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Book Review

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The House of Sacrifice (Hardback)


Author: Anna Smith Spark
Publisher: Harper Voyager
534 pages
RRP: £16.99
ISBN: 978 0 00 820412 9
Publication Date: 25 July 2019

“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Marith Altrersyr, the Ansikanderakesis Amrakans, the chosen of the Chosen of the God Great Tanis the Lord of Living and Dying, has cut a bloody swath of conquest across the world. With his Queen and lover Thalia, the couple have brought pain and destruction the likes of which the continent of Irlast could barely imagine.

The House of Sacrifice (2019. 534 pages) is the last in the fantasy trilogy, Empires of Dust, written by Anna Smith Spark.

It’s odd that I have seen George R. R. Martin's name attached to many fantasy novels, often in a vain hope to capture some of his market. This is usually blazoned across run of the mill stories. If any book deserved this accolade it would be Spark’s trilogy and yet her publisher omitted this on her books.

The story has been refreshing, in that, it does not tell another interminable story of a disadvantaged youth, with nascent power, who takes on the bad guys, wins and everyone lives happily ever after. Spark tells a tale of a young man, out for revenge, who discovers he has a power and then turns into a complete psychopath. It’s as if George Lucas had decided to make Vader the hero of the story, except that Vader is positively a pacifist compared to Marith.

Not that Spark has made Marith a one-dimensional figure. Penned in by the needs of the army, he is driven ever on from one conquest to another, all the while drowning in the blood and destruction that he has brought about. No one is spared and Spark is very skilled at showing both the horror of battle as well as Marith and his soldiers delight in creating pain and horror. The quote at the beginning is apropos also as the story examines the ultimate pointlessness of Marith’s life and empire.

This story was only going to end one way, which should not surprise readers of the series, but Spark deftly moves the focus around as to who will ultimately betray Marith and this includes Marith himself.

As well as concluding Marith's story, the book also ends the other two main narrative strands introduced in the first book. Landra Relast continues her quest for vengeance against the many people who caused her downfall, and in the city of Sorlost, Orhan Emmereth, the Lord of the Rising Sun, and one who bears a large amount of responsibility for what had come to be, works to free his city before he has to suffer swapping one foreign overlord for another.

No one really wins in the end and even those that survive Marith’s madness have lost too much to enjoy what life they have left. A fitting end to this brutal grim, dark fantasy.


Charles Packer

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