Ossus Library Index
Fantasy Index


A novel by Mazarkis Williams
(2013, Night Shade Books)

Tower and Knife Trilogy, book 3

A man who can read Patterns comes to the city, as Sarmin tries to find a way to avoid war, and the magic users try to stop the storm of nothingness which is descending the city.


+ -- First reading (ebook)
October 30th to November 7th, 2015


By far the best of the trilogy, where actions, or lack thereof, make sense, and the main character actually does something. I still think his wife, being a strong character, should have had more input into his choices, no matter how much he pines for her wisdom, and the end seemed once again too simple. The story itself, however, was very interesting.

Spoiler review:

I can’t say that everything came together in this book, as I would normally say about the end of a trilogy. In this book, the author decided to have the characters do something at last, which led to the resolution of the story. Most of the characters who joined us in the previous books return, and for the first time, they have something interesting and purposeful to do.

Sarmin was the worst in the last book, as he wanted to end the war, but was completely paralyzed, both by politics and by his own uncertainty. At the end of that book, he decided to allow Mesema, his wife, help him govern. But that didn’t really happen, which is unfortunate. It’s nice that Sarmin actually wants to be with his wife, longs for her body and her advice, but we don’t really see her opinion factor into any decisions. The fact that she was right about the Felt slaves (information which came from Banreh, not her) led to Arigu’s embarrassment, but felt more like an afterthought, and only contributed to the story as a side issue allowing Sarmin to avoid being dethroned. While that might seem like an important issue, it only lasts a couple of pages, and rings as irrelevant.

A new character is introduced in this novel, as Farad, a fruit market salesman, survives an attack by the Pattern –because he can see it, and is taken hostage by the hiding Austere Adam, so that he can be taught how to use the pattern. Farad is a natural, learning the pattern magic faster than anyone believes possible. He manages to escape, which is what Adam intended, so that he could do some mischief later on. But he also finds Rushes and baby Daveed, who were kidnapped at the end of the last book. It seems that Adam had a change of heart between the last book and this one, no longer wanting to hand the baby over to the First Austere of the Yrkmen. In fact, his magic on Farad is so easily undone by the Duke that it feels more like a plot device simply to get Farad away from Adam –as if the author had never really given Adam a plan to use Farad.

However, Farad makes his way to the palace, where he is immediately taken into the Tower, and Govnan tries to learn about the Pattern and Austere Adam from him.

The major threats in this novel are the silent approach of the magical Yrkmen, intent on destroying Nooria, the great storm of nothingness flowing toward the city from the site of the dead god Mogyrk, and the crack in the Tower of magic that threatens to destroy it. In the meantime, though, Sarmin must deal with the threat of an army overthrowing his rule, his brother the priest of the god of war and pain, and the loss of his own Pattern-sight.

Into this wanders a new ambassador from abroad, similar to the one who was murdered by The Many in Sarmin’s mind last book. Only this man is more clever, and has full control of the pattern-magic. He has come to kill Sarmin, who only realizes it after an attack on the palace by the First Austere, which restores his pattern-sight, but not his ability to manipulate the patterns.

In his sleep, Farid paints patterns around the Tower, which helps him inadvertently destroy it when the time comes. But at its base lies the pool of Meshka, goddess of love, who granted the founders of Nooria great power. Farid jumps in, and gains extraordinary knowledge of the patterns, so that he becomes almost as powerful as the First austere. When the Yrkmen finally arrive, they make the absurd demand that all of Nooria must convert to Mogyrk or they will attack. Farid helps undo some of their patterns, but the siege is really a stalemate at this point. Which makes the defining power the storm of nothingness that overflows into the city. Govnan discovers that the storm can’t touch water, so he guesses that it can’t absorb the other pure elements either. So he absorbs other elementals into him, casting a net of fire to hold it at bay. Unfortunately, the storm has reserves of energy that Govnan does not, and the elementals escape, devouring Govnan and a great part of the Yrkman host, too.

It’s the little things that matter in this book. It’s possible the army could not have succeeded if the elementals had not escaped. But they couldn’t destroy all the Yrkmen, and they turned on the people of Nooria, as well. Sarmin and Mesema come out of the palace searching for the First Austere. The enemy escapes, but Grada is mortally wounded. Farid saves her, and at the same time realizes the key to banishing the storm. It seemed too rushed, without adequate information on how it was so easy for him.

Then they all go dashing to the wound that Mogyrk made in the world through his death/not-death in the desert. There they defeat the First Austere, Mesema’s power of stepping around the patterns finally being rekindled, where she had little else to do in this story. After that, they go to Mogyrk himself, and show him how to finally die, remaking himself with the Pattern and disappearing (hopefully) for good.

A lot of people inhabit this story, which makes it richer. They all get something interesting to do, and some way to advance the story while telling us more about the setting. It’s only the end of the book that once again feels rushed. It takes forever to get any of the plots to get rolling, with hesitation on every turn. But once the storm is banished, so quickly, the defeat of the First Austere and release of Mogyrk happen so fast. I wish the author could have taken the care at the end that he did through the rest of the book in its development.


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