The Court of Broken Knives blew me away with its stunning prose and compelling characters. It set the bar very high for any books that might follow it.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: The Tower of Living and Dying does not disappoint. Far from it. It sets the gold standard that all other grimdark books must measure themselves against.
Picking up immediately after the events of the first book, The Tower of Living and Dying follows Marith and Thalia as they deal with the aftermath of their victory over Marith’s father, the king. Gathering his army, Marith is determined to fulfill his destiny as Amrath reborn.
Back in Sorlost, Orhan is still the Emperor’s Nithque and enjoying his newfound power. Things don’t go quite as smoothly as he’d like.
This book takes the time to dive deeply into each of the characters. Thalia has to wrestle with the moral dilemma that comes with loving someone as wantonly destructive as Marith. Marith is a textbook narcissist who may just happen to be a god. Orhan finally has the power he’s always wanted, but it doesn’t make him happy.
Parts of the story veered into my least favorite fantasy trope: birds-eye views of long battles where character stakes are replaced by tedious descriptions of military tactics. I understand why this was necessary for the book, but it’s something that I rarely enjoy.
That said, the book was just so damn compelling that I loved it anyway.
If possible, the prose is even more fascinating than the previous book. At times, the author winks at the readers and breaks the fourth wall…and it’s incredible.
Overall, this was a beautifully written story about hopelessly damaged people wreaking havoc in the world as they try to find their place in it. I can’t wait for the final installment of the trilogy!
Fans of grimdark, Anna Smith Spark is an author to keep your eyes on. She’s bound for great things.