The Court of Broken Knives


By Anna Smith Spark

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Perfect for fans of Mark Lawrence and R Scott Bakker, The Court of Broken Knives is the explosive debut by one of grimdark fantasy’s most exciting new voices.

It is the richest empire the world has ever known, and it is also doomed — but only one man can see it.
Haunted by prophetic dreams, Orhan has hired a company of soldiers to cross the desert to reach the capital city. Once they enter the palace, they have one mission: kill the emperor, then all those who remain. Only from the 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. Though he is young, ambitious, and impossibly charming, something dark hides in Marith’s past — and in his blood.

Dive into this new fantasy series for readers looking for epic battle scenes, gritty heroes, and blood-soaked revenge.




Chapter One


Knives everywhere. Coming down like rain.

Down to close work like that, men wrestling in the mud, jabbing at each other, too tired to care any more. Just die and get it over with. Half of them fighting with their guts hanging out of their stomachs, stinking of shit, oozing pink and red and white. Half-dead men lying in the filth. Screaming. A whole lot of things screaming.

Impossible to tell who's who any more. Mud and blood and shadows and that's it. Kill them! Kill them all! Keep killing until we're all dead. The knife jabs and twists and the man he's fighting falls sideways, all the breath going out of him with a sigh of relief. Another there behind. Gods, his arms ache. His head aches. Blood in his eyes. He twists the knife again and thrusts with a broken-off sword and that man too dies. Fire explodes somewhere over to the left. White as maggots. Silent as maggots. Then shrieks as men burn.

He swings the stub of the sword and catches a man on the leg, not hard but hard enough so the man stumbles and he's on him quick with the knife. A good lot of blood and the man's down and dead, still flapping about like a fish but you can see in his eyes that he's finished, his legs just haven't quite caught up yet.

The sun is setting, casting long shadows. Oh beautiful evening! Stars rising in a sky the color of rotting wounds. The Dragon's Mouth. The White Lady. The Dog. A good star, the Dog. Brings plagues and fevers and inflames desire. Its rising marks the coming of summer. So maybe no more campaigning in the sodding rain. Wet leather stinks. Mud stinks. Shit stinks, when the latrine trench overflows.

Another burst of white fire. He hates the way it's silent. Unnatural. Unnerving. Screams again. Screams so bad your ears ring for days. The sky weeps and howls and it's difficult to know what's screaming. You, or the enemy, or the other things.

Men are fighting in great clotted knots like milk curds. He sprints a little to where two men are struggling together. Leaps at one from behind, pulls him down, skewers him. Hard crack of bone, soft lovely yield of fat and innards. Suety. The other yells hoarsely and swings a punch at him. Lost his knife, even. Bare knuckles. He ducks and kicks out hard, overbalances and almost falls. The man kicks back, tries to get him in a wrestling grip. Up close together, two pairs of teeth gritted at each other. A hand smashes his face, gets his nose, digs in. He bites at it. Dirty. Calloused. Iron taste of blood bright in his mouth. But the hand won't let up, crushing his face into his skull. He swallows and almost chokes on the blood pouring from the wound he's made. Blood and snot and shreds of cracked dry human skin. Manages to get his knife in and stabs hard into the back of the man's thigh. Not enough to kill, but the hand jerks out from his face. Lashes out and gets his opponent in the soft part of the throat, pulls his knife out and gazes around the battlefield at the figures hacking at each other while the earth rots beneath them. All eternity, they've been fighting. All the edges blunted. Sword edges and knife edges and the edges in the mind. Keep killing. Keep killing. Keep killing till we're all dead.

And then he's dead. A blade gets him in the side, in the weak point under the shoulder where his armor has to give to let the joint move. Far in, twisting. Aiming down. Killing wound. He hears his body rip. Oh gods. Oh gods and demons. Oh gods and demons and fuck. He swings round, strikes at the man who's stabbed him. The figure facing him is a wraith, scarlet with blood, head open oozing out brain stuff. You're dying, he thinks. You're dying and you've killed me. Not fair.

Shadows twist round them. We're all dying, he thinks, one way or another. Just some of us quicker than others. You fight and you die. And always another twenty men queuing up behind you.

Why we march and why we die,

And what life means…it's all a lie.

Death! Death! Death!

Understands that better than he's ever understood anything, even his own name.

But suddenly, for a moment, he's not sure he wants to die.

The battlefield falls silent. He blinks and sees light.

A figure in silver armor. White, shining, blazing with light like the sun. A red cloak billowing in the wind. Moves through the ranks of the dead and the dying and the light beats onto them, pure and clean.

"Amrath! Amrath!" Voices whispering like the wind blowing across salt marsh. Voices calling like birds. Here, walking among us, bright as summer dew.

"Amrath! Amrath!" The shadows fall away as the figure passes. Everything is light.

"Amrath! Amrath!" The men cheer with one voice. No longer one side or the other, just men gazing and cheering as the figure passes. He cheers until his throat aches. Feels restored, seeing it. No longer tired and wounded and dying. Healed. Strong.

"Amrath! Amrath!"

The figure halts. Gazes around. Searching. Finds. A dark-clad man leaps forward, swaying into the light. Poised across from the shining figure, yearning toward it. Draws a sword burning with blue flame.

"Amrath! Amrath!" Harsh voice like crows, challenging. "Amrath!"

He watches joyfully. So beautiful! Watches and nothing in the world matters, except to behold the radiance of his god.

The bright figure draws a sword that shines like all the stars and the moon and the sun. A single dark ruby in its hilt. The dark figure rushes onwards, screeching something. Meets the bright figure with a clash. White light and blue fire. Blue fire and white light. His eyes hurt almost as he watches. But he cannot bear to look away. The two struggle together. Like a candle flame flickering. Like the dawn sun on the sea. The silver sword comes up, throws the dark figure back. Blue fire blazes, engulfing everything, the shining silver armor running with flame. Crash of metal, sparks like a blacksmith's anvil. The shining figure takes a step back defensively, parries, strikes out. The other blocks it. Roars. Howls. Laughs. The mage blade swings again, slicing, trailing blue fire. Blue arcs in the evening gloom. Shapes and words, written on the air. Death words. Pain words. Words of hope and fear and despair. The shining figure parries again, the silver sword rippling beneath the impact of the other's blade. So brilliant with light that rainbows dance on the ground around it. Like a woman's hair throwing out drops of water, tossing back her head in summer rain. Like snow falling. Like colored stars. The two fighters shifting, stepping in each other's footprints. Stepping in each other's shadows. Circling like birds.

The silver sword flashes out and up and downwards and the other falls back, bleeding from the throat. Great spreading gush of red. The blue flame dies.

He cheers and his heart is almost aching, it's so full of joy.

The shining figure turns. Looks at the men watching. Looks at him. Screams. Things shriek back that make the world tremble. The silver sword rises and falls. Five men. Ten. Twenty. A pile of corpses. He stares mesmerized at the dying. The beauty of it. The most beautiful thing in the world. Killing and killing and such perfect joy. His heart overflowing. His heart singing. This, oh indeed, oh, for this, all men are born. He screams in answer, dying, throws himself against his god's enemies with knife and sword and nails and teeth.

Why we march and why we die,

And what life means…it's all a lie.

Death! Death! Death!

Chapter Two

"The Yellow Empire…I can kind of see that. Yeah. Makes sense."

Dun and yellow desert, scattered with crumbling yellow-gray rocks and scrubby yellow-brown thorns. Bruise-yellow sky, low yellow clouds. Even the men's skin and clothes turning yellow, stained with sweat and sand. So bloody hot Tobias's vision seemed yellow. Dry and dusty and yellow as bile and old bones. The Yellow Empire. The famous golden road. The famous golden light.

"If I spent the rest of my life knee-deep in black mud, I think I'd die happy, right about now," said Gulius, and spat into the yellow sand.

Rate sniggered. "And you can really see how they made all that money, too. Valuable thing, dust. Though I'm still kind of clinging to it being a refreshing change from cow manure."

"Yeah, I've been thinking about that myself, too. If this is the heart of the richest empire the world has ever known, I'm one of Rate's dad's cows."

"An empire built on sand…Poetic, like."

"'Cause there's so much bloody money in poetry."

"They're not my dad's cows. They're my cousin's cows. My dad just looks after them."

"Magic, I reckon," said Alxine. "Strange arcane powers. They wave their hands and the dust turns into gold."

"Met a bloke in Alborn once, could do that. Turned iron pennies into gold marks."

Rate's eyes widened. "Yeah?"

"Oh, yeah. Couldn't shop at the same place two days running, mind, and had to change his name a lot…"

They reached a small stream bed, stopped to drink, refill their water-skins. Warm and dirty with a distinct aroma of goat shit. After five hours of dry marching, the feel of it against the skin almost as sweet as the taste of it in the mouth.

Running water, some small rocks to sit on, two big rocks providing a bit of shade. What more could a man want in life? Tobias went to consult with Skie.

"We'll stop here a while, lads. Have some lunch. Rest up a bit. Sit out the worst of the heat." If it got any hotter, their swords would start to melt. The men cheered. Cook pots were filled and scrub gathered; Gulius set to preparing a soupy porridge. New boy Marith was sent off to dig the hole for the latrine. Tobias himself sat down and stretched out his legs. Closed his eyes. Cool dark shadows and the smell of water. Bliss.

"So how much further do you think we've got till we get there?" Emit asked.

Punch someone, if they asked him that one more time. Tobias opened his eyes again with a sigh. "I have no idea. Ask Skie. Couple of days? A week?"

Rate grinned at Emit. "Don't tell me you're getting bored of sand?"

"I'll die of boredom, if I don't see something soon that isn't sand and your face."

"I saw a goat a couple of hours back. What more do you want? And it was definitely a female goat, before you answer that."

They had been marching now for almost a month. Forty men, lightly armed and with little armor. No horses, no archers, no mage or whatnot. No doctor, though Tobias considered himself something of a dab hand at field surgery and dosing the clap. Just forty men in the desert, walking west into the setting sun. Nearly there now. Gods only knew what they would find. The richest empire the world had ever known. Yellow sand.

"Not bad, this," Alxine said as he scraped the last of his porridge. "The lumps of mud make it taste quite different from the stuff we had at breakfast."

"I'm not entirely sure it's mud…"

"I'm not entirely sure I care."

They bore the highly imaginative title The Free Company of the Sword. An old name, if not a famous one. Well enough known in certain select political circles. Tobias had suggested several times they change it.

"The sand gives it an interesting texture, too. The way it crunches between your teeth."

"You said that yesterday."

"And I'll probably say it again tomorrow. And the day after that. I'll be an old man and still be picking bloody desert out of my gums."

"And other places."

"That, my friend, is not something I ever want to have to think about."

Everything reduced to incidentals by the hot yellow earth and the hot yellow air. Water. Food. Water. Rest. Water. Shade. Tobias sat back against a rock listening to his men droning on just as they had yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. Almost rhythmic, like. Musical. A nice predictable pattern to it. Backward and forwards, backward and forwards, backward and forwards. The same thinking. The same words. Warp and weft of a man's life.

Rate was on form today. "When we get there, the first thing I'm going to do is eat a plate of really good steak. Marbled with fat, the bones all cracked to let the marrow out, maybe some hot bread and a few mushrooms to go with it, mop up the juice."

Emit snorted. "The richest empire the world has ever known, and you're dreaming about steak?"

"Death or a good dinner, that's my motto."

"Oh, I'm not disputing that. I'm just saying as there should be better things to eat when we get there than steak."

"Better than steak? Nothing's better than steak."

"As the whore said to the holy man."

"I'd have thought you'd be sick of steak, Rate, lad."

"You'd have thought wrong, then. You know how it feels, looking after the bloody things day in, day out, never getting to actually sodding eat them?"

"As the holy man said to the whore."

Tiredness was setting in now. Boredom. Fear. They marched and grumbled and it was hot and at night it was cold, and they were desperate to get there, and the thought of getting there was terrifying, and they were fed up to buggery with yellow dust and yellow heat and yellow air. Good lads, really, though, Tobias thought. Good lads. Annoying the hell out of him and about two bad nights short of beating the crap out of each other, but basically good lads. He should be kind of proud.

"The Yellow Empire."

"The Golden Empire."

"The Sunny Empire."

"Sunny's nice and cheerful. Golden's a hope. And Yellow'd be good when we get there. In their soldiers, anyway. Nice and cowardly, yeah?"

Gulius banged the ladle. "More porridge, anyone? Get it while it's not yet fully congealed."

"I swear I sneezed something recently that looked like that last spoonful."

"A steak…Quick cooked, fat still spitting, charred on the bone…Mushrooms…Gravy…A cup of Immish gold…"

"I'll have another bowl if it's going begging."

"Past begging, man, this porridge. This porridge is lying unconscious in the gutter waiting to be kicked hard in the head."

A crow flew down near them cawing. Alxine tried to catch it. Failed. It flew up again and crapped on one of the kit bags.

"Bugger. Good eating on one of them."

"Scrawny-looking fucker though. Even for a crow."

"Cooked up with a few herbs, you wouldn't be complaining. Delicacy, in Allene, slow-roasted crow's guts. Better than steak."

"That was my sodding bag!"

"Lucky, in Allene, a crow crapping on you."

"Quiet!" Tobias scrambled to his feet. "Something moved over to the right."

"Probably a goat," said Rate. "If we're really lucky, it'll be that female goa—"

The dragon was on them before they'd even had a chance to draw their swords. ›

Big as a cart horse. Deep fetid marsh rot snot shit filth green. Traced out in scar tissue like embroidered cloth. Wings black and white and silver, heavy and vicious as blades. The stink of it came choking. Fire and ash. Hot metal. Fear. Joy. Pain. There are dragons in the desert, said the old maps of old empire, and they had laughed and said no, no, not that close to great cities, if there ever were dragons there they are gone like the memory of a dream. Its teeth closed ripping on Gulius's arm, huge, jagged; its eyes were like knives as it twisted away with the arm hanging bloody in its mouth. It spat blood and slime and roared out flame again, reared up beating its wings. Men fell back screaming, armor scorched and molten, melted into burned melted flesh. The smell of roasting meat surrounded them. Better than steak.

Gulius was lying somehow still alive, staring at the hole where his right arm had been. The dragon's front legs came down smash onto his body. Plume of blood. Gulius disappeared. Little smudge of red on the green. A grating shriek as its claws scrabbled over hot stones. Screaming. Screaming. Beating wings. The stream rose up boiling. Two men were in the stream trying to douse burning flesh and the boiling water was in their faces and they were screaming too. Everything hot and boiling and burning, dry wind and dry earth and dry fire and dry hot scales, the whole great lizard body scorching like a furnace, roaring hot burning killing demon death thing.

We're going to die, thought Tobias. We're all going to fucking die.

Found himself next to pretty new boy Marith, who was staring at it mesmerized with a face as white as pus. Yeah, well, okay, I'll give it to you, bit of a thing to come back to when you've been off digging a hole for your superiors to shit in. Looked pretty startled even for him. Though wouldn't look either pretty or startled in about ten heartbeats, after the dragon flame grilled and decapitated him.

If he'd at least try to raise his sword a bit.

Or even just duck.

"Oh gods and demons and piss." Tobias, veteran of ten years' standing with very little left that could unsettle him, pulled up his sword and plunged it two-handed into the dragon's right eye.

The dragon roared like a city dying. Threw itself sideways. The sword still wedged in its eye. Tobias half fell, half leaped away from it, dragging Marith with him.

"Sword!" he screamed. "Draw your bloody sword!"

The dragon's front claws were bucking and rearing inches from his face. It turned in a circle, clawing at itself, tail and wings lashing out. Spouted flame madly, shrieking, arching its back. Almost burned its own body, stupid fucking thing. Two men went up like candles, bodies alight; a third was struck by the tail and went down with a crack of bone. Tobias rolled and pulled himself upright, dancing back away. His helmet was askew, he could see little except directly in front of him. Big writhing mass of green dragon legs. He went into a crouch again, trying to brace himself against the impact of green scales. Not really much point trying to brace himself against the flames.

A man came in low, driving his sword into the dragon's side, ripping down, glancing off the scales but then meeting the softer underbelly as the thing twisted up. Drove it in and along, tearing flesh. Black blood spurted out, followed by shimmering white and red unraveling entrails. Pretty as a fountain. Men howled, clawed at their own faces as the blood hit. And now it had two swords sticking out of it, as well as its own intestines, and it was redoubling its shrieking, twisting, bucking in circles, bleeding, while men leaped and fell out of its way.

"Pull back!" Tobias screamed at them. "Get back, give it space. Get back!" His voice was lost in the maelstrom of noise. It must be dying, he thought desperately. It might be a bloody dragon, but half its guts are hanging out and it's got a sword sunk a foot into its head. A burst of flame exploded in his direction. He dived back onto his face. Found himself next to new boy Marith again.

"Distract it!" Marith shouted in his ear.


Marith scrambled to his feet and leaped.

Suddenly, absurdly, the boy was balanced on the thing's back. Clung on frantically. Almost falling. Looked so bloody stupidly bloody small. Then pulled out his sword and stabbed downwards. Blood bursting up. Marith shouted. Twisted backward. Fell off. The dragon screamed louder than ever. Loud as the end of the world. Its body arched, a gout of flame spouted. Collapsed with a shriek. Its tail twitched and coiled for a few long moments. Last rattling tremors, almost kind of pitiful and obscene. Groaning sighing weeping noise. Finally it lay dead.

A dead dragon is a very large thing. Tobias stared at it for a long time. Felt regret, almost. It was beautiful in its way. Wild. Utterly bloody wild. No wisdom in those eyes. Wild freedom and the delight in killing. An immovable force, like a mountain or a storm cloud. A death thing. A beautiful death, though. Imagine saying that to Gulius's family: he was killed fighting a dragon. He was killed fighting a dragon. A dragon killed him. A dragon. Like saying he died fighting a god. They were gods, in some places. Or kin to gods, anyway. He reached out to touch the dark green scales. Soft. Still warm. His hand jerked back as if burned. What did you expect? he thought. It was alive. A living creature. Course it's bloody soft and warm. It's bloody flesh and blood.

Should be stone. Or fire. Or shadow. It wasn't right, somehow, that it was alive and now it was dead. That it felt no different now to dead cattle, or dead men, or dead dogs. It should feel…different. Like the pain of it should be different. He ached the same way he did after a battle with men. The same way he did the last time he'd got in a fight in an inn. Not right. He touched it again, to be sure. Crumble to dust, it should, maybe. Burn up in a blaze of scented flame.

If it's flesh and blood, he thought then, it's going to fucking stink as it starts to rot.

There was a noise behind him. Tobias spun round in a panic. Another dragon. A demon. Eltheia the beautiful, naked on a white horse.

New boy Marith. Staring at the dragon like a man stares at his own death. A chill of cold went through Tobias for a moment. A scream and a shriek in his ears or his mind. The boy's beautiful eyes gazed unblinking. A shadow there, like it was darker suddenly. Like the sun flickered in the sky. Like the dragon might twitch and move and live. Then the boy sighed wearily, sat down in the dust rubbing at his face. Tobias saw that the back of his left hand was horribly burned.

"Pretty good, that," Tobias said at length.

"You told me to draw my sword."

"I did."

There was a long pause.

"You killed it," said Tobias.

"It was dying anyway."

"You killed a bloody dragon, lad."

A bitter laugh. "It wasn't a very large dragon."

"And you'd know, would you?"

No answer.

"You killed it, boy. You bloody well killed a bloody dragon. Notoriously invulnerable beast nobody really believed still existed right up until it ate their tent-mate. You should be pleased, at least. Instead, you're sitting here looking like death while Rate and the other lads try to get things sorted out around here." Wanted to shake the boy. Moping misery. "At least let me have a look at your hand."

This finally seemed to get Marith's attention. He stared down at his burns. "This? It doesn't really hurt."

"Doesn't hurt? Half your hand's been burned off. How can it not hurt? It's the blood, I think. Burns things. It's completely destroyed my sword. Damn good sword it was, too. Had a real ruby in the hilt and all. Bloke I got it off must have thought it was good too, seeing as I had to kill him for it." Rambled on, trying to relieve his racing mind. At the back of his racing mind this little voice basically just shouting "fuck fuck fuck fuck."

"The blood is acid," Marith said absently. "And boiling hot. Once it's dead it cools, becomes less corrosive." He turned suddenly to Tobias, as if just realizing something. "You stabbed it first. To rescue me. I did nothing, I just stood there."

Absurd how young the boy seemed. Fragile. Weak. Hair like red-black velvet. Eyes like pale gray silk. Skin like new milk and a face like a high-class whore. Could probably pass for Eltheia the beautiful, actually, in the right light. From the neck up at any rate.

Couldn't cook. Couldn't start a fire. Couldn't boil a sodding pot of tea. Could just about use a sword a bit, once someone had found him one, though his hand tended to shake on the blade. Cried a lot at night in his tent. Emit had ten in iron on him one day breaking down crying he wanted his mum. Eltheia the beautiful might have made the better sellsword, actually, in the right light.

"You just stood there. Yeah. So did most of them." And, oh gods, oh yeah, it's the squad commander pep talk coming unstoppably out. Let rip, Tobias me old mucker, like finally getting out a fart: "Don't worry about it. Learn from your mistakes and grow stronger and all that. Then when we next get jumped by a fire-breathing man-eating dragon, you'll be right as rain and ready for it and know exactly what to do."

Marith shook himself. Rubbed his eyes. "I could really, really do with a drink."

Tobias got to his feet. Sighed. Boy didn't even need to ask things directly for you to somehow just do them. A trick in the tone of voice. Those puppy-dog sad eyes. "You're not really supposed to order your squad commander around, boy. And we haven't got any booze left, if that's what you mean. There's water for tea, as long as it's drawn well up river of…that. Seeing as you're a hero and all, I'll go and get you some." He started off toward the camp. "Want something to eat while I'm at it?"

An attempt at drinks and dinner. Get the camp sorted so someone with a particularly iron stomach could get a bit of sleep in that wasn't mostly full of dreams of blood and entrails and your tent-mate's face running off like fat off a kebab. The final butcher's bill on file: Jonar, the man who had hacked the thing's stomach open, had disappeared completely, his body totally eaten away; four others were dead including Gulius; one was dying from bathing in fire and hot steam. Skie finished this last off cleanly by taking off his crispy melted black and pink head. Another four were badly wounded: Tobias suspected two at least would be lucky to survive the night. One, a young man called Newlin who was a member of his squadron, had a burn on his right leg that left him barely able to stand. Tobias had already decided it would be a kindness to knife him at the earliest opportunity. One of the other lads was bound to make a botch of it otherwise.

They'd only lost three men in the last year, and they had largely been the victims of unfortunate accidents. (How could they have known that pretty farmer's daughter had had a pruning hook hidden under her cloak? She hadn't even put up much resistance until that point.) Losing ten was a disaster, leaving them dangerously approaching being under-manned.

Piss poor luck, really, all in all, sitting down for lunch in front of a convenient bit of rock and it happening to have a dragon hiding behind it. Even if it wasn't a very large one.

They were still pitching the tents when Skie's servant Toman appeared. Reported that Skie wanted to see Marith Dragon Killer for a chat.

"Hero's welcome," said Tobias with a grin. Though you never could tell with Skie. Could just be going to bollock the boy for not killing it sooner.

Marith got up slowly. Something like fear in his eyes. Or pain, maybe.

Tobias shivered again. Funny mood, the boy was in.

Chapter Three

Skie's tent was beautiful old leather, well cured, unlike the smelly, greasy cloth things the men slept under, embossed with a design of looping flowers. The colors of the paint still showed in places, even some touches of gold leaf. Looted from somewhere, Marith was certain. Probably part of a lady's hunting pavilion. Although they usually had a little jeweled flag on the top. Skie's had a skeletal hand.

Skie himself was a small, thin man, gray and hard, his head bald. A straggly gray beard, which he'd look much better without, a scar across the bridge of his nose. Nothing exceptional, until he moved, and you saw he had lost his left arm at the elbow. Marith looked down at the ragged burns on his own left hand.

"So." Skie fixed him with cold eyes. "The dragon killer himself. I suppose we all owe you our lives." He gestured to Marith to sit down opposite him outside the tent entrance. "Rather more than I assumed you were capable of when I first encountered you, I must admit. Out of interest, how'd you know where to stab it?"

"I know how to kill dragons."

"That seems unarguable. I was asking how you knew. Not a common piece of knowledge."

"I'd have thought that was obvious."


  • "It's a bold experiment and feels like something new. An interesting book to read and fascinating to discuss afterwards!"—Mark Lawrence
  • "Anna Smith Spark is a dynamic new voice in the field of grimly baroque fantasy, a knowing and witty provisioner of the Grand Guignol, a cheerful undertaker strolling across the graveyard and beckoning you to admire her newest additions."—Scott Lynch
  • "Gritty and glorious! A great read."—Miles Cameron, author of The Traitor Son Cycle
  • "Fierce, gripping fantasy, exquisitely written; bitter, funny, and heart-rending by turns."—Adrian Tchaikovsky, Arthur C. Clarke Award winner for Children of Time
  • "Grim, gritty, and fast paced; with great battles scenes! Anna Smith-Spark is one to watch." —Andy Remic, author of the Blood Dragon Empire series
  • "Anna Smith Spark's debut The Court of Broken Knives is a fevered dream of a fantasy, set in a world where the saviors also seem to be the destroyers . . . . This book may not make you worship death like its characters do, but it weaves a spell that will consume you all the same."—B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog
  • "Anna Smith-Spark writes in a unique voice with such pace and veracity your imagination has to struggle to keep up with your eyes."—Adrian Collins, Grimdark Magazine
  • "Captivating."—Marc Turner, author of the Chronicles of the Exile series
  • "Holy crap, this is good!"—Grim Tidings
  • "All hail the queen of grimdark fantasy!"
    Michael R. Fletcher, author of Beyond Redemption
  • "Spark's gripping debut is definitely one to read and prize."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
  • "Spark's first novel lives up to its billing as a 'grimdark' tale. The setting may be bleak and dreary, but the worldbuilding is well done and the characters fit right in. Troubled, solitary and downright drug-addled as the protagonist is, readers will come around to his side as the reasons why he seeks for the throne he lost are revealed."—RT Book Reviews
  • "This outstanding, unputdownable debut holds and horrifies like a blood-spattered tapestry. There's rough humour, high drama and a love of story-telling that shines through every page. Plus it's got dragons with bad breath. Brilliant." —The Daily Mail (UK)
  • "Should appeal to grim dark fans looking for the extreme edge." —Kirkus

On Sale
Jun 27, 2017
Page Count
512 pages

Anna Smith Spark

About the Author

Anna Smith Spark lives in London, UK. She loves grimdark and epic fantasy and historical military fiction. Anna has a BA in Classics, an MA in history and a PhD in English Literature. She has previously been published in the Fortean Times and the poetry website

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