Review: The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1) by Anna Smith Spark

Rating: 9/10

Synopsis

They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust.

In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion – and only one man can see it.

Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him – beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.

Review

Kill! Kill! Kill!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to love a villain? A beautiful, cruel, yet charismatic villain? Or maybe you’re just sick of reading about the good guys? A Court of Broken Knives definitely hits those spots. Set in a medieval fantasy world, the story is as Grimdark as it gets and I love Grimdark, but even I had to double take on a few pages. The world is bleak, cruel and harsh, with little room for the weak and unwilling. Yet at times there are faint rays of hope…albeit rarely. The story follows Marith, an enigmatic, charismatic young man making his way with a company of mercenaries. At first this book started out like your typical mercenary band of hooligans, contracted to kill an emperor heist style. However, we quickly find out that there is something special about Marith, who has left behind a dark history, shrouded in mystery (too much at times), but most definitely destined for great things.

Throughout the first half of the book we are introduced to a few other key characters, including Orhan a noble of Sorlost, Thalia a priestess of the Tower of Living and Dying and Tobias, leader of a group of mercenaries. Events quickly move forward and it becomes clear that Marith is at the centre of most of them. The characters in A Court of Broken Knives are one of the main reasons I loved this book. The characters, although unique, were not actually good people, but rather selfish, horrible humans looking out only for themselves, but at the same time trying their best to survive in a very bleak dog eat dog world. So again if you’re interested in reading a rather villainous story then this is perfect! Each of these characters brought an interesting addition to the story. Orhan’s chapters focused largely on the political intrigue and problems of Sorlost. Thalia’s arc focused largely on a girl raised to be one thing and nothing else – almost like a mini story of tragic survival. Tobias’ arc felt more like a heist story. What was great about each of these characters and the way they were written was how much they developed throughout the story.

This brings me shortly to the plot, which for me was the weakest part. It sets the scene for an interesting world with a lot of tragic history, but unfortunately it didn’t feel like there was a larger picture, just many smaller ones that converge on each other – in other words many sub plots centred around the aforementioned characters. But please, don’t let this put you off, the characters themselves were more than strong enough to carry this story and establish it as a unique Grimdark novel.

Knives. Knives everywhere. Coming down like rain.

The writing in A Court of Broken Knives was excellent, yet definitely took some getting used too, due to its very literal and descriptive nature, and for some this might hinder their enjoyment. Despite an initial hurdle of getting used to the writing, it just worked. It really just did. I’m also not usually a fan of changes in POV, but again it just worked in this book. The literal, hectic and visceral writing style painted some of the most vivid images I have experienced when reading. Yes there were a lot of repetitions, but it worked as an almost fever dream like experience to paint a picture of how broken and dark this world really is.

I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough to fans of Grimdark and even die hard fans of Grimdark will find some shocks in this fantastic book…

2 thoughts on “Review: The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1) by Anna Smith Spark

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