The unconquered city of Sorlost is in decline for years. Once part of a grand and undefeated Empire, now it's nothing more than a city of uncaring Emperors and pity Bureaucrats. Orhan Emmereth, Lord of the Rising Sun, Dweller in the House of the East, the Emperor's True Counselor and Friend, decides to take the situation in hand, hiring a bunch of mercenaries called The Free Company of the Sword to kill the Emperor and every other noble, and bringing a definite change to the eternal city of Sorlost the Golden in the process. But among these good and ordinary mercenaries, there's a boy called Marith who's not ordinary at all. And when fate gets him to cross paths with Orhan, all hell comes loose to the Empire.
"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."
Although The Court of Broken Knives is Anna Smith Spark's debut, and despite the fact that it was published just a couple of days ago, I've seen her called Queen of Grimdark for a good while. Reading TCoBK, I came to understand why - But before explaining the reason to you, let me give you a quick rundown of what Grimdark truly means.
Magic, demons and haunted souls. Violence, sexual violence and torture. Grim worlds and dreadful characters. All of these elements are frequently seen in grimdark books, but they don't define the genre. Grimdark means the lack of goodness, rightfulness and morality behind the motives of one's actions towards victory. The Fellowship of the Ring came out victorious against the forces of Sauron because they fought for the good side. Vin won against the evil Lord Ruler and the malevolent force called Ruin because she was pure of heart. Jorg of Ancrath won against his enemies because he was simply capable of doing so. And that's the true meaning of Grimdark.
Back to Anna and the reason she was hailed as Queen of Grimdark. Do I still have to explain the reason to you? I think not, you got it on your own. Anna captures every single aspect of what Grimdark means, and she does so with wit and excess talent.
The Court of Broken Knives isn't simply a true Grimdark book. It's a true, wonderful Grimdark book. From the well-developed and three-dimensional characters to the mesmerizing and ever-expanding world, from the mysterious and balanced magic system to the masterfully crafted and slowly unfolding plot, and from the solid and purposeful prose to the steady pace with a rising tempo, The Court of Broken Knives delivers on every front.
Have you ever felt like you were always late to join a fandom? Have you ever thought that all the talented authors you have ever discovered were already famous at the point you first heard of them? Well, now is the time to make amends. Anna Smith Spark is one of the most talented fantasy authors to emerge in the last decade, and by buying and reading The Court of Broken Knives you will earn the right to say "Hey, I knew her from before!" in a couple of years from now.
You can buy The Court of Broken Knives here.