The Court of Broken Knives – 4*

The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark

I am going to go back and do reviews for some of the other books I have read this year, probably over the next few months (I don’t want to do too much at once). But I figured if I was going to do reviews I should start with the book I just read first so it is still fresh in my mind.

I bought The Court of Broken Knives back at SFXCon in February where I first got the chance to meet the author and I liked what she said about the book so I decided to get it. Since I have such a ridiculous to read pile it’s been sitting in that since and her appearance at the last SRFC is the reason I dusted it off and got to work.

As someone who studied Classics, a fantasy book inspired by Alexander the Great certainly got my attention. It’s a very violent book, lots of battles and gore in it, as well as some sex too (though more mentions of it than graphic depictions of sexual activities).

The strangest thing I found about this book is that it would be easy to think it was by a male author, that may be internal biases showing based on the fact that it has way more male characters than female and the focus on war and fighting is more than would be typical. I will admit to a part of me being a bit irritated about not having more female stories in it, but on the other hand I really want things to get to the point where there is so much good representation of female characters in books that it doesn’t matter if a woman chooses to write primarily from the point of men.

The main female character in the book also starts off well, but then seems to turn into someone mostly obsessed with a man who doesn’t seem to get much agency or story after that point. I am hoping that this will improve later on in the series as it is most definitely a detractor from an otherwise enjoyable book.

This is a really dark book (as the mention of violence earlier might give away), most of the characters in it are not exactly lovely people, but the world building is really excellent and I found myself very caught up in it all. There is also a lot of grey in it, characters are capable of very different acts in a short space of time.

If a fantasy based on real life wars is not appealing to you then do not read this. It does not pull punches with the violence and it will not be the book for you. Overall I did like it though and I am curious where the trilogy will go next. The second book is currently out in Hardback and when it is in paperback I will likely pick it up.

Writing Update 1

On Tuesday I attended my third Super Relaxed Fantasy Club meeting. This is a group in London where every month 2-3 authors come do readings from their work and answer questions. There is also socialising. It is attended by quite a few published authors, plenty of writer, agents, editors as well as people who just love to read.

I am very much enjoying it, it gives me a chance to socialise with people who are doing what I want to do, perhaps get assistance with my goals and also get introduced to new and interesting sounding Fantasy and Science-Fiction books.

This month was readings by R J Barker, Anna Spark┬áSmith and Jane O’Reilly. I had met Anna briefly before at SFX Con earlier this year and we got to have a slightly longer chat this time, most about neurodiversity and such, and I got my copy of The Court of Broken Knives signed (I am reading it at the moment).

R J Barker was hilarious, the reading was really engaging and it was lovely to meet him. We were talking about Leeds as that is where some of my family is from and where he lives, including how weird looking Armley Prison is. I bought the first book of his trilogy, Age of Assassins, got it personalised (he had signed them already) and have added it to my ever growing unread book pile.

The last author writes space operas and her work did sound interesting and I may look into it in future, but I decided to be good and not add it to the pile for the moment.

Yesterday I turned up to my first meeting of a writing group based in a bookshop in Wood Green. I heard about it from the book shop owner at Nine Worlds and decided to go along. I was a bit nervous, but there are other Sci-Fi/Fantasy writers there and people were plenty friendly. I didn’t do any readings this time, but I shall next time as the feedback seemed really good and I think it could be very useful to me to see what non Sci-Fi/Fantasy people think of my stuff.

I also think I have gotten around a 1000 words written this week and I am hoping to get more done over the weekend if I can manage it. So some progress there. I have also set myself up a Facebook group for the people who volunteered to do Beta reading for me and have even given them a short story I wrote a while back to look at.

Things are happening then and I am feeling pretty positive at the moment, let’s hope I can keep it up!

In future I am going to do some reviews of things I have been reading too, probably not intense critiques, but more what I liked and didn’t, with a likely feminist eye cast over them as well so look out for those in future.

And so it begins…

Welcome to my blog! Here I intend to talk about a variety of subjects, probably mostly Science-Fiction and Fantasy related, though there is likely to be some feminist lens to my content (for which I make no apologies).

I am also an aspiring author, so the blog may include updates on my journey from writing to perhaps getting published.

So welcome and please bring an open mind and a warm heart. Disagreements are fine, I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I say, but please be polite and respectful in your arguments.

Thanks!

Update: I have added a ratings system to my blog now so I have updated all my old reviews with their ratings. They mostly match my Good Reads ratings, though I will sometimes use .5 here because I feel they can be helpful sometimes.

5* – I adored this book and will happily re-read it and recommend it to everyone who likes this sort of thing.

4* – This is an excellent book that I will likely recommend. May have some elements I didn’t think quite worked, but still highly recommended.

3* – This was a good book. I generally enjoyed reading it but may not particularly want to read it again.

2* – The book was OK. It had some redeeming features, but not enough for me to truly say I liked it.

1* – I hated this book and couldn’t think of much of anything good to say about it. To be avoided at all costs.

Half ratings will indicate that I felt a book fell between two other ratings and I wanted to acknowledge that.