin's brain can control him at times, presumably when he gets distracted, and definitely when he is sleeping. He often wakes up not knowing where he has been. Once he wakes in the arms of a lover he didn't want. One of the Many that resides within him is his brother Beyon, the former Emperor. And they carry a secret, that the child of Sarmin and Mesema his wife is actually the heir to Beyon's throne, as it is Beyon who got her pregnant. But Sarmin is different from the other Emperors of his tradition. He doesn't want to kill the baby, threat as he is to his throne, and he loves only Mesema, to the point that he never makes use of his concubines.

When Tuvaini killed Beyon and became Emperor for a very brief moment, he started a war in a distant country, one which Sarmin is having trouble stopping. Refugees from that nation are coming across the desert, and only arrive at the end of the book. But an envoy from the leaders of that nation arrives earlier, to negotiate a peace treaty, which Sarmin desperately wants. But it seems that very few others here want peace, because the envoy is murdered, though Sarmin doesn't really do much to find out who or why, except fret that it is a threat to his peace.

The other nation has a different religion, and their priests have powerful magic. One of them had actually become the Pattern-Master. It is strange that the Pattern-Master was actually a distant heir to the throne. He spent some time in the dungeons of the palace, where he hid a magical stone.

I think Mesema was the most interesting character, even though she probably got the least time in this book. She brought out the best in Sarmin, but he almost never used her. She was the one who broke the ambassador's gift of the Pattern-Master's writings, thus opening it up in a way that Sarmin couldn't by trying to gently remove the cover. That was also the inspiration for breaking open the Pattern Master's magic stone.

Mesema of course will protect her baby with her life, and Sarmin adores both of them. His mother Nessaket has also had a baby, whose father was Tuvaini. She would also protect him with her life. The uncertainty is that the two baby boys are supposed to be killed by tradition, because they are potential heirs to the throne and threats to Sarmin.

When the ambassador is killed, people start falling to a wasting disease that leaves their bodies intact to be taken over by the residual souls of the Many, who try to eventually take over the palace.

Another part of the story goes to Rushes, a slave-girl who actually found Beyon's dead body in the last book. She works in the kitchens, but is tired of getting abused, and after one incident, she runs away, finds herself in the dungeon, and gets the magical stone from Sarmin. She ends up protecting Nessaket's baby for a while, and spying for Nessaket herself.

Another interesting character is Grada, the first one to be freed from the Many by Sarmin in the last book. She was sent out to search for the source of all the concubines Sarmin has been receiving, but really doesn't end up doing much on that front. She gets back to the palace in time to be named the Emperor's Knife, which means she is eligible to kill royal blood, not that that has stopped anyone before. Out of nowhere comes a plot to usurp the throne, as apparently one of the Barons has discovered the secret of Mesema's child. Grada is sent to kill them all. While her story wasn't very interesting, her character was. Full of self-doubt and confidence, often within moments of each other, she still contains many traits of the Many who once inhabited her mind. She hates herself for killing, but would do anything for Sarmin, even assassinate his enemies -and this she does efficiently.

Also almost randomly, a new disease starts spreading through the castle, in time with the Nothing that is spreading from Beyon's tomb. This is apparently a manifestation of a god who committed suicide in the desert, and whose Nothing is spreading into the world. All the notions are so randomly spaced that it's difficult to keep straight whatever is going on. Sarmin works together with the Pattern Master's former lover, who arrives from the lands that Tuvaini's armies invaded, and helps him open the magical stone. He stops the small Nothing from Beyon's tomb, which cures the soullessness of the people who died by the mysterious disease. And after all that, a lot of people are dead, a disease has just been narrowly cured, and Sarmin vows to become a stronger Emperor, with Mesema by his side. I feel that this is exactly where we started from.


Back to Top

All reviews and page designs at this site Copyright © 1999 -  by Warren Dunn, all rights reserved.