- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Voyager - GB (3 March 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780008204181
- ISBN-13: 978-0008204181
- ASIN: 0008204187
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.9 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Court Of Broken Knives Paperback – 3 Mar 2018
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‘Anna Smith Spark is a dynamic new voice in the field of grimly baroque fantasy, a knowing and witty provisioner of the Grand Guignol, a cheerful undertaker strolling across the graveyard and beckoning you to admire her newest additions.’
‘This outstanding, unputdownable debut holds and horrifies like a blood-spattered tapestry. There’s rough humour, high drama and a love of story-telling that shines through every page’ -Daily Mail
‘A confident first novel with deep veins of vice and brutality running through it, heralding the start of an atmospheric new series’ -SFX
‘Smith-Spark’s style, like her story stretches the envelope of conventions . . . the writing is skilful, the descriptions evocative, the dialogue sparks entertainingly, while the plot twists, turns and branches sinuously . . . an innovative and entertaining debut’ FantasyFaction
‘This is a tumultuous, often nihilistic world – but also one where there is potential for great beauty . . . I had to keep on turning pages to see what happens next’ -SFandF Reviews
‘Beautifully inventive as it is brutally evocative . . . Anna Smith Spark’s voice is equal parts mesmerising as it is magical . . . Once you get into the flow of things, you’ve dragged along, sucked down into the depths, and when you come back up you’ll be gasping for air’ -Fantasy Book Critic
‘Fierce, gripping fantasy, exquisitely written; bitter, funny and heart-rending by turns’ -Adrian Tchaikovsky
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This is quite well written with high quality prose and some humor. The Tobias POV narration is very good, but the pacing is very uneven as it switches to other POVs with Orhan, Thalia and Marith. The narrative arc is similar to a mix of The Black Company and Prince Of Thorns. The main focus is on thematic exploration rather than plot development or visceral/acute participation with the characters. The main theme is whether to be pessimistic or optimistic about a young person with destructive tendencies; whether to believe in their best self or fear their worst aspect. Addiction is used as a relatable metaphor for this. This character arc will be pursued over the full series so there is very little character development seen in this opening volume. The plot is somewhat muddled and disconnected — lots of deus ex machina — in service of that thematic exploration. The grimdark tag flows from the high body count and the collateral damage to innocents, but very little of the violence is explicit in the text; instead there is an almost dreamlike detachment.
Regular readers of fantasy may feel short-changed by the lack of focus on plot, so approach this with expectations appropriately set. The quality of the prose is definitely worthwhile.
2017 has been a phenomenal year for Grimdark fantasy, especially in regards to debuts like Kings of the Wild and Godblind, and The Court of Broken Knives continues that streak. Michael R. Fletcher calls Spark "the Queen of Grimdark fantasy" and he hit the nail on the head. I have never read (well, listened to) a more gritty, disturbing, gory, gorgeous novel in my life and to know there are sequels to come makes me squeal like a child. The writing style may turn people off, much like Peter Newman's 'The Vagrant', but Spark beautifully executes each and every line with a prose that guts you like a knife (see what I did there?) Though I will say, similar to other reviews, there were times where I had to rewind a bit and re-listen to a chapter or two to make sure I completely understood exactly what was going on (the audiobook also isn't quite as loud as others through an iPhone speaker).
The city of Sorlost, where people piss gold and jewels, stands beautiful and unconquered, but is ruled by an Emperor who, well, lets just say is "losing his touch". Orhan Emmereth has charged a group of traveling mercs to kill its Emperor and all those who remain, before it is lost via invasion, and so a new empire can be reborn from the ashes. Among these mercs is a new recruit, Marith, who has a worse than troubled past and a more than certain future, if he can stay sober enough to realize it. As the mercs enter Sorlost, not all that glitters is gold and betrayal is the word of the day. Death is imminent but glory is forever.
Blood, brutal deaths, love, betrayal, characters you love to hate, and dragons all combine to create a unique world and astounding story; one that will leave you clawing amongst the dead on the battlefield for more.
If my metaphor has gone over your head due to the fact you're not a A Song of Ice and Fire or Game of Thrones fan, allow me to rephrase: there's no heroes in this book. There's only protagonists. Every single one of them has innocent blood on their hands, including children, and it's rarely questionable the world would be better without them. Except, of course, that everyone else in the world is just as awful. For some people, that will send them screaming in the other direction but for others, like me, I found it quite fascinating to read.
The premise is Orhan Emmereth, nobleman of Sorlost, has decided to mount a coup against the Emperor in order to reform its crumbling hollow shell. This requires sending an army of mercenaries he has no intention of allowing to live on a one-way suicide mission into the palace. Meanwhile, said mercenary group discovers they have a bonafide demigod among them with all the horrific mental problems of an Achilles on smack. Marith is a bloodthirsty psychopath but he's beautiful and capable of great deeds so he more or less gets away with whatever he does, no matter how much damage he does (or because of it).
Marith, of course, complicates the suicide part of the suicide mission even though he's every bit as much a danger to his companions as his enemies. Rounding out the group is the high priestess, Thalia, is a woman who regularly sacrifices children on altars, who decides maybe there's more to life than being the instrument of a revolting cultural practice. She wants a handsome prince to whisk her away and isn't too particular about the fact the only one available is quite literally an insane murderer.
The characters are all extremely well-developed with more than just the collection of their flaws. They're all broken people but you understand how the society as well as events have made them this way. Some of them are more sympathetic than others but sympathy is not what Anna Smith Spark asks for. Instead, she merely takes us on a wonderful ride to see who will still be standing when the dust settles.
Ultimately, the story is more about the journey than the ending. It doesn't matter whether Orhan successfully fixes the Empire because the price for even trying has been his soul. Marith is a person with immense potential who squanders it in decadence and violence. If he actually does achieve anything, why should we cheer him on? Even Thalia is someone who has no real "right" to get a new life since she's done nothing for anyone but her self her entire life. They're all fascinating characters and have a Tarantino-esque quality of being completely unpredictable despite their ruthlessness.
If you think I'm overselling the antihero qualities of them, trust me, I'm not but that's the appeal of the book. Dark, edgy, and violent storytelling from beginning to end. Definitely worthy of the title "grimdark."