Book Reviews

The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust #2) by Anna Smith Spark Book Review. #BookBlogger #BookBloggers #BookReview #Grimdark #TheTowerofLivingandDying @queenofgrimdark @HarperVoyagerUK

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  • The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust #2).
  • Anna Smith Spark.
  • 529 pages.
  • Grimdark / Fantasy / Fiction.
  • My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.

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Book Blurb.

KING OF RUIN. KING OF DUST AND SHADOWS. KING OF DEATH. HE WILL RULE ALL. THE KING IS COMING.

Marith Altrersyr – father-killer, dragonlord, leader of the blood-soaked Amrath Army – is keeping his promises. He is determined to become King of all Irlast and take back the seat of his ancestors.

Only Thalia, once high priestess of the Lord of Living and Dying, the holiest woman in the Empire, might stop Marith and his army’s deadly march. But she is torn between two destinies – and if she was to return home, what would she find there? A city on the brink of ruin: diseased, despairing, dying?

Crawling through a tunnel deep under the ruins of her city, Landra Relast vows vengeance. Her family has been burned, her home destroyed, and now Marith – once her betrothed – must die.

But as Landra cuts through the wasteland left in the wake of Marith’s army, she finds that she is not the only one who wishes him ill…


Book Review.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


The Tower of Living and Dying starts near immediately after the ending of The Court of Broken Knives carrying on the various story arcs from the first book. Marith has a goal, total domination and dominion over all of Irlast, to reclaim the kingdom that his ancestor Amrath once ruled over, he is, after all, Amrath reborn. From the White Isles, across the Bitter Sea, to Ith, the Empty Peak mountains, through the Wastes, ever onwards towards Illyr and the fortress of Ethalden that was once Amrath’s seat of power. Wherever he goes Marith leaves a trail of death and destruction in his wake and blood follows him flowing like the tide of a river.

Tobias, Landra Relast and Raeta continue to tail Marith and his army across Illyr as they attempt to bring about his demise.

While, in Sorlost, the crown jewel of the Sekemleth Empire the city continues its downward spiral, circling the drain as the schemes that had been wrought by Orhan and Darith in The Court of Broken Knives have all come crashing down. The lies and deceptions have been uncovered and the truth has been revealed, pulled back like a puss-drenched rag to show the seeping infected wound beneath.

Sorlost is like an aged movie star whose beauty has long since faded, whose glory days lay far behind them, wilting, withering, rotting, a husk of their former self that no amount of paint and powder can hide the decay or bring back the former beauty.

In The Tower of Living and Dying we far more of the world this time around across various different locations as Marith relentlessly marches onwards, forever forwards, blood, kill, death, conquer, over and over. The scope is bigger, wider and larger in scale.

We get to witness both land and sea engagement in The Tower of Living and Dying and the battle scenes themselves show the chaotic confusion of engagement and the brutality of the ensuing carnage.

All of the characters to some extent continue to grow and show development. I do feel that Thalia (who is the only person who is written in the first-person) showed tremendous growth of character in the book, the most out of all the characters really coming into her own as a force to be reckoned with.

Marith’s love for Thalia is a force unto itself, so deep, so strong and he is a tormented and tortured soul. He’s a drunk and a drug (Hatha) addict and there is a self-destructive pattern to his behaviour, moments of clarity and lucidity vie with a mania to him. He’s not put together in the right way, something in him is broken, he is unhinged, he hates himself and the things that he has done and continues to do and then, he revels in the adoration of his army and in the bloodshed. He’s definitely not a ‘good‘ person but as a character, he sure is compelling to follow and read about.

For the Marith orientated sections, whether it was Marith himself, Thalia or the other characters who are planning for and plotting his downfall and his death I thought that the book was absolutely brilliant. For the sections in Sorlost, while enjoyable and interesting the pacing was a bit slow for my liking. I was intrigued by them and what was happening but at the same time, I kept wanting to get back to Marith and his quest for world domination. Between politics and fighting, well, for me, fighting will win every time!

Some second books in a trilogy tend to tread water, their sole purpose is as a mid-point to bridge the gap between the first book, the beginning and the third book, the end with nothing much happening. The players move into position, and the pieces are set for the conclusion. The Tower of Living and Dying isn’t one of them, a shit-ton happens, the ending point feels organic to the story and leaves you eager for The House of Sacrifice the concluding volume in the trilogy.

It took me a while to get into The Court of Broken Knives, I had no such issues with The Tower of Living and Dying. Smith Spark seems far more confident and it shows in her writing. I was enraptured from the start and I felt that the book itself was far more accomplished than its predecessor.

Smith Spark has a very unique way of writing and writes with a mixture of richly detailed sentences that gently caress you with her words and short and snappy sentences that are sharp, harsh and like a bark. She often uses only a single word or a variety of words that all hold a similar meaning to convey emotion with both third-person perspective and first-person perspective thrown into the mix too.

It’s definitely a love it or hate it style and I think that you have got to try it to find out which side of the fence you fall on. Whether you like it or not she deserves praise for trying something different and while I can’t fault those who have an issue with her writing, personally, I don’t. On the surface, it can be very jarring, akin to someone striking random strings on a violin and hoping for music to be produced. In less capable hands it could be a discordant tangle of the various styles thrown together. For Smith Spark, her hands are more than capable and she does, in-fact produce music with her writing. There is often a lyrical, lilting feel to her words, a poetry to the proceedings and she creates a vivid picture brought to life in her own stylistic fashion. There is a beauty to her writing and it can be atmospheric, emotive, evocative and gorgeously descriptive, flowing easily like blood from a freshly opened cut as she creates a canvas of blood, brutality and violence. If you can get over the hurdle of her writing then you are richly rewarded with a book that is brutally beautiful and Grimdark brilliance.

The Tower of Living and Dying is a blood-soaked epic. When all is said and done in The Empires of Dust, Irlast will need a transfusion from all of the blood that has been spilt in the name of Marith Altrersyr and I fucking loved it.


Purchase The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust #2).

Amazon UK  /  Amazon US  /  Book Depository


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17 thoughts on “The Tower of Living and Dying (Empires of Dust #2) by Anna Smith Spark Book Review. #BookBlogger #BookBloggers #BookReview #Grimdark #TheTowerofLivingandDying @queenofgrimdark @HarperVoyagerUK

  1. Man those character and places names are tough to pronounce . Also does writing a single character first person and others not so ruin some suspense as to fates of characters ?

    Also good review mate 👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooooh, this sounds good 🙂 Especially that it doesn’t have the 2nd book syndrome… really cool and the characters sound right down my alley… I better get cracking with book 1 asap! 🙂 Great review, Drew!

    Liked by 1 person

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