Published by Harper Voyager on 29 June 2017
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, grimdark, epic fantasy, High Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Dragons
Source: Purchased Book
Buy on Amazon
Perfect for fans of Mark Lawrence and R Scott Bakker, The Court of Broken Knives is the explosive debut by one of grimdark fantasy's most exciting new voices.
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.
A Court of Broken Knives is the crowning of the Queen of Grimdark, Anna Smith Spark. A fantastical story that resonates with power and struggle. I can’t wait to delve into the Empire of Dust series once more.
Am I glad that I picked up The Court of Broken Knives? Oh boy, am I ever. I put out a call on Twitter to get my fellow bookworms to suggest fantasy books that might get me out of my fantasy reading funk. In 2022, I read the First Law Trilogy in its entirety and had the biggest book hangover. Nothing in the Fantasy genre was scratching that grimdark itch, it was the characters, the settings, and the escapism that I was craving, and no disrespect to those authors, nothing was catching my interest. Then along came The Court of Broken Knives…
It didn’t take much to get me hooked. The first chapter was like staring into a deep, dark pool of water. I was hypnotised, the individual ripples capturing all of my interest, like the water it could have swallowed me whole, and I wouldn’t have given a damn!
“A wise man who’s ignored is about as effective as an idiot who’s listened to.”
You see a series is only so good as its characterisation – does it give you time to explore lives and scenarios through the different strands of a plot? Do you find yourself becoming distant from the protagonist and more sympathetic toward the antagonists? I know what side of the coin I’ve fallen on, but I’ll keep mum about that until I’ve finished the series. The imagery, however, just flayed me alive! I felt like I was there, I was treading through the deserts, witnessing a dragon (yeah, if your story has a dragon, you’ve already got me there 95% of the way.) and slicing through flesh, the blood spray is warm and sticky and you can feel the heat burning through your clothes. As I say, the imagery was everything.
The story starts with a mercenary band of differing characters. Each brought something fresh to the grimdark table. Wit, brutality, and mystery. They are on they’re way to Sorlost, think of it like the royal seat of the country. It’s where all the political manoeuvring happens and they have a special mission – assassinate the Emperor. They don’t get far before being apprehended by a dragon. NOW, these descriptive scenes are some of the best I have read regarding dragon attacks. The flesh melting off the bone, the heat of the fire, the absolute terror running through the mercenary’s bones. Marith, the new recruit who appears to be a bit wet behind the ears when it comes to weapon mastery manages to slay this dragon. How? How is that even possible? Let me tell you I had a lot of questions, and none were answered but instead, we find out that Marith is not all he appears. Talk about getting the tea!
“Soldiers do not believe in gods until they do something to offend them.”
As I have often said – fiction can never be too dark. And the proclaimed Queen of Grimdark delivers it all like DPD on crack. Marith is a character that you find yourself inwardly chastising about liking. You can’t help it; I think we can all find parts of ourselves in him. Never quite lived up to a parent’s expectation. Massive expectations on top of your shoulders, experiencing grief that has no outlet except for unhealthy outlets. Thalia, the high priestess, does some incredibly inhumane things in the name of religion but she doesn’t know any different. This has been her calling since childhood, she knew what would await her when she drew the red lot. But when the attack on Sorlost happens she grabs her opportunity to escape. Why? Because she chooses something else. She cannot be blamed for living her life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anna Smith Spark is the author of the critically acclaimed, Gemmell and British Fantasy Awards shortlisted Empires of Dust grimdark epic fantasy series (HarperVoyager) The Court of Broken Knives, The Tower of Living and Dying and The House of Sacrifice, as well as short stories set in and around the series’ world. Her books have been described as ‘a masterwork’ by Nightmarish Conjurings, ‘an experience like no other series in fantasy’ by Grimdark Magazine, ‘literary Game of Thrones’ by the Sunday Times, and ‘howls like early Moorcock, converses like the best of Le Guin’ by the Daily Mail.
Leave a Reply