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The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust Book 3) Kindle Edition
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―Miles Cameron, author of The Traitor Son Cycle on The Court of Broken Knives
"All hail the queen of grimdark fantasy!"
―Michael R. Fletcher, author of Beyond Redemption on The Court of Broken Knives
About the Author
- ASIN : B07L3SXDFN
- Publisher : Orbit (August 13, 2019)
- Publication date : August 13, 2019
- Language: : English
- File size : 3722 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 577 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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And now I'm sitting here, trying to arrange my thoughts into some semblance of coherence. So, I'm not writing a review for this book, either. But for the series overall. So, here goes, and unfortunately, like Marith, I'm likely to make bad tea out of it.
<b>Empires of Dust</b> might be the most beautiful, fucked-up fairy tale I've ever read. When I say that, there is no judgement, no disgust. I mean that from a place of love.
A grand sweeping story of desperately broken people that somehow still manages to remain intimate, from Orhan and Darath, to Tobias and Landra, to ultimately Marith and Thalia, it evokes tones both melancholy and triumphant. I cannot really explain the ache these books pulls from your heart, or the visceral horror, or the vicarious triumph without knowing how you've lived.
Maybe that's a bit maudlin. Maybe it's a bit too on the edge of what might be considered pretentious claptrap. But, it is what it is. Reading these, I thought of the way Hamlet's father must have felt, the poison seeping into his ear. What can you do but hear?
Here, there are courts of beautiful nobles, gilded in silver and gold. There, the gore-drenched streets of a city broken by those nobles only a chapter ago whose descriptions wouldn't have been out of place in a tale about the court of the fae or Arthur and his knights, if they were in truth blood-soaked maniacal death cultists.
And at its core, a story about love and hate, and the little wrongs that grow into great ones. About choices we make, and whether we made those choices at all.
Desire and disgust and death and glory, if only for a brief moment.
Thanks to the publisher and author for an advanced reading copy of The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.
Spark’s Empires of Dust has been one of THE most enjoyable series I’ve read since I began reviewing. Alongside RJ Barker’s The Wounded Kingdom and Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor, among a few others, every time I see someone looking for a new book to read or a series to begin, it is one that I immediately jump to recommend.
“Knives. Knives everywhere. Coming down like rain. Down to close work like that, men wrestling in the mud, jabbing at each other, too tired to care any more. Just die and get it over with. Half of them fighting with their guts hanging out of their stomachs, stinking of shit, oozing pink and red and white. Half-dead men lying in the filth. Screaming. A whole lot of things screaming.”
This is how The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1) begins. It is unlike anything I have ever read. Brutal, poetic, and utterly satisfying to those with the grimdarkest of hearts pumping in their chests. It sold me on picking up the first book, let alone the rest of the series, and it has been a marriage full of blood and grit and piss and gore and knives and **** ever since.
Spark truly is the Queen of Grimdark, there is no disputing that. This is one of the darkest series I have ever laid eyes upon. Loads of characters that are beyond redemption, fire and decapitation and death lying in wait for all, and some of the most elegant world-building you will come across. Not only that, but the author’s writing is simply exquisite. Each page is a picture painted with quick strokes of poetic prose, only to be doused in blood and thrown into the grinder. From the smallest pieces of world-building like streets or doorways, to the extravagances of castles, courts, and battlefields, not a detail is left out and pictures are clearly presented to the reader.
Like most characters in the grimdark genre, redeeming qualities are hard to come by with the likes of Marith, Thalia, and the gang. When your thoughts are only of death, destruction, and a new world order, it is difficult to find people who actually like you, let alone want you to continue breathing. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed hating the characters for what they represented, but I loved the characters themselves.
The House of Sacrifice is exactly what I look for in a series finale and was a stunning conclusion to Marith’s arc. I only wish I could continue living in this world and with these characters for a bit longer. I know Spark has more up her sleeve and she will continue being one of my go-to authors for the darkest of fantasy novels. My only hope is that she won’t take her foot off the pedal, which I know she won’t.
Recommended for fans of Joe Abercrombie, Michael Fletcher, Mark Lawrence, Ed McDonald, Peter McLean and Peter Newman. Honestly, just pick it up and give it a shot, unless tons of blood, ****, fighting, death, and dragons aren’t your cuppa.
Top reviews from other countries
I was able to overlook this as it was a page-turner and I assumed lots of questions and vageness within the story would be clarified. It wasn't.
There is magic in the story. It's never explained, and it's hard to follow in the story when magical things happen. I don't think the author ever had an idea of what was happening... which was disappointing. Why was Marith so powerful? What had his ancestors done? Why was his foe at the end so powerful? What happened to many of the supporting characters? I have no idea. I can normally imagine magic in books, but here, they were just words on a page.
Speaking of words... the writing that I found so wonderful began to grate after 2 books of it. Smith-Spark writes in massive (and I mean MASSIVE) lists. She does this often. The lists often last pages, and are often very repetitive... every battle scene sounds something like this... "Blood, fire, swords slashing, boots crushing, shields blocking, ash bitter in the mouth, flames searing the skin, men shouting, weeping, grunting.... etc" Only this goes on for pages... (actually I'm quite good at this!). It got to be a chore for me.
Most disappointing was the fact that the main character was so boring. I couldn't understand his magnetism. He seemed like a spoiled brat to me. I couldn't care about him. The characters I cared about were the supporting characters of Tobias & Landra.
The world-building was minimal, and there were just too many deus ex machinas for me, where it was revealed people had sudden powers or abilities that came out of nowhere and were badly described.
This book would be a one star at best, but I'm giving it two because the preceeding two books promised so much. A real shame and a missed opportunity. I so wanted to like it as Anna is a very likeable lady and is good fun on facebook... sadly, as much as I wanted to... I just couldn't. Sorry Anna.
The House of Sacrifice is the final book in Anna Smith Spark’s remarkable Empires of Dust trilogy and I have to say it’s definitely a glorious end to one of the best fantasy trilogies I’ve read in a long, long time. Before I get into the review proper I should warn you that there’s a good chance there will be spoilers for the first two books in the trilogy, so if you haven’t already read The Court of Broken Knives or The Tower of Living and Dying you might want to go do that first.
Okay, if you’re still here then I’m going to assume you’ve already read the first two books in the trilogy. Marith Altrersyr has conquered or subjugated everything in his path and is finally ready to settle down to a happy life as the King of all Irlast but fate has other things in store for Amrath reborn. With his wife, Thalia, at his side, and a blood-crazed army at his back, Marith sets off on the road to conquest once again, this time with glorious Sorlost, heart of the Sekemleth Empire set in his sights. Can King Ruin achieve the one thing his infamous ancestor was incapable of and sack the Golden City?
To say that Anna Smith Spark has a unique and unusual way with words would be like suggesting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a pretty painting; it’s an understatement of the highest order. Amongst her influences she lists M. John Harrison, and that influence clearly comes through in the way she writes. As with both previous books in the trilogy the prose here is at times both lyrical and brutal, harsh fragments of ugliness and horror coupled with some of the most beautiful descriptions I’ve ever read. This is a book that needs to be read out loud, needs to be shared as oral tradition, and I’ll never get tired of reading Anna’s work.
The character development from the previous books continues here. Marith’s descent into madness and nihilism becomes even more pronounced, coupled with a rapidly growing hubris as he begins to truly believe he can’t be killed. Then there’s Thalia’s growing sense of guilt over her decision to not kill him when she had the chance, shown in her focus chapters where she questions whether their growing misfortune is deserved. These are characters that both mirror and contrast each other, each feeding the worst parts in the other while convincing themselves they do what is necessary. But as Marith begins to wonder if there should be an end to the death and destruction, Thalia still refuses to apologise for what they have done.
Hidden amongst the camp followers of Marith’s army, Tobias has all but given up on reclaiming any of his former glory. Disheartened by his own failure to stop Marith in book two he has found a peace of sorts, though he still seems to be driven by the desire to put right the things he thinks he did wrong. He gets a chance to redeem himself briefly in the middle section of the book but ultimately chooses to chase the past, once more returning to his martial roots, the thing he knows best.
And then there’s Orhan, once shining light of Sorlost, cast down by his own failures in the plot against the Sekemleth Emperor. Brought before the Immish governor of Sorlost, he is given the chance to reclaim former glories and is shown a path to redemption, only to have it pulled away from him when the King of Death comes knocking at the gates of the city.
There’s an interesting mix of character arcs in this trilogy. Marith and Thalia most definitely have a clear start, middle and end to their development. Marith’s arc in particular is damn-near note perfect in its adherence to the classical tragic heroes arc. Whether you love him or hate him, you can’t help but feel pity for Marith when his end comes, as it surely must.
For Tobias and Orhan, and for so many of the secondary characters, their arcs are almost cyclical. Tobias’ story ends as it began, with him leading a squadron of mercenaries, while Orhan achieves his goal of ripping down and rebuilding the Sekemleth Empire and finally reclaims the power and prestige he had at the start of the trilogy.
Taken as a whole, the Empires of Dust trilogy is a masterwork of fantasy literature, and in my mind definitely secures the author’s right to claim the title of Queen of Grimdark. This isn’t a particularly pleasant story, and at times highlights the worst aspects of human nature in gloriously sickening detail, yet there’s something beguiling about it, something that makes it impossible to look away as even the supposedly decent characters perform the most heinous acts of horror and depravity. This is high literature with a distinctly grimdark flavour, and it truly sets a high bar for others to aim for. Definitely worth every single one of the five stars I’m giving it, and then some.
Read the trilogy. Visit a fantasy world that will swallow you whole.
I now have all three of these beautiful books in hardback form!