The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark

Title: The Tower of Living and Dying.
Series: Empires of Dust #2.
Writer(s): Anna Smith Spark.
Publisher: Orbit.
Format: Paperback.
Release Date: August 7th 2018.
Pages: 514.
Genre(s): Fantasy.
ISBN13:  9780316511469.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
Previously on Empires of Dust:
The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark.


There’s something truly cathartic about grim and gory stories. Through those strong emotions that are allowed to be unleashed into the world, they let the soul clear itself from all the negativity. Some characters embrace this darkness with every fiber of their body and go on to set a very bleak scenario for the world in which they live in but allow the reader to unleash their own repressed energies by vicariously living through their actions. Anna Smith Spark continues her trilogy with a story that further looks into the mind of a kingdom leader whose tumultuous past and ongoing miseries fuel his thirst for calamity. What she accomplishes, however, is done in such an exquisite and folkloric fashion that her story takes on the form of mythology where the darkness of individuals is the foundation of her creation.

What is The Tower of Living and Dying about? The story takes place exactly after The Court of Broken Knives and follows Marith Altrersyr in his rage-filled desire for conquest as he marches an army from one end of Irlast to the other, stomping on every person who looks to challenge him or stand as an obstacle to his claim of the throne. After all, his ancestors owe him these rights to countless territories and it is only through brute force and chaos that he will establish himself as a threat who shall never be undermined. Father-killer, dragonlord, and leader of the blood-soaked Amrath Army, there is, however, only one person who could stop his rampage and it all rests upon the high priestess of the Lord of Living and Dying, Thalia. While they pummel their way through countless battalions together, Landra Relast also vows vengeance and silently seeks the death of Marith for what he has done. Will we see this godlike figure fall to the plans of these rebels?


In The Tower of Living and Dying, Anna Smith Spark further develops the intricate and knotty relationship between Marith and Thalia. While he drools with a desire to reign havoc on all those who dare confront him in his conquest, he also showcases a conflicted personality, broken into too many pieces to ever feel whole again, and too hungry for power to embrace the very little sanity and hope left in him. Thalia’s favourable position as the queen who stands by his side also allows her to finally see the monster he truly is in his heart, although she continues to offer a helping hand in keeping him grounded, there’s something far too corrupted in his blood to truly change his ways. The story isn’t only split between both of their point of views but also presents other characters and their struggles and backgrounds as we further understand the complexity of the politics, history, and culture within this world. While these other narratives are intriguing and allow the story to expand and enrichen as we progress, Marith’s bloodbath remains some of the most epic sequences in fantasy literature.

Where Anna Smith Spark really outdid herself is in the prose as her writing style is unconventional yet mesmerizingly beautiful. Using single words or short sentences extremely frequently throughout the narration, she constructs a story with a visceral and poetic edge that dictates the momentum and pacing of her story in an unbelievable manner. It is especially in the action sequences that her writing style radiantly glows as blood is spilled in unspeakable quantities and death is brought upon many in devastating forms. Her writing style allows the reader to feel the intensity of every instant, sort of like following the beat of drums and focuses on conveying the distressing emotions that planes on the battlefield. The atmosphere thus engulfs the reader through these intimately chaotic sequences and allows them to understand the barbarism that follows Marith and hides in his shadow.

The Tower of Living and Dying is a stellar sequel following a ruler’s stark and grisly frenzy amidst all the damnation and bloodshed.


Thank you to Orbit Books for sending me a copy for review!




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