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The Court of Broken Knives

(Empires of Dust #1)

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  1,792 ratings  ·  407 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)
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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 l…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.
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Average rating 3.48  · 
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 ·  1,792 ratings  ·  407 reviews

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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
Sean Barrs
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 sim
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews, fantasy
I am soon to be delving back into the world of the Empires of Dust, to read book #2 of the trilogy, The Tower of Living and Dying. To prepare for it here is my review for book #1, The Court of Broken Knives, a great debut with a fascinating style.

Check out my review for this fantastic book on Booknest at: Booknest

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

The Court of Broken Knives. The best way for me to describe this book is as a uniquely fascinating and e
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 i
C.T. Phipps
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grimdark, fantasy
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
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
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
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 not
Jul 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I've been struggling a lot recently with the fantasy debut authors the big fantasy publishers have been churning out since around 2017-2018 and this opening book in Anna Spark Smith's Empires of Dust grimdark fantasy trilogy was just the latest flop to add to my list of disappointing recent fantasy debut books that I've read!

The premise was intriguing enough. Orhan Emmereth, a noble scion in the capitol city of the greatest Empire in the land, plots revolution. Orhan knows his people are a fadi
Chris Berko
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing took a little while to get into but once it clicked I was hooked. It kind of reminded me of Chuck Palahniuk's writing in that the sentences are short and clipped and at times can seem conversational. However, this did not take away from it being a very vivid and cinematic story. Marc Lawrence wrote an excellent review for this where he describes the unique qualities of the writing and how they, based on what he was taught, shouldn't work. And it didn't for me at first. By 20% I almos ...more
Stanislas Sodonon
Jan 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 in the end.

I don't normally like going on about what makes a book bad in my eyes. I generally want to quickly move on to the next and
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing is pointless, as long as one is alive. One moment of beauty. One moment of happiness. One moment of pain.

Lives for living. Nothing less and nothing more.

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark is an unyielding and opulent tale of the balance of extremes: living and dying, darkness and light, truth and lies – all of life is a balancing act, and this book showcases the everlasting struggle of keeping the scales leveled. With strong focus on the brutalities of self-loathing and self-
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
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 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
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 🤓
Faith M ✨
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of Game of Thrones
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 enr
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'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)

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