Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1)” as Want to Read:
The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Court of Broken Knives

(Empires of Dust #1)

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,194 ratings  ·  293 reviews
In this dark and gripping debut fantasy that Miles Cameron called "gritty and glorious!" the exiled son of the king must fight to reclaim his throne no matter the cost.

It is the richest empire the world has ever known, and it is also doomed. Governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The Yellow Empire is on the verge
Paperback, 466 pages
Published August 15th 2017 by Orbit (first published June 27th 2017)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Court of Broken Knives, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Anna Spark Hello Alejanda. Sorry, I've been on holiday and not looking at the computer. Bliss!

Yes, there is romance in the book. It's about life, and love and…more
Hello Alejanda. Sorry, I've been on holiday and not looking at the computer. Bliss!

Yes, there is romance in the book. It's about life, and love and lust are a huge part of that. There's just a lot of violence, as well. (less)
Anna Spark It's very much an adult book. Sex and violence. Lots of violence.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,194 ratings  ·  293 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Mark Lawrence
I’ve read 1* reviews of this book and I’ve read 5* reviews, and I can see where both of them are coming from, though I definitely lean in the direction of the latter rating.

This is a long review so here is the TL:DR for the impatient among you:

This is a very well written book – by which I mean that the writing is excellent. Ironically that writing may well be a barrier between many readers and enjoying it.

This is an interesting book – by which I mean it evokes interesting questions of a literary
James Tivendale

"Not sure I really feel like fucking someone who's part god and part suicidal drunk, you know"

I received an advanced copy of The Court of Broken Knives via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Anna Smith Spark and Harper Voyager.

2017 has been a stunning year for adult fantasy debuts and the trend absolutely continues with The Court of Broken Knives (book one of Empires of Dust) which will surely become a grimdark classic. The beginning sees readers followi
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

Impossible to tell who's who any more. Mud and blood and shadows and that's it. Kill them! Kill them all! Keep killing until we're all dead. The knife jabs and twists and the man he's fighting falls sideways, all the breath going out of him with a sigh of relief. Another there behind. Gods, his arm aches. His head aches. Blood in his eyes. He twists the knife again and thrusts with a broken-off sword and that man too dies. Fire explodes somewhere over to the left. White as maggots. Silent as ma
Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
This is an exhilarating piece of grimdark fiction. It tells the story of a plague on one man’s mind. It’s raw, visceral and taps into the darkest places fantasy can go. GIVE. ME. MORE.

I found the characterisation quite unique. Normally when writers create characters, they try to make them interesting and compelling and conflicted. They will tell you all that’s intriguing about them within the first few pages because they want you to carry on reading. Anna Smith Spark doesn’t do this. She introdu
Petros Triantafyllou
Five months and fifteen reads after Kings of the Wyld, I finally found another book that I wanted to savour every single page, reading it as slow as my schedule permitted.

The unconquered city of Sorlost is in decline for years. Once part of a grand and undefeated Empire, now it's nothing more than a city of uncaring Emperors and pity Bureaucrats. Orhan Emmereth, Lord of the Rising Sun, Dweller in the House of the East, the Emperor's True Counselor and Friend, decides to take the situation in h
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths.

My rating is 2.5 stars.

The Court of Broken Knives is a novel which has taken me on a long journey. Not only alongside the characters which Anna Smith Spark has created, though that is true, but also my own journey of self-discovery, as I’ve found myself on a quest to reconsider my reading preferences, modify my bookish desires. This causing my review to take months to finish, as I returned time and again to the book to do lengthy rereads, attempting to focus my
Michael Britt
Jul 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
DNF @ 10% but skimmed to 30%. Actual rating: .5 Stars.

I looked at the review page before buying this and all my friends who've read this gave it shining 5 star reviews. So i excitedly rush on over to the Kindle store, pay money for it, and start it. Well, this describes the experience better than I ever could.

I don't DNF books very often, so this is a serious event. I occasionally will stop reading a book I dislike and put it away to try later quite often. But DNF? Very rarely.

Put very simply
Stefan Bach
Apr 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“A wise man who’s ignored is about as effective as an idiot who’s listened to.”

Bloodthirsty. Brutal. Raw. And, so, so beautiful in its violent design.
Where it begun and where it ended, with journey in-between, probably best debut novel of this decade.
And a true definition of grim-dark genre.

The Court of Broken Knives, Anna Smith Spark’s amazingly written debut novel in the Empire of Dust series.

Sorlost. The eternal Golden City. The center and symbol and absurdity of white porcelain in dese
C.T. Phipps
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, grimdark
THE COURT OF BROKEN KNIVES is a grimdark political fantasy novel. Specifically, it is one of those novels which follows in the Game of Thrones tradition of the back and forth between various factions for control over a region.

I should say this is actually a good deal darker than George R.R. Martin's work (no small feat) in the fact this is a book where there's no House Stark. Instead, it's the story of what would happen if you had only Tywin Lannister, Viserys Targareyn (if he had his ancestor
Michael Fletcher
First, a disclaimer: I know the author. That said, if I didn’t like the book I would quietly say nothing rather than lie about it in a review. It’s amazing how quietly I can say nothing.

A second disclaimer: I am absolutely rubbish at writing reviews.

I drop books fast. I don’t have much reading time and I’m not going to waste it reading something that isn’t awesome. This means my GoodReads profile kinda looks like I gush over everything I read, but that’s because there’s zero chance of me finishi
Mogsy (MMOGC)
Jul 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

The Court of Broken Knives is unlikely to shatter any molds in the grimdark genre, but I do have to give it credit for checking off all the right boxes and pushing all my right buttons. Also, the writing is exquisite, making it hard to believe this is Anna Smith Spark’s debut as it’s so incredibly polished and well done.

I do worry, however, that prospective readers might pick up this novel dismiss it almost right away beca
Ulff Lehmann
The Court of Broken Knives

Julius - Ajlius. Andreas - Nadrias. Alexander - Laexandar. Amrath - Marith.
I'll get back to this.

I read, I write and I'm content. Or some such, but not really no. Sometimes, most times, what I read leaves me wanting. In Anna Smith Spark's "The Court of Broken Knives" case it leaves me wanting with more. Sadly not more of the story. Don't get me wrong it is an interesting read, but I want more from the stories I read. More character, more insight into the characters, mor
*Absorbed in Countless Worlds*
Gods, this one leaves me speechless. The most intense hopelessness condensed into a beautifully written book I've read in quite a while. Thank you, Ms Spark, for making me witness this. And what a beautiful sick imagination you have - no offense meant!
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well decided to bring this book on vacation to Scotland, was really getting curious how I would experience this read. The reviews are very varied.

So yah I loved it :D 4.5 stars! Worked out just fine for me. Sure in the beginning you really need to get used to the writing, english isnt my first language and I love getting better at it. But honestly Im not good at languages in general. Even then I managed to enjoy this story and follow the plot. I wish I would finally start making fucking notes!
4.75 stars. Just a hair away from my 'best of all times' shelf.

It took me some time to collect my thoughts for this review (and am not too sure I am there yet even still). So if you don't feel like reading a long rambling write up - just go with my brief recommendation.
If you are a grimdark connoisseur - grab your copy today. You will not regret it.

The trick with reviewing this book is that it twists and turns so many times as the plot evolves that it is hard to say anything without giving much
Graham Austin-King
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is a very different book. A special book. There are lots of great writers in the fantasy genre, writers like Rothfuss or Lawrence who inject a true beauty into their prose. Smith Sparks goes beyond this, transporting the writing, and with it the reader, until the prose has an impact akin to poetry.

I'd go so far as to say that I've never encountered anything quite like Smith Spark's writing before. That this is art is beyond question, but it is also a compelling tale, and wonderfully crafte
Kari Rhiannon (Moon Magister Reviews)
5 stars

Review originally posted at Moon Magister Reviews

Was I expecting, when requesting this on a whim, to find that a book that was one of my favourites of 2017? The answer is no, and I’m so glad that I listened to the feeling in my gut and decided to pick this one up. Because, as much as I love fantasy, sometimes I have a really hard time telling books apart from their blurbs. Large fantasy cities? Mercenaries? Empires? I can name off the top of my head a veritable list of books that contai
Anindita,  A Bohemian Mind at Work
Full review:

One of the best fantasy books I have read since I have started blogging, The Court of Broken Knives (Empires of Dust #1) by Anna Smith Spark, is a poetic account of the struggle for existence centered around a handful of people caught in politics.

No, friends, it's not as simple as I made it sound.

The Court of Broken Knives is an example of labyrinthine plots and counterplots that might leave the unwary confused. But those who can keep their co
Stanislas Sodonon
I can't believe I'm finally done.

Nah, to be honest, I just stopped at 94%. I don't believe anything significant will happen in the next few paragraphs, and I do not intend to continue with this series.

This book is currently being lauded in all my circles as the bomb that fell in holy water.

I beg to strongly disagree.

I stuck with it. I really did. But it got me end the end.

I don't generally like going on about what makes a book bad in my eyes. I generally want to quickly move on to the next a
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The Plot

On the orders of nobleman Orhan Emmereth, a group of mercenaries are marching across the desert to reach the city of Sorlost, made vulnerable by years of decadence and excess. Once there, they are to kill the Emperor and all who support him. The company are men who are there to get the job done and get paid – however, one amongst their number has a checkered past, and enjoys killing rather more than the rest of them.


Orhan – Our chief schemer, he is a noble man of a major house
Mike Everest Evans
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: ‘The Court of Broken Knives’ is the stunning debut to Anna Smith Spark’s ‘The Empires of Dust’ series. One of two Anna’s to be released in June 2017 (UK), by Harper Voyager, the story of ‘The Court of Broken Knives’ is outmatched only by the unique voice that tells it. Bold, beautiful, brutal, Smith-Spark lives up to her twitter handle @QueenofGrimdark whilst pushing the boundaries of storytelling amongst recent releases.

THE GOOD: The voice is strong in this one! Right from t
Aug 12, 2017 rated it did not like it
Started off strong with a dragon fight in a desert, but soon gets mired in an abundance of frivolous details - so much so, one loses track of the plot, if there was one. Did not finish.
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a complicated and disturbing read. Very gory violent which is what you'd expect from a grimdark novel. The characters weren't likeable at all. Marith has been getting comparisons to Jorg but I couldn't see it. Jorg as much as an evil human being that he was, was still likeable. The plotting was solid but I feel like it wasn't its stongest point. The writing style took sometime to get adjusted to. Very literary and descriptive with alot of repetition in sentences. Also one moment its 1st ...more
Jul 26, 2018 marked it as owned-to-read
Shelves: 2017-releases
Yeah, I lied. I marked it as currently reading and didn't ever actually pick it up to read it. Will definitely get to it soon but I've got too many library books and buddy reads right now for this lol


Not really in the mood to read anything I'm reading already so I decided to pick this one up. I received this from a goodreads giveaway and have been dying to dive in, hope I like it 🤓
J.P. Ashman
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Listened to this on Audible. Five easy stars to both the story and the dual actress/actor narration (unusual but I loved it. Worked very well imho).

I've heard tales of this story/writing style being marmite, love/hate etc. etc. Well I hate marmite, but I ferkin' loved this book, its unique narrative, the prose and the narration (as mentioned above).

There wasn't a character by the end that I wanted to root for. They'd all done terrible things. All of them! And yet... And yet I found myself laughi
Faith (BookSelf ~ You Are What You Read)
Nothing is pointless, as long as one is alive.

For being a grimdark fantasy novel, this was surprisingly optimistic. Well, if you can look past the whole "death and all demons" parts.

Why we march and why we die,
And what life's all a lie.
Death! Death! Death!

Yeah, that kinda dampens the mood a little.

I really enjoyed this. At first, the writing was somewhat difficult to get into, particularly the first chapter, but once I got into it, it flowed amazingly well and painted quite an enrap
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"This is Sorlost, the eternal, the Golden City. The most beautiful, the first, the last. The undying. The unconquered. The unconquerable.
The mummified heart of an empire of dust and desert villages, half forgotten by half the world."

* *
2 / 5

I read quite a few rave reviews for The Court of Broken Knives: it's a grimdark novel featuring battles and gods and guts and glory. It seemed to tout all the elements that I love in a fantasy series: drama, assassins, different factions and a cheeky bit of p
Kitvaria Sarene
Now this is gonna be hard... I so wanted to love this book! Especially as the author is such a great person.

First off - how do I usually rate books? 100% by how I feel when I finish them.
5* - completely knocked me off my feet - absolutely love it.
4* Love parts of it, great book
3* Enjoyed it - Definitely don't regret the time or money spent, but didn't blow me away
2* Did not like it, might still recommend it to others who like that sort (not my cup of tea)
1* HATE it, think it is awful, can't thi
Jun 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
*copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review*

The Court of Broken Knives is a strong fantasy debut by Anna Smith Spark. It’s got absolute gads of cynicism, characters who range from the pragmatic through conflicted and into monstrous, and a world which encourages and rewards that sort of approach.

Speaking of the world – well, it’s complicated. There’s the remnants of a global empire – reminiscent of Rome in the late medieval period. They assert sovereignty over the world at large, and have a deg
Anna Stephens
A series of exquisite, lyrical vignettes linked by a seemingly simple plot. The unique voice means you will either love it or loathe it, and the same very much goes for Marith, the main protagonist. There is little of softness or compassion in this novel, and the characters are as brutal and beautiful as the city of Sorlost.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Godblind (Godblind #1)
  • We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire, #1)
  • Soul of the World (The Ascension Cycle, #1)
  • The Heart of Stone
  • Kings of Paradise (Ash and Sand #1)
  • Blackwing (Raven's Mark, #1)
  • The Path of Anger (The Book and The Sword, #1)
  • Snakewood
  • When the Heavens Fall (The Chronicles of the Exile, #1)
  • Redemption's Blade (After The War, #1)
  • The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy, #1)
  • The Mirror’s Truth (Manifest Delusions, #2)
  • Faithless
  • Age of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom, #1)
  • The Land You Never Leave (West of West)
  • The Black Guard (The Long War, #1)
  • Road Brothers
  • Black Wolves (Black Wolves, #1)
See similar books…
'Game of Literary Thrones ... the next generation hit fantasy fiction' The Sunday Times

Anna Smith Spark lives in London, UK. She loves grimdark and epic fantasy and historical military fiction. Anna has a BA in Classics, an MA in history and a PhD in English Literature. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website Previous jobs include petty

Other books in the series

Empires of Dust (3 books)
  • The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust #2)
  • The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3)
“A wise man who's ignored is about as effective as an idiot who's listened to.” 6 likes
“The war drums pound out a beat like that of the human heart. The terrible, awful sound of living, that one first learns to love and tremble at when floating in the womb.” 3 likes
More quotes…