Book Reviews

Book Review: The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark



The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark
Publisher: HarperVoyager                                            Publication date: 28th July 2018
Genre: Grimdark Fantasy                                             Page Count: 528


Anna Smith Spark’s The Tower of Living and Dying picked up right where The Court of Broken Knives last left us, but I struggled somewhat to get back into it. Thankfully, there was none of this “reader reminder” malarky; instead I felt lost in the stream of conscious of someone who felt in shock. Spark’s writing style is unique, it is utterly different to any of the other authors I’m currently casting an eye over on my shelf; the only one  catching my eye as possibly  being a good comparison is Gormenghast author Mervyn Peake. There’s that same dream-like disjointed feel to the narrative.

Once I’d fallen back into the rhythm of her writing though, the book came to life for me and I was once more back in that world. Spark uses her writing style exceptionally well; the character’s voices are distinct and diverse, with exception to Thalia and Marith, lending a level of credence to them only the best writers are ever able to achieve. With regards to Thalia and Marith, their voices stood in stark contrast to the other characters’; highly emotional, poetically repetitive, and so similar to each other it was as if they were entwined, inseparable.

And just as with The Court of Broken Knives, it was Thalia and Marith who stole the show for me. Sorlost and the struggles of Orhan were a frustrating distraction from Marith’s campaign, which swept me along utterly; I felt like one of his own soldiers fallen under his spell calling King Ruin! King of Death! I didn’t want to leave the slogging trail and epic battles for the dusty and decayed Sorlost; I felt the two narratives were much more separated in this book. The story line in Sorlost continues with the intrigue, the discourse on the disparages between rich and poor, on corruption and the effects of its shock-waves. But I’m a woman who knows what she likes, and she likes terms such as infantry, heavy cavalry, manoeuvres, formations and… dragons. Sorry Orhan.

I became lost in Spark’s beautifully described world, one that felt so familiar, just a step or so out of reach. The rituals, the superstitions, the traditions; the whole story had a ritualistic air to it, of legends searching for more legends, King Henry searching for Arthur.

There’s a lot I’m leaving unsaid, as with my review for The Court of Broken Knives; as ever, I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Spark goes from strength to strength; there is more magic at play in The Tower of Living and Dying, an ominous sense of darkness encroaching which she builds masterfully. Whispers that echo from our past and force our hands; truths denied, refused, buried.

If you fell in love with The Court of Broken Knives then you will not be disappointed with The Tower of Living and Dying.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Tower of Living and Dying by Anna Smith Spark

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