The Tower of Living and Dying: Empires of Dust, Book 2

Anna Smith Spark. Orbit, $15.99 trade paper (480p) ISBN 978-0-316-51146-9

The Empires of Dust grimdark epic fantasy series continues to build bloody momentum in this gory second installment (following The Court of Broken Knives) as the increasingly unbalanced heir to the throne of the White Isles ravages his way across the land of Irlast, getting closer to his goal. Blood-hungry Marith Altrersyr—known popularly as King Ruin—has left a trail of violent death in his wake, razing the great fortress at Malth Salene in the name of the discredited god Amrath the World Conqueror and setting his lover, Thalia, in place as High Priestess of Tanis, goddess of death and life. As Marith’s army grows larger, welcoming troops from dubious allies, his ambitions swell, leaving Thalia torn between staying with him to try to temper his mood swings or leaving to protect her own sanity. Spark’s world is gritty and vivid, populated at every turn with richly drawn characters. With a plot that twists through serpentine intrigues, Spark’s series fascinates and entertains, showing no sign of middle-book sag as Marith and company careen toward a terrible destiny. (Aug.)