The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark

Title: The Tower of Living and Dying.
Series: Empires of Dust #2.
Writer(s): Anna Smith Spark.
Publisher: Orbit.
Format: Paperback.
Release Date: August 7th 2018.
Pages: 514.
Genre(s): Fantasy.
ISBN13:  9780316511469.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
Previously on Empires of Dust:
The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark.


There’s something truly cathartic about grim and gory stories. Through those strong emotions that are allowed to be unleashed into the world, they let the soul clear itself from all the negativity. Some characters embrace this darkness with every fiber of their body and go on to set a very bleak scenario for the world in which they live in but allow the reader to unleash their own repressed energies by vicariously living through their actions. Anna Smith Spark continues her trilogy with a story that further looks into the mind of a kingdom leader whose tumultuous past and ongoing miseries fuel his thirst for calamity. What she accomplishes, however, is done in such an exquisite and folkloric fashion that her story takes on the form of mythology where the darkness of individuals is the foundation of her creation.

What is The Tower of Living and Dying about? The story takes place exactly after The Court of Broken Knives and follows Marith Altrersyr in his rage-filled desire for conquest as he marches an army from one end of Irlast to the other, stomping on every person who looks to challenge him or stand as an obstacle to his claim of the throne. After all, his ancestors owe him these rights to countless territories and it is only through brute force and chaos that he will establish himself as a threat who shall never be undermined. Father-killer, dragonlord, and leader of the blood-soaked Amrath Army, there is, however, only one person who could stop his rampage and it all rests upon the high priestess of the Lord of Living and Dying, Thalia. While they pummel their way through countless battalions together, Landra Relast also vows vengeance and silently seeks the death of Marith for what he has done. Will we see this godlike figure fall to the plans of these rebels?


In The Tower of Living and Dying, Anna Smith Spark further develops the intricate and knotty relationship between Marith and Thalia. While he drools with a desire to reign havoc on all those who dare confront him in his conquest, he also showcases a conflicted personality, broken into too many pieces to ever feel whole again, and too hungry for power to embrace the very little sanity and hope left in him. Thalia’s favourable position as the queen who stands by his side also allows her to finally see the monster he truly is in his heart, although she continues to offer a helping hand in keeping him grounded, there’s something far too corrupted in his blood to truly change his ways. The story isn’t only split between both of their point of views but also presents other characters and their struggles and backgrounds as we further understand the complexity of the politics, history, and culture within this world. While these other narratives are intriguing and allow the story to expand and enrichen as we progress, Marith’s bloodbath remains some of the most epic sequences in fantasy literature.

Where Anna Smith Spark really outdid herself is in the prose as her writing style is unconventional yet mesmerizingly beautiful. Using single words or short sentences extremely frequently throughout the narration, she constructs a story with a visceral and poetic edge that dictates the momentum and pacing of her story in an unbelievable manner. It is especially in the action sequences that her writing style radiantly glows as blood is spilled in unspeakable quantities and death is brought upon many in devastating forms. Her writing style allows the reader to feel the intensity of every instant, sort of like following the beat of drums and focuses on conveying the distressing emotions that planes on the battlefield. The atmosphere thus engulfs the reader through these intimately chaotic sequences and allows them to understand the barbarism that follows Marith and hides in his shadow.

The Tower of Living and Dying is a stellar sequel following a ruler’s stark and grisly frenzy amidst all the damnation and bloodshed.


Thank you to Orbit Books for sending me a copy for review!



27 thoughts on “The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this series – I hope you enjoy the third book too. It feels like the only possible conclusion for this tale.
    ASS is such a great author – I love her writing style, it’s just so unique.
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was especially thrilled to hear you mention the short sentences or even singular words that aid the tempo of the action. I myself enjoy experimenting with such, yet I seem to hear that it’s a “no-no”. Good to know that it’s not totally forbidden and that people actually enjoy it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have not managed to move past book 1 of this series, yet, but with such a glowing review, that brought back the memories of those hard-to-like characters that nonetheless were so intriguing, I must do my best to place book 2 in my reading queue….
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I too was stuck after book 1 and it took me the recent release of the third book for me to want to binge through the finale. I think her books only get better with each entry now. I know the flaws I found in the first book are now strengths in this one, for example. Hope you enjoy it when you get the chance to try it out! Thank you for reading! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How fascinating that what you thought of as flaws in the first book were so stellar in the second. I love the use of singular words to give punch to the flow of a narrative. I suspect I would appreciate the writing of this. I also think its fascinating that it is in essence a story of watching the descent of a character. Especially paired with such a modern, sparse cover!! That is no fantasy look that I know. Very, very fascinating. You sell it well Lashaan as usual. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it was odd but I think it’s when I saw how effective it was during war sequences that I found the style so intriguing. It’s not easy to pull of, however, and definitely not a style that will please many. I’m glad to hear it has intrigued you though! Thank you so much for reading, Dani! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But it isn’t completely absent? Sometimes even a glimmer is enough for me. I think I’m going to have to think this over if I really want to add this to my tbr. Red Sister made me even more leery than ever of things labeled grimdark…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Nop, not COMPLETELY. Although, I’m having a tough time imagining you rooting for the protagonist here. I think there might me a better chance of that happening with one of the minor characters and their POV hahah

        I personally can only recommend highly Ed McDonald’s Raven’s Mark trilogy over any other grimdark series recently released.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I do have that on my tbr. I hope to get to it some time this year (as the year is QUICKLY slipping away!)

        Thanks for all this. I think I’m going to play it safe and just not tempt fate.

        Liked by 1 person

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