The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark


And so comes to an end Anna Smith Spark’s brilliantly brutal Empires of Dust.  And what a very fitting end to the series it is.  This series is not for the faint of heart, it’s downright grim, it’s unapologetically bloody and it’s written in the most unique, almost poetic, prose I’ve ever come across.

I think this is possibly one of the hardest reviews I’ve had to write.  A combination of not wanting to give anything away coupled with arguing with myself about my own feelings.  To be clear, this is a great ending to this series, it’s perhaps not my favourite book of the series (that still remains The Tower of Living and Dying) but it’s so true to itself that it’s positively perfect.  There’s a loss of hope here, a weary sort of recognition that nothing will ever be enough and a perfect telling of one man’s descent into madness.

So, what can I tell you about this book.  It went in directions that I didn’t expect at all.  It contains the same starkly beautiful prose as the first two instalments and it has definitely left me gagging to find out what this author will come up with next.  Will this book be for everyone?  Definitely not.  This is a story that almost sucks the life and soul out of you when reading, the despair, the madness, the fear, the hysteria.  It’s just so bloody dark, it’s like a black hole – no light, no reflection just all consuming.  Lets just be frank, the laughs are few and far between and any sense of hope almost non-existent, I think the only hope that you really hanker after is retribution and whilst there’s an element of that there’s also the realisation that the same thing happening over and over again is kind of inevitable – the only difference being the ruthless conqueror.  History has shown us this very thing and this series is a perfect embodiment of that blood thirsty ambition to dominate that has repeated itself throughout the ages.  I can’t deny that it took me a while to read this one, which isn’t a reflection on how good the book is but more that things are definitely bleak and sometimes I had to escape to something a bit more fluffy and fun loving with unicorns and rainbows.

Marith and Thalia.  Wow, what a journey they take us on.   The two of them together though.  You’d hope that somehow they’d become more human, more sympathetic, more anything really.  But no.  They’re both a bit (aka a lot) monstrous, Marith more so than Thalia although she doesn’t exactly break a sweat out trying to curb him.  They both have their own crosses to bear and sadness to deal with, they’ve both come so far together that in some respects they don’t like each other at all and yet in others they can’t bear to be apart.  They’re a riddle indeed.  I can’t help thinking about Alexander the Great when reading about Marith.  The ambition, the charisma and the ruthless desire to conquer.  Marith thinks himself godlike in fact that’s probably the only thing left that he could strive for after conquering all else and his belief of his own invincibility is his only weakness.

I recall in a previous review describing this author’s style as hypnotic and that still stands.  I’ve also mentioned that her style has a poetic feel – and yet I don’t really read poetry so there’s a conundrum right there.  The best way to describe this, for me, is that the prose is wonderfully descriptive whilst being distinctly brief.  It’s the very opposite of, say, Tolkien or Dickens (both authors that I like btw).  And, to be honest, f you can use simply 5 words to describe a field, a tower, a battle and yet still conjure a vivid picture then why not – although I will say that I imagine this takes a hell of a lot more skill than you would imagine and this is an author who makes it look deceptively easy.

Overall, this has been a remarkable series.  I have so much respect for this author not only for her vision and writing chops but also for having the guts to take this series to the bitter end and give it the fitting conclusion it deserves without shirking or trying to wrap everything up too nicely.

As mentioned above, be aware that this series definitely falls into the grimdark category, it isn’t a YA read and there are elements to these stories that would not be everyone’s cup of tea so take heed.  I’m not going to tell you to read or to not read this – you know your own selves better than I do so hopefully you’ll make the right choice for you.  I would just say that this is a fine series, groundbreaking in style of writing, fascinating in it’s reflection of history and on point in terms of today’s modern fantasy reader.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.





15 Responses to “The House of Sacrifice (Empires of Dust #3) by Anna Smith Spark”

  1. Peter Martuneac

    I’m gonna have to add this to my TBR list, it sounds excellent!

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Great review, thank you so much for sharing this!
    I’m so very behind with this series (still stuck at book 1), and possibly because I’m conflicted: the writing is great and the story more than than intriguing, but on the other hand, to quote your words “the despair, the madness, the fear, the hysteria” make reading it a challenge on my soul. Maybe one of these days….

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I think you have to be aware of all of that going in really, and the third took me longer than normal for those very reasons – I could only take fairly measures doses – which isn’t a reflection on my overall feelings, just that I needed to get away from it now and again and read something lighter.
      Lynn 😀

  3. sjhigbee

    Marvellous, marvellous review, Lynn. I love reading reviews about books that have touched a reader’s soul and this one clearly did. I do know her writing is extraordinary, I just wish I was able to read grimdark – but I can’t.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I can’t read all grimdark to be sure – but the author’s style is so unique I just had to red this one.
      Lynn 😀

      • sjhigbee

        Your enthusiasm shines through the writing:)

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I think I’m going to binge books 2 and 3 🙂 And by the sound of things, I have a lot to look forward to!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was a very good ending to the series – but, it did take me a while to get through it, not because I wasn’t enjoying it but it felt quite deep and i had to take my time.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Lashaan Balasingam @ Bookidote

    I’m currently going through book 2 to read book 3 and see how she concludes this series. Your review has definitely excited me to what to expect next! Thank you for sharing! 😀

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think it’s a very appropriate ending tbh – not easy to always achieve but the author stays true to the series I think.
      Lynn 😀

  6. waytoofantasy

    This has been a series that’s been on my radar from the beginning and I keep meaning to read, mostly because Anna is a fantastic person. I hope to get to it some day. Glad you enjoyed this one, great review, Lynn!

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