The Tower and Knife Trilogy: Knife Sworn by Mazarkis Williams – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Knife Sworn

Bane of Kings shares his thoughts on Mazarkis Williams’ second novel in the Tower and Knife Trilogy, Knife Sworn, published by Jo Fletcher books.

 ”A fantastic, original and character-focused follow up that will satisfy readers of The Emperor’s Knife.” ~The Founding Fields

Warning! There are spoilers for the first novel in the trilogy, The Emperor’s Knife, which I strongly recommend that you read before reading this one.

The Emperor’s Knife, Mazarkis Williams’ debut, was an awesome read, so when I found out that Knife Sworn, the sequel – was available on NetGalley with some decent cover art, I jumped at the opportunity, and thankfully, I had my request accepted. Now, several pages later, I found myself at the end of another great, if slow-moving, instalment of The Tower and Knife Trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what Williams provides us with in the final outing.

After spending most of his life in captivity, Sarmin now sits upon the Throne of Cerana. But his reign is an uneasy one. And the emperor’s own heart is torn between two very different women: Mesema, a Windreader princess, and Grada, a lowborn untouchable with whom Sarmin shares a unique bond. In times past, a royal assassin known as the Emperor’s Knife served to defend the throne from menace, but the last Knife has perished and his successor has yet to be named. Sarmin must choose his own loyal death-dealer . . . but upon whom can be he bestow the burden of the Knife-Sworn?

The originality of the concept and the setting was one thing that drew me into The Emperor’s Knife. Everything that was good about that book carried on over to its sequel, making it arguably the better of the two. Whilst it may not have been a page turner, Knife Sworn was nonetheless a great read, character-focused and enjoyable.

Sarmin is the main storyteller as half of our dramatis personae from Book 1 don’t make it to the sequel. Grada is another character who gets a lot of page time, and they are both developed further in this book. Characters are a strong point of Williams, and Knife Sworn shows that he can write them well. We get a varied and strong cast, with no perfect or archetypical characters here, even if Grada’s story is perhaps the most uninteresting, as we don’t gain anything from having her POV in here, which is a real shame and one of my two main issues with this book.

Whilst the pace may be quite slow, the characters and the rich, well developed and original Middle-Eastern inspired fantasy world is Williams’ forte. The tension  grows from The Emperor’s Knife and I will be very eager to stick around to see how the final act plays out. Although as it had been a while since I read The Emperor’s Knife, and I struggled to recall some of the details, I got over that hiccup pretty quickly and soon found myself engrossed in the world of The Tower and the Knife. Fantasy fans who loved The Emperor’s Knife will enjoy this one hopefully as much as I did.

It’s a character driven story that whilst does lack the epic scale action scenes found in novels like The Lord of the Rings, spends more time on building the world and its inhabitants whilst allowing for the stage to be set for the final novel and the final showdown, which frankly – I can’t wait for.

Verdict: 4/5

The Tower and Knife Trilogy: The Emperor’s Knife, Knife Sworn, TBC 

Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


  • ESG

    I thought Grada WAS the story! I also liked the book very much. Didn’t seem slow to me.

    • BaneofKings

      Fair enough. I just didn’t enjoy her role in this much, Sarmin was more interesting in my book. But everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, I guess.

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