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

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Love it!

Oh goodness, I’ve been looking forward to this book since I listened to The Court of Broken Knives last year, which ended up on my top of 2017 list, easily.

I was very patiently waiting when suddenly, I was offered a copy for reviewing. Well, how could I say no?!

So thanks very much to the author for that review copy. 🙂

Marith has been a sellsword, a prince, a murderer, a demon, and dead. But something keeps bringing him back to life, and now there is nothing stopping him from taking back the throne that is rightfully his.

Thalia, the former high priestess, remains Marith’s only tenuous grasp to whatever goodness he has left. His left hand and his last source of light, Thalia still believes that the power that lies within him can be used for better ends. But as more forces gather beneath Marith’s banner, she can feel her influence slipping.

Curse this city in her burning. Her body and her soul are silver mirrors, heated with solipsistic lust. Like a dog she pants and scratches, the sweat of her lovers coalescing on her azure tiles. In her dust is her voice harsh as trumpets. Her dust chokes me as it fondles my mouth. Hot dry air of the furnace, drawing out all my waters, salt fingers sucking me dry. In her desiccation her stones drip perfume. In her desiccation I am entombed in ecstasies of rain. Her rough stones enfold me, the arid depths of her passion, her kisses an abrasion dry as desert sand. Oh city of shit and sunlight! Oh city of dawn and the setting sun! In your embrace I dream of water. In your embrace I am withered to broken straw. Curse you, and yet I will lie forever in your burning, my body wracked with the heat of your love. -Serenet Vikale, The Book of Sand.

It’s not often that I read a verse like this within a book and just say ‘…wooooooow.’ at it on its own. I’ll honestly skip songs or verse in a book if they’re long and the first part is boring or not necessarily pertinent to the plot line. Not so, here. There’s a quip right after this one about its popularity among the people being understandable as the weather in Sorlost is indeed very hot of late, but that someone should really ask the author of it the state of his private life… which made me chuckle. Oh Orhan. Your POV chapters are great. Not always full of chuckles, but still great. 😀

The Court of Broken Knives was one of those books that was so well written that I found myself so effortlessly imagining the grim world within its pages (well, I did listen to that one in audio, but you know what I mean), and this one is no different.

I picked this book up as soon as it arrived in my mailbox and I sat down and devoured nearly half of it in one sitting. It shows how immersive this one was that it had me laying in my nest of pillows way into the wee hours, getting as much of it into me as I could. Without even dropping it on my face once. A miracle!

This is a continuation of the story from book one. We start out in the White Isles, where Marith ended up in book one. We see this story from several points of view, those of Marith and Thalia primarily in the first part of the book, but also from the point of view of several others, like Tobias and Landra. Orhan gets his POV chapters again in different parts, and they alternate, so you see what’s going on in different parts of the world here and there, as Marith and company are usually in a different part of the world than Sorlost, which is where Orhan is. Nonetheless, what is happening in Sorlost is still pertinent.

Marith is such an interesting character to read about, even if he’s not a likable person. He’s… … well, he’s something. He is a horrible person who is usually quite aware that he’s a horrible person but doesn’t always care. Some of the stuff that we see go through his mind versus how he presents himself to some people is fascinating. How other people see him despite how we see him was fascinating to me as well. Whether they are seeing him for what he is or if there is something influencing them is rather unclear. He’s such a complex character this way. He’s also one of the more narcissistic characters I’ve ever read about, which in this case, is actually warranted. Marith is a descendant of Amrath, who was rather more than just a king. Actually, he’s more like Amrath reborn, and as this story goes along, that becomes more and more apparent.

Marith is on more or less a war path through this empire in this volume, and Thalia, the former high priestess of the Temple of Tanis, the Lord of Living and Dying is at his side. Thalia has come quite far since being the sheltered priestess who never left her temple. She’s definitely not as naive as she was, and seeing her POV chapters (some of which are in the first person, as they were in book one) was also fascinating. Their relationship is quite interesting to read about because it changes as the story progresses, especially on Thalia’s part. It’s hard to gauge what Thalia actually feels for him at times, whether she loves him or just goes along with everything because she likes the adventure of it all. It’s hard to gauge how Marith actually feels for her as well. He sees her as this beautiful creature. His beautiful priestess who gave up her god to be with him. His beautiful queen. He worries for her safety, but I found that it’s often unclear if he is worried for her life more because he loves her as a person, or if he would miss her beauty. Or a mix of both, really. Perhaps it depends on his current state of mind.

Like book one, this volume is so beautifully written. The writing style is quite different than anything that I’ve read in a while. It’s… I’m not sure how to describe it. There are probably words for it, but if so I do not know them. It’s often very to the point. Sometimes one thought or idea is repeated often, but never annoyingly. Sometimes a chapter is but a page long. Sometimes two or three sentences… but it conveys exactly what it needs to convey before moving along. The narration type changes sometimes, and then changes back. Some chapters are in the first person, and others in third. You’d think this would be annoying, but it wasn’t at all. I’ve read other books that do this where it felt out of place, but in this one I loved it. Just like I loved it in book one. I just love the whole style of this book. It’s definitely not going to be for everyone, because as I said, this style is different than most everything else, but damn, it is ever for me!

Daaaamn is it grim though. The Queen of Grimdark strikes again for sure. The last quarter of this book had me on the edge of my seat, and I stayed up extra late to read it to the end. I brought it into the bath with me and was so immersed that the hubbo came in to make sure I hadn’t drowned, lol. I normally wouldn’t devour a book like this in days, because I generally have to take breaks in books that are really violent or gory… and this one is both of those things… but it’s written in a way that I almost didn’t notice. I mean… I noticed, but it didn’t affect me like others have been known to. I am baffled, really. Things happen in this book that are legitimately horrific, but all the same, I devoured every bit of it.

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Yep. There might have been a creature who may or may not have been imagined thusly by my brain. 😀

Guys, I loved The Court of Broken Knives, but I loved this one even more, despite this one being even darker at times then I remember the first one being. The audio of book one was an amazing experience on its own, as the narrators were amazing, but I have to say reading this one was also a great experience. This might be one of those books that I’ll read and then listen to. I think I’ll have to, because I just know that this audiobook is going to be awesome! Either way, this has definitely rocketed onto my favorite books of the year list. This is now four sequels (this year) that are technically the ‘middle book’ that I liked better than their predecessors. Wat. Is. Happening?! ‘Tis the year of fantastic sequels, obviously!

This book was fucking fantastic. 5/5 stars!

You can see this book on goodreads here, and pick up a copy of it here!

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