Published: November 1st 2013 by Jo Fletcher Books
Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
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The world is at breaking point. The nothing, a terrible darkness caused by the festering wounds of a god, bleeds out the very essence of all, of stone, silk - and souls. Emperor Sarmin thought he had stopped it, but it is spreading towards his city, Cerana - and he is powerless to halt the destruction.
Even as Cerana fills with refugees, the Yrkmen armies arrive with conquest in mind, but they offer to spare Sarmin's people if they will convert to the Mogyrk faith. Time is running out for Sarmin and his wife, Mesema: the Mage's Tower is cracked; the last mage, sent to find a mysterious pattern-worker in the desert, has vanished; and Sarmin believes his kidnapped brother Daveed still has a part to play.
The walls are crumbling around them . . .
The Tower Broken is the final book in the Tower and Knife trilogy by Mazarkis Williams, a series I have adored since the first book came out. This book rounds out the story well and answers all the questions and curiosities I’d had, and in general, does a much better job at placing the magic and politics in context than the other books.
As with the previous books, The Tower Broken is told from multiple points of view. While I enjoyed, as ever, seeing from Emperor’s Sarmin and his wife Mesema’s eyes, I sorely missed the voice of the Empire Mother, Nessaket. She made the last book so much fun with her dreams and plans. To offset the loss, however, Williams introduces Farid, a fruit merchant who becomes embroiled in the schemes of those more powerful than he. Farid lends freshness and realism to the story and I liked how he was just as confused and alienated by palace life as I imagine I would be. I also like the other new character, Duke Didryk, because of the way his conflicting loyalties and goals played out.
This novel is executed with more finesse than its predecessors, and I found that I could keep up with all the developments quite easily. Whereas I’d briefly struggled to re-orient myself into the story in Knife Sworn, I found it much easier to slip into The Tower Broken. Every character, and more importantly, every point-of-view character, is well defined in this novel, and their actions, intent and motivation clearly drawn, contrasting sharply with the difficulty I’d had understanding Grada’s role in Knife Sworn.
This is the strongest novel in the series when considering character development as well. Sarmin has come a long way since The Emperor’s Knife, and Mesema has similarly gained complexity and purpose. Their slow re-discovery of one another and rebuilding of their bond brings light to an otherwise dark, gruesome story, and their personal struggles struck a chord within me as well. I love that Mesema refused to back down from what she believed right, and continued to challenge the oppression she faced in the palace any way she could.
When Sarmin became Emperor there was so much going on that he didn’t get to decide what kind of a leader he wanted to be. In The Tower Broken, he is determined to change the way the Empire is run, but can’t see how. Mesema tries to help him, but in the midst of this confusion and floundering come the twin threats of the god’s wound and a Yrkmir invasion. Suddenly Sarmin can’t tell friend from foe and the offer of an alliance from an unlikely source further muddies the waters. While he had been sympathetic in The Emperor’s Knife, I felt alienated from Sarmin in Knife Sworn because of how different he had to be as Emperor. This book sees Sarmin learn to balance the need to be a just, decisive ruler with his curious, open nature.
I enjoyed the pattern-magic that was explored in this book. Having felt before that there is a lot more for us to learn about it, I was gratified to find that The Tower Broken focussed on the understanding of this mysterious but powerful form of magic. The incorporation of the Mogyrk religion into the main plot was also a welcome surprise, and I’m fascinated with the way Williams tied it to the patterns. I also feel that I understand the two types of magic in this world a lot better – I’d been confused about them before, especially as to why the Empire of Cerana saw the patterns as evil.
I loved The Tower Broken, and can’t imagine a more fitting end to Sarmin and Mesema’s journey. Fans of the series shouldn’t miss this book, and those new to Williams’ books should give them a try if they are looking for a captivating fantasy with a difference.