The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark – A Book Review

Court of Broken Knives


They’ve finally looked at the graveyard of our Empire with open eyes. They’re fools and madmen and like the art of war. And their children go hungry while we piss gold and jewels into the dust.

In the richest empire the world has ever known, the city of Sorlost has always stood, eternal and unconquered. But in a city of dreams governed by an imposturous Emperor, decadence has become the true ruler, and has blinded its inhabitants to their vulnerability. The empire is on the verge of invasion – and only one man can see it.

Haunted by dreams of the empire’s demise, Orhan Emmereth has decided to act. On his orders, a company of soldiers cross the desert to reach the city. Once they enter the Palace, they have one mission: kill the Emperor, then all those who remain. Only from ashes can a new empire be built.

The company is a group of good, ordinary soldiers, for whom this is a mission like any other. But the strange boy Marith who walks among them is no ordinary soldier. Marching on Sorlost, Marith thinks he is running away from the past which haunts him. But in the Golden City, his destiny awaits him – beautiful, bloody, and more terrible than anyone could have foreseen.


Author: Anna Smith Spark

Publisher: HarperVoyager 

Publication Date: 29/06/2017

Pages: 512

My Chosen Format: Kindle

My Rating of ‘The Court of Broken Knives’: 2 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon UKAmazon USAudible UKAudible US



The Court of Broken Knives was one of those books I had seen reviewed across many blogs and had been on my ‘I have to read this’ list for quite some time. I now wish it had been on my ‘pretend it didn’t exist list’. I went into this expecting so much and got so very little out of it. It really is one of those books that seems to be one reader’s 5-star rave review followed by the next person’s 1-star forgetful piece.

The writing itself isn’t bad. You can tell the author is talented, I just don’t feel this particular story was told in a very engaging/enjoyable way. I have a fair few negatives about this book (and so few positives) and will do my best to list them all:

Firstly; I just felt that there was no clear plot for the first 30-35% of the novel. I just felt as though I was bumbling through, reading page after page and not really getting the bigger picture. One of the main faults with this is that, at the start at least, there is so much conversation going on and it is rarely easy to figure out who was talking. Even harder when you haven’t been introduced to the characters properly yet.

Another problem I had with it was telling when a character was thinking something as opposed to it being part of the narrative. I am used to thoughts being in italics or in some clearly denoted way that what is occurring is something going on in the character’s head rather than an observation of the overall narrative. In Court of Broken Knives I often thought ‘has the author forgot speech marks?’ as she would just throw thoughts in amidst the main narrative in ways I wasn’t used to seeing. It just added to what I felt was an overwhelmingly jarring reading experience.

The author’s constant fascination with switching from first person to third person perspective for different chapters was annoying. You pick up pretty quickly that she only does first person for one particular character … and then she throws a third person perspective chapter in for that character. It annoyed me a lot that there was no coherent structure to the novel as far as perspective goes.

The politics felt boring in parts yet interesting in others. Which, I imagine is what you’d expect for politics. To start with it felt as though I was supposed to have a working knowledge of different countries or political figures. Seeing as how the reader does not have such knowledge, I found it hard to care about certain parties getting the wool pulled over their eyes. It all made sense later on in the novel, but by that point the author had lost my interest and I was purely reading because there were a few characters I found interesting and I really want to DNF as few books as possible this year.

As I mentioned, there are a few characters I found really interesting and they kept me reading when all sense was screaming for me to stop and move on to something I cared about. Sadly, the character I found most interesting kind of just fizzled out towards the end in a very vague way. I assume he will make some sort of resurgence in the sequel, but I really don’t have the patience to read through it just on the off-chance he has a few cool moments. One really bad aspect to the characters was how poor a lot of their speech was. I just never felt as though a good portion of the characters were talking in ways you would expect actual people to talk. It just made a very stilted read feel all the more distant to me.

I make it sound as if the whole book is horrible to read. It isn’t. As I mentioned, the author is a talented a writer it’s just that her writing style really isn’t for me, nor do I expect it ever to be. Her descriptions can be incredibly beautiful, poetically so. But then she will start a new section with something like ‘Woke up the next morning’. Who woke up the next morning? This is an epic fantasy with several character POVs, don’t make me guess what character this chapter is about. It was all of these little frustrations throughout the novel that made me mark it so low.

11 thoughts on “The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark – A Book Review

  1. When I read this book I enjoyed it and gave it a good rating, although I felt there were some issues with pacing, which I ascribed to the fact that it was a debut novel and therefore liable to have its problems. When the sequel came out, however, I did not feel compelled to seek it out and I wonder if my subconscious is trying to tell me something… The book is indeed well written but, with some hindsight, there is something missing, and I would like to understand what it is…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There were parts of it that made me think ‘this could get a 4 out of 5’ but those parts were wrapped in sections that would have scored far lower.

      As I mentioned, it is one of those books that is one person’s 5 and another person’s 1. I just know that I felt relief when I hit the last page rather than an eagerness to hunt the sequel down 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Good to know! Sorry about your experience, but honestly, I’m happy it won’t have to be my experience now 😉 Heard a lot of good things about it, but your list of the weak points convinced me it’s not for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Well- darn! I have this book on my Kindle for a while now as well, and I got it purely for all the good reviews… Interesting review, I will definitely approach the read with lower expectations because like you, my expectations had been hyped 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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