The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark


“Why we march and why we die, and what life means… it’s all a lie. Death! Death! Death!”

— Anna Smith Spark, The Court of Broken Knives

    It’s always refreshing to dive into a pool of murky grimdark water after a long thriller swim. With fantasy books, the world alone transports you to unimaginable places filled with impossible people and creatures. Set in environments that take a life of its own, you’re bound to find yourself chained to the details of the land and to lurk in the shadows of its people. Anna Smith Spark brings us a new and gripping debut story that swears to have everything you’d want, from blood and betrayal to magic and dragons. The Court of Broken Knives, book one in the Empires of Dust series, offers us four different and unusually fascinating point of views to tell a story filled with back-stabbing decisions and rightful ownership. Although each character (mercenary captain, mercenary recruit, politician and high priestess) all have their own goals and slowly discover the harsh reality of the decisions they are to make, Marith, the latest recruit to the company of soldiers, remains the center of attention as his uncommon background resurfaces and takes a hold of his life.


    The Court of Broken Knives remains a very aggressive and relentless adventure that promises blood, gore, profanities and betrayals in every installment to come. Its world is unique and delivers an immersive and engaging experience through composed banter or savage skull-bashing. While the story is built on the idea of mercenaries being hired to take down an emperor, Marith quickly grows into a character that discovers his true potential and is thrown straight down a life-changing path. With every action, he becomes even more consumed by his heritage and what he could possibly become. Certain point of views however turned out uninspiring, especially when preceded with another character’s action-filled and charismatic lifestyle. It just so happens that among the four perspectives you get, the politician barely ever managed to grab my attention with his forbidden love and his whole I-didn’t-know-it-would-be-this-hard attitude. On the other hand, the other character’s ended up putting forth a much more adventurous and thrilling journey to follow and gaze at.

    Unfortunately, the biggest issue I ended up having with Anna Smith Spark debut was her writing style. This was detrimental to my whole experience and became heavily bothersome as the story unfolded. While I tried really hard to embrace it, I never truly saw its benefits. There were primarily two issues. First of all, the author adores short powerful sentences. You might wonder how this could possibly be a problem, but when you find yourself in front of consecutive short verb-less sentences that often also are quite repetitive throughout the book, they’ll never stop jumping at your face, making it so much more difficult to appreciate the writing. Think of it like selective attention, once you realize it, you just can’t stop seeing them. For example, the book starts off ass follows : “Knives. Knives everywhere. Coming down like rain.” While this seemed quite epic at first, it quickly grew too recurrent and too annoying for me to truly enjoy the story. Second of all, the author writes the story in third person omniscient. There are four point of views spread throughout the book and you’ll end up knowing everything they’re thinking and everything that’s going on. However, at times, Anna Smith Spark also infuses first-person narrative within her story in a weirdly unconventional way that simply makes things unnecessarily confusing.


    While the writing style was the biggest downside to my experience, it is far from being a reason why you should stay away from this debut novel. Consecutive short dramatic sentences might not have worked too well with me, but it might have a pleasant and impressive effect on you. The Court of Broken Knives still delivers plenty of blood, gore, obscenity and treachery. It is filled with anger and lust, and presents it all in a universe that sounds promising and seems filled with secrets. This first book of the Empires of Dust series will only leave you with more questions upon reaching the end, but things can only get better from now on. Anna Smith Spark is definitely a great writer who can create colourful worlds with decent characters and banter. Fans of grimdark should definitely give this one a go if a band of mercenaries mixed into a ploy that is bigger than life fascinates them. If you’re looking for characters trying to understand power in their own unique ways, while simultaneously finding out the meaning of life and death, this might just be the right book to pick up next.



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35 thoughts on “The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark

      1. Yeah, me and grimdark are at stark odds. The underlying hopelessness that is shown by the violence, profanity, etc is the complete opposite of Christianity. Sometimes I don’t have a problem with underlying philosophies that I disagree with, but grimdark? I won’t put up with it.

        As for this book. It just all the praise of the violence, moral ambiguity and lack of distinct right and wrongs. Might have been other stuff as well too…

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This is definitely not my genre 😀 I don’t read fantasy i even sold my box set of GoT books because I never got into it but this is a great review! Appreciate your honesty as always! I’m sure that other fantasy fans will enjoy it even though the writing wasn’t that good in your opinion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I would’ve grabbed the boxset easily and quickly off your hands if you lived nearby 😂 Pretty interesting that you don’t like fantasy, you might be one of the first ones to explicitly mention that hahah Thanks for reading though. I appreciate that. 😊

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  2. Definitely one for grimdark fans.

    I really like her writing style, it’s different and made a change from the often lengthy sentences in fantasy but I can completely understand your issue with it. It’s definitely not for everyone.

    Glad you were still able to find some enjoyment in the book and of course, a great review as usual.👌

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks man. I can see how this debut might be a nice change of the “usual” format we get from our fantasy books. It must’ve been refreshing, for sure. I just felt like it was a but overdone. It felt like there a “try-hard” attempt to poetic writing, but yeh, this could definitely be loved by countless other readers. 😄

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my, thank you so much! You sure know how to flatter someone 😁 I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one. I could definitely enjoy the style in doses, especially if it’s used sparingly, but in this one I just felt overwhelmed by the style. Thank you again for your kind words! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Haaahahahaha… this review made me laugh so much! Short. Stabby. Sentences. Would drive. Me insane! No, no I can see using this technique for emphasis in places but I can also see your issue with it. For some reason it tickled my funny bone!

    Actually I was excited to see this review! It was totally a fantasy but my biggest pet peeve is depression. I can’t get through a book if it depresses me. I don’t mind grim circumstances and hard struggles, etc but there’s got to be some hope mixed in! I LOVE multiple POVs too. *cries* Such a great review, as always Lashaan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahahah you nailed it!! It’s not entirely written like that, but it was definitely her signature for this book. I’ve heard of people who just couldn’t deal with books with no glimmer of hope in it. I don’t really mind it, as long as the story ends up being memorable and amazing. Thank you so much for reading, Dani!! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Meggy!! Yep, yep! It’s quite savage in this world, but dragons in the mix only makes things better! I do wish the writing was a but different, I would’ve raved about this sooooo much more!! I’d still give its sequel a shot, and hopefully it’ll be an improvement to this debut. 😏

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  4. I’ve been meaning to get intro grimdark fiction for a while now, and I already have some contenders on my TBR hahaha This is one of them, and I was ecstatic to see you had a review of it because I know I can trust your judgement 😛
    I’m so sorry to hear the writing style didn’t appeal to you. It’s one of those things that we really can’t brush aside, can we? It either makes or breaks a book.
    I find that to have a really nice rhythm and flow, a narrative needs to mix up both short and longer sentences. Otherwise, it gets too staccato and won’t grab your interest at all.
    I also don’t like it when all characters know too much. It’s much more enjoyable to stack several characters’ knowledge in layers, and learn bits and pieces in a gradual way. I get that maybe the author was trying a different style of her own but I guess it didn’t really work well.
    I’ll definitely be reading this one and see for myself whether those issues will affect me or not. I don’t think I have a specific taste for writing styles; they either work or don’t. It depends on the story, really. So I’m hoping it works for me 🙂
    Amazing review, as always, Lashaan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I too have been meaning to dive into some nasty grimdark fantasy novels for a while just to see how savage it and swear-y it can get. I can’t say I’m disappointed by this experience since I saw all its potential and can only expect even more fun stuff with other titles! I appreciate the trust you put into my reviews, and I agree that the issues I had aren’t universal dealbreakers. There are a bunch of reviews out there that raved about this debut novel and everything it was able to showcase, so hopefully your experience with it will be just as wonderful! 😏
      I too love when multiple POVs are used in a way that it divulges the story in bits and pieces for us to connect and explore. My biggest issue was definitely in the fact that the author would also integrate first person narration within the story, without quotation marks and without jumping lines to separate it from the rest of the text for example. It just made it jarring to read at times. I’d say I was able to get used to it 75% of the time, but the rest of the time, it made me flinch a little.

      Thank you so much for reading Sophie!! Always a pleasure to hear your thoughts on it all. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Verb-less sentences? Nah I don’t think so and apart from that dark and depressing fantasy tellings with mercenaries (which is appearantly called Grimdark, I’m such a fantasy noob) is nothing for me either to be honest. I do like reading your review though but that’s as far as I’ll go in this genre :-).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha yep! It would look like: “They came roaring. Furious thunder. Mighty lightning. Empty hope. Boom.” Hahahah thank you so much for reading though!! It’s when y’all read my reviews for things that you wouldn’t normally read that I feel super honored and happy!! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  6. heheh yes the pool of grimdark does seem enticing when sandwiched between thrillers 😉 That’s a good point- cos now it’s made me think how they compliment each other whilst being quite different…. Anyhoo it’s such a shame about the book having too many short sentences cos then it really loses its impact. Shame. A real shame. Believe me. (and yes, I did start writing that to be dramatic, but it morphed into a Trump impression 😉 ) And I do like the sound of the world building- though the characters sound ok- I think the writing issue would ultimately put me off. Awesome review though!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, yep. Raw, crunchy and bloody. Just the way I love it. (I’m just kidding! Don’t think I’m some wacko now!) Haahahahh If he suddenly became lyrical, he could probably write a grimdark fantasy novel about world domination or something wicked like that. 😛 Honestly, you should try this out for yourself and see how your fair with the writing style. It might not be as bad and overly dramatic as I felt it was hahah! Thank you so much for reading!! 😉


  7. Great review, Lashaan! I most certainly have to take this book for a spin… I never thought, when I first started seeing the book around, that it would be so grim… but I like the sound of it.
    You make very valid points re writing style… I do wonder how I would ‘get along’ with those short snappy sentences… They can work brilliantly, but they can start to feel lacking. I am worried about the POVs though… I don’t like the idea of becoming confused… hmm… but yeah, will defo try it out some time 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Liz! It definitely has a lot of blood and a healthy amount of profanity. I too didn’t know it was grimdark till I had the book in my hands.

      You should give it a shot if it interest you. The writing style is really a hit or miss thing, and really, a question of preference. Your reading speed might also make you speed through it without really noticing it too much and actually enjoying the dramatic short sentence paragraphs. Hopefully, when you decide to take it out for a spin, you’ll enjoy it even more than I did!! 😀


    1. Damn. I appreciate the revisit. I’m not even going to dare reread what I’ve said in this review today though hahaha

      I don’t think it’s heavy on profanity. I consider Grey Bastards by Jonathan French as the ultimate book for profanity, for example. Based on my memory, I think this trilogy uses some cuss words/harsh expressions here and then but doesn’t overdo it.

      Liked by 1 person

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