Book Reviews

The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark Book Review. #BookBlogger #BookBloggers #BookReview #EmpiresofDust #TheHouseofSacrifice @queenofgrimdark


  • The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3).
  • Anna Smith Spark.
  • 576 pages.
  • Grimdark / Fantasy / Fiction.
  • My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.


Book Blurb.

Marith Altrersyr has won. He cut a path of blood and vengeance and needless violence around the world and now he rules. It is time for Marith to put down his sword, to send home his armies, to grow a beard and become fat. It is time to look to his own house, and to produce an heir. The King of Death must now learn to live.
But some things cannot be learnt.

The spoils of war turn to ash in the mouths of the Amrath Army and soon they are on the move again. But Marith, lord of lies, dragon-killer, father-killer, has begun to falter and his mind decays. How long can a warlord rotting from within continue to win?

As the Army marches on to Sorlost, Thalia’s thoughts turn to home and to the future: a life grows inside her and it is a precious thing – but it grows weak.

Why must the sins of the father curse the child?

Book Review.

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

The House of Sacrifice and the Empires of Dust trilogy is brutally beautiful, outstanding and a triumph.

And so we come to the end, the third and final book in the darkly enchanting Empires of Dust trilogy (following on from The Court of Broken Knives and The Tower of Living and Dying) and the culmination of the story of Marith Altrersyr, King Ruin, King Death and Amrath Returned. Four years have passed since Marith took the fortress of Ethalden and reclaimed his ancestor, Amrath’s seat of power.

We have followed Marith and his merry dance of conquest, death, destruction and massacre across Irlast. We have seen him descend into madness, seen him kill, destroy, raze cities to the ground and we have seen him bathe the world in rivers of blood. His empire has been built from the death, the blood, the bones, the corpses, the decaying remains and the rotting flesh of his enemies, from those who stood against him, turned to dust in the ground and most of Irlast is now under his rule.

Sorlost is mired in filth, no amount of powder and paint will bring it back to its former glory, its beauty of yesteryear. It was once golden and it is now a gilded shit, a turd left in the heat, drying and crusting.

Even in its current state Sorlost has a history, it is a city that has never been conquered, never had its walls breached, never fallen to an enemy and it is the city where the original Amrath and his army broke against the walls. It is surrounded by bronze walls, an impregnable ring that encircles the city and offers protection against invaders.

Marith wishes to conquer all. It was fated that he would return to Sorlost, that his quest for dominion would take him full-circle and that he would end up back at Sorlost with his army facing down the unbreachable walls.

Along with Marith marching on, leading his army forwards, forever onwards and Thalia, we also follow Tobias who is now a camp follower of the Army of Amrath. Landra Relast who has nothing and no-one left and who is out for vengeance against Marith for what he did to her and to her family. And, Orhan Emmereth in Sorlost who is dealing with the fallout of the plots, plans and machinations he has wrought over the course of the trilogy along with the looming threat of Marith and the Army of Amrath bearing down upon the city.

Marith is a drug addict (Hatha) and a drunk. A complicated character, conflicted and self-destructive. He is hardly ever at peace, he wants to live, he wants to die, he wants to rule the world and he wants to be nothing. He is full of loathing and self-pity he hates himself and what he does but, at the same time, he likes doing what he does too, it gives him a sense of being, of purpose and like a coin he has two sides, two sides to his nature that war with each other. Along with moments of clarity, of lucidity, he spirals down into the throes of insanity and his fractured mind is a turbulent and churning sea. He has always had a questionable hold on reality, he’s captivating and he’s someone that you love to hate. 

There have been chances along the way for certain characters to stop Marith, to kill him and end the torment. But, they have either failed or they didn’t seize the opportunity, allowing Marith to live and continue on with his path of devastation. The past can haunt you, missed opportunities, mistakes you make, the actions that you take, those you don’t, remorse, what has gone before. Everything that has come before has made you into who you now are and it is always there, it’s a part of you and it shapes the present. The House of Sacrifice is a tale that has been doused in darkness, a tale of deepest black, a tale of the darkest deeds and it is populated by characters with hardly any morals or redeeming features and honestly, I enjoyed reading about them all.

Smith Spark paints a vivid canvas and she doesn’t shy away from depicting the brutality of war and the atrocities committed on the battlefield and in the aftermath. The fighting, which is plentiful is confusing and chaotic, violent, vivid and visceral.

The world-building on display by Smith Spark is exceptional. Like arterial splatter, blood blooming, blossoming from a wound the world opens up in The House of Sacrifice with many cinematic settings featured. Whether it is the grandeur and splendour of a palace, the mouldering and rotting corpses of the dead that populate the bloody quagmire of a battlefield or the deserts, the mountains, the rivers and the towns that Marith leads his army through Smith Sparks brings all of the locations to life thanks to her decadently descriptive writing. It is the small details that just add that little extra clarity, that makes the image, the location, the setting and the scene more evocative and more graphic.

Smith Spark is an exceptional talent with a very unique way of writing. Some will love it while others won’t. I’m firmly in the camp of the former and I love it. I can also understand why it is a stumbling block for some, after all, reading is subjective. Along with passages of a more normal style Smith Spark mixes lengthy and lyrical sentences with short and snappy sentences, single-word sentences, sentences formed solely using different words of the same/similar meaning and also repeats parts of the sentences too. The short sentences are akin to barks and guttural growls and combat the lengthy and poetic soft sentences with their harshness. Smith Spark has found something special with her style of writing. Something different, something individual and something, that perhaps shouldn’t work but it does!

In lesser hands, the contrasting mix of styles could falter, could fall and could fail. However, Smith Spark owns her style and you can see from the first book that her writing has greatly improved. It is more accessible and she seems more comfortable with her writing and the story that she is telling.

There is a beauty and a cadence to be found in Smith Spark’s lilting and lyrical writing. Her writing flows smoothly like waves lapping on the shore and like leaves rustling on a gentle breeze. The mixture of sentences that are used to bludgeon, to beat you and then, those sentences that gently caress you, like a lovers hands, their soft touch, their warm embrace. Like chewing on barb wire, rusted nails and thorns and then, soothing your mouth with the sweetest honey, quenching your thirst with a glass of ice-cold water and that act as a contrast and a counterpoint.

The House of Sacrifice is a tapestry comprised of betrayal, blood, brutality, butchery, conquest, corpses, death, delusion, desires, destruction, killing, love, mania, pain, regrets, plots, politics, suffering, tragedy and violence that are all stitched together with sinews of rotting flesh and the fetid threads of life.

can’t fault The House of Sacrifice, the characters, the pacing, the story, the writing and the ending (which is always a concern when you come to the last book in a trilogy) are all stellar and I loved it all. For the ending, it is not all neatly tied up and while some threads are cut off, are ended, others are left frayed for a possible future return to Irlast. I am completely fine with that as I would love to revisit the world that Smith Spark has created somewhere down the road.

Purchase The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3).

Amazon UK  /  Amazon US  /  Book Depository

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16 thoughts on “The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark Book Review. #BookBlogger #BookBloggers #BookReview #EmpiresofDust #TheHouseofSacrifice @queenofgrimdark

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