I desperately wanted to enjoy this book, but at the same time I just never got into it. I realized after something like 275 pages that I just didn't really care
about any of the characters. Some were sympathetic, sure, but many just didn't feel real, fleshed out, developed. The writing was acceptable but paled in comparison to many of the books I've read lately, even other books on smaller publishers (The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer comes to mind; it was brilliantly written).
Mazarkis is well thought of by other authors, fun to follow on Twitter despite their anonymity, and seems like a legit guy/gal - however, this book just didn't sing to me. I seem to continue to run into this issue in the pseudo-middle eastern desert style fantasies. While I love that they're different, unique, something else - they're just much harder for me to get into. Throne of the Crescent Moon had a lot of things I enjoyed, as did The Emperor's Knife and The Black God's War...yet I just couldn't seem to get into any of them. Whether it's the setting, the writing or something else, that I can't say. However, The Emperor's Knife might appeal to many others - it just didn't work for me.