If you’ve read The Court of Broken Knives and the Tower of Living and Dying, you know that the Empires of Dust revolves around world-wrecker Marith Altrersyr (the descendant of a demon abomination) and his compulsion to murder all the things while feeling extremely bad about it. Thus far in the story, he has accomplished all he has set out to do.
He and his former child-murdering priestess wife Thalia have carved a path of ruin and devastation everywhere they’ve gone, and now they’ve decided to kick back, relax, and start a family. But when everything goes wrong, Marith leads his bloodthirsty army back on a rampage in an endless cycle of violence and bloodshed.
Meanwhile, Tobias has taken up following Marith’s army and hopes to simply survive, maybe peace out and find a new life…And Orhan, still alive in Sorlost with his family, has fallen from great heights, but hey at least the plague is gone.
As with Court and Tower, House’s strength is really in Spark’s narration. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “Spark uses words like damn Shakespeare.” She breaks things up like a mad woman shattering stained glass windows only to rearrange them in such a way that evokes the exact emotion the character is feeling. To be perfectly frank, I felt a little manipulated (not in a bad way). There came a point, in fact, near the end of the book where once again, you guessed it, Marith was leading his army on a slaughter spree where I realized, Gods, I’m so bored of this, and then I read the line, “Death and joy! Gods, it’s boring by now, yes it is.” It was at that moment I realized HoS had been such an emotionally taxing read because I had been all over the place with its characters. Anger. Depression. Disgust. Joy. That is the kind of writing I’ve come to expect from the Queen of Grimdark. Her style evokes the chaos and confusion of battle, the pain of death, the joy of hope, and the insanity of living. It’s almost Brechtian.
This is a book.
This is a review.
These are just words.
Nothing is real.
I should note that since becoming a father, I’ve become increasingly squeamish of violence against children and House has the most of the trilogy. It was, I suspect, one more thing that is supposed to bother the reader.
I don’t understand how she does what she does, but this is a masterpiece of filth, an empire of dust, and it has been one hell of ride. If you love Joe Abercrombie, Michael R. Fletcher, and/or R. Scott Bakker…what are you waiting for? Pick up the Court of Broken Knives and its sequels.
No one writes like Anna Smith Spark.