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

Write on: Sun, 03 May 2020 by  in Archive Read 3116

I am soon to be delving back into the world of the Empires of Dust, to read book #2 of the trilogy, The Tower of Living and Dying. To prepare for it here is my review for book #1, The Court of Broken Knives, a great debut with a fascinating style. 



“A wise man who's ignored is about as effective as an idiot who's listened to.”


The Court of Broken Knives. The best way for me to describe this book is as a uniquely fascinating and entirely unpredictable read. As you will discover from reading the first page, Anna Smith Spark has a captivating and intriguing writing style, a poetic prose with simplicity at its core. I loved the prose. I can’t explain it or describe it well enough to do it justice, just very different to many if not all other books I have read.


This is undoubtedly a ‘Grimdark’ tale. All elements that you have come to expect are present here. And then some more. There are four protagonists within this story. Thalia is the High Priestess of a god, frequently sacrificing children as part of her duty. Orhan is a Lord, set to organise the assassination of his Emperor, for the greater good. Tobias is a mercenary captain, hired by a certain lord to perform an assassination. Lastly, Marith is a new recruit to this mercenary company, who quickly makes a name for himself whilst highlighting there is something about him that he is hiding.


“Soldiers do not believe in gods until they do something to offend them.”


Through all of the beautiful prose, I couldn’t find a way to resonate with any of these characters. That is what is to me holding me back from loving this book. I know it is Grimdark but I found it difficult to like any of these characters. I would have liked these characters to have at least one redeemable problem. They all have various issues eating at them, being at war with themselves. I enjoyed reading their arcs. I just wanted to like them.


The story and plot is something I won’t delve into for fear of spoilers but I really enjoyed how it progressed and I was definitely left with wanting more. There were enough twists and turns to keep me guessing and kept me shocked. Anna Smith Spark has created a grim and gritty world that is appropriately filled with dark deeds and despicable people to keep the Grimdark rating at a 10/10.


“Why we march and why we die, And what life's all a lie. Death! Death! Death!”



4.25/5 - a dark story with bloody action and unique storytelling. The characters are each in their own way pretty horrible, and I hope the next novel gives them chances to make me like them. The writing style is enough to keep me hooked for the rest of the series. If you are in the mood to read about child sacrifice, dragons, backstabbing and cheststabbing, complicated characters and all round Grimdarkiness, this is the book for you.

Last modified on Thursday, 16 December 2021 15:14

I am a part-time viking, part-time knight and a full-time teacher. You’ll see me in the corner wearing a coat of mail reading a good book.