Review: The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark

Rating: ★★★★★+

Synopsis

A powerhouse grimdark fantasy of bloodshed, ambition, and fate, The House of Sacrifice is the thunderous conclusion to Anna Smith Spark’s Empires of Dust trilogy, which began with The Court of Broken Knives.

Marith Altrersyr has won. He cut a path of blood and vengeance and needless violence around the world and now he rules. It is time for Marith to put down his sword, to send home his armies, to grow a beard and become fat. It is time to look to his own house, and to produce an heir. The King of Death must now learn to live.But some things cannot be learnt.

The spoils of war turn to ash in the mouths of the Amrath Army and soon they are on the move again. But Marith, lord of lies, dragon-killer, father-killer, has begun to falter and his mind decays. How long can a warlord rotting from within continue to win?

As the Army marches on to Sorlost, Thalia’s thoughts turn to home and to the future: a life grows inside her and it is a precious thing – but it grows weak.

Why must the sins of the father curse the child?

Review

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advanced reading copy of The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

Spark’s Empires of Dust has been one of THE most enjoyable series I’ve read since I began reviewing. Alongside RJ Barker’s The Wounded Kingdom and Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor, among a few others, every time I see someone looking for a new book to read or a series to begin, it is one that I immediately jump to recommend.

“Knives. Knives everywhere. Coming down like rain. Down to close work like that, men wrestling in the mud, jabbing at each other, too tired to care any more. Just die and get it over with. Half of them fighting with their guts hanging out of their stomachs, stinking of shit, oozing pink and red and white. Half-dead men lying in the filth. Screaming. A whole lot of things screaming.”

This is how The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1) begins. It is unlike anything I have ever read. Brutal, poetic, and utterly satisfying to those with the grimdarkest of hearts pumping in their chests. It sold me on picking up the first book, let alone the rest of the series, and it has been a marriage full of blood and grit and piss and gore and knives and f**k ever since.

Spark truly is the Queen of Grimdark, there is no disputing that. This is one of the darkest series I have ever laid eyes upon. Loads of characters that are beyond redemption, fire and decapitation and death lying in wait for all, and some of the most elegant world-building you will come across. Not only that, but the author’s writing is simply exquisite. Each page is a picture painted with quick strokes of poetic prose, only to be doused in blood and thrown into the grinder. From the smallest pieces of world-building like streets or doorways, to the extravagances of castles, courts, and battlefields, not a detail is left out and pictures are clearly presented to the reader.

Like most characters in the grimdark genre, redeeming qualities are hard to come by with the likes of Marith, Thalia, and the gang. When your thoughts are only of death, destruction, and a new world order, it is difficult to find people who actually like you, let alone want you to continue breathing. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed hating the characters for what they represented, but I loved the characters themselves.

The House of Sacrifice is exactly what I look for in a series finale and was a stunning conclusion to Marith’s arc. I only wish I could continue living in this world and with these characters for a bit longer. I know Spark has more up her sleeve and she will continue being one of my go-to authors for the darkest of fantasy novels. My only hope is that she won’t take her foot off the pedal, which I know she won’t.

Recommended for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Michael Fletcher, Mark Lawrence, Ed McDonald, Peter McLean and Peter Newman. Honestly, just pick it up and give it a shot, unless tons of blood, sh*t, fighting, death, and dragons aren’t your cuppa.

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