by Anna Smith Spark
Series: Empires of Dust #1
Published on August 15, 2017 by Orbit
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
In this dark and gripping debut fantasy that Miles Cameron called "gritty and glorious!" the exiled son of the king must fight to reclaim his throne no matter the cost.
It is the richest empire the world has ever known, and it is also doomed. Governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The Yellow Empire is on the verge of invasion--and only one man can see it.
Haunted by prophetic dreams, Orhan has hired a company of soldiers to cross the desert to reach the capital city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from the 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. Young, ambitious, and impossibly charming, something dark hides in Marith's past--and in his blood
Dark and brilliant, dive into this new fantasy series for readers looking for epic battle scenes, gritty heroes, and blood-soaked revenge.
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Following up on the last adult fantasy debut I read, Age of Assassins (which is from the same imprint, interestingly enough), I’m back with another fabulous new read for y’all! The Court of Broken Knives takes readers into the dark, gritty world of Spark’s imagination. Here the title of Queen of Grimdark that I’ve seen the author labeled as truly comes to light.
I actually had to look up was grimdark fantasy was because I’d only heart the name in passing but hadn’t really read anything in the sub-genre. And then it all made sense. This book isn’t nice. It isn’t kind. It isn’t all happy magic and saving the day.
It’s ruthless. It’s vicious. It’s utterly vile.
And I loved all of it.
I don’t know what that says about me but… well, this book was beautiful. I think the writing is what captured me the most. Spark has a way with words, and I don’t mean that as a joke. The words are woven in an almost lyrical way that both increases the dark atmosphere while also tempering it enough to make it readable from a morality standpoint. It reminded me a bit of Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight in that sense and it’s the kind of writing that I loved but I know doesn’t work for every reader so if it’s not your thing, this book might not be for you.
The story follows four character perspectives, that of a soldier, a prince, a politician, and a priestess. And if you think these characters are heroes then you’re not reading the right book.
It’s rare I read a book where there isn’t a “hero” figure and a “villain,” where morals are gray and then some, where the characters have questionable pasts and will do whatever it takes to get what they want. Not to be good guys. Just because they want to. No hidden motives to increase tension. No mysteries to give them something to reveal to the reader. What you see is what you get and I loved it. Truly, these characters didn’t need to be good because they were interesting and I’d take that any day.
Then there’s the world-building. Well I mentioned the writing, right? Spark took that writing and brought this world to life with the perfect balance of detail to story. I never felt over- or underwhelmed by the world, nor was I confused by anything. I fell head first into this edgy, gritty world. It’s violent and terrible but I couldn’t put it down.
The Court of Broken Knives is not for everyone. You have to know what you’re getting into when you pick up this book and that’s a beautifully crafted new fantasy that will make you question everything you thought you knew. There are no heroes here. There are no villains. There are people and the decisions they make, the journey they take, and the consequences that follow. Get this book on your shelves, y’all!