Seven Blades in Black

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 09 May 2019

Member Reviews

Now, I should start by admitting that I've gotten out of practice with reading longer books (450+ page books) and westerns and sci-fi books have always been hit-and-miss for me. This book is over 700 pages and a mix of fantasy, sci-fi, and western -- pretty much guaranteeing that I would have to slog through this book.
And yet, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 

Did I have to read this in sections and at times force myself through them? Yeah, totally.
Did the writing get on my nerves at times? I mean, yeah? I thought it was a bit wordy. 

But the story is awesome. I ADORE Sal and the side characters. The fact that she is telling this as a confession while arrested, made me giddy. The scenes in present time were such fun-- although I also used them as my stopping points. 

I did think this was going to be a standalone too, so the ending had me confused, but I'm onboard to read the next one. If you like snarky, sarcastic anti-heroes set on revenge set in a complex world -- this is a book you should read.
Was this review helpful?
Seven Blades is perfect for anyone that has read the Gentleman Bastards and is stuck waiting for that fourth title. Fast, brutal, and just as frenetic as Lies of Locke Lamorra or Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows. I read it in two sittings and almost wanted to flip it over and start again when I was done!
Was this review helpful?
Author Sam Sykes is back with an all new series that does not disappoint! Sal is the perfect antiheroine for a new kind of fantasy. Her quest for vengeance is filled with complicated characters, betrayal, romance, and a lot of humor, This book is a love letter to anime, fantasy, and even to the wild west is the best possible way!
Was this review helpful?
Seven Blades in Black was an AMAZING story! This title had everything I wanted in a story: a great story, strong, LGBTQ+ heroine in an amazing world. There wasn't a time when I didn't gasp. After I finished the story, I wanted to reread the story. Sal is a kickass character. Going after the people who took everything from her. I can't wait for the next one!
Was this review helpful?
This book was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. It isn't everyday that I find a fantasy that does that. I was guessing, I was angry, I was sad, I was even at times bored. But Sykes knows the right amount of time to allow for exposition and when to add action.
Was this review helpful?
'Seven Blades in Black' by Sam Sykes is the first novel in a new trilogy.  It's about a snarky killer and her sentient gun.

Sal the Cacophony is a pretty unpleasant character.  She is scarred, a reputed killer, leaves a wake of trouble in her wake, and has a serious grudge.  It's a wonder she has any friends, and she kind of doesn't, but her lover Liette does her best to help, and Cavric, the soldier she kidnapped, tries somewhat helplessly.  Sal is out to kill the ones that betrayed her, but it just may kill her.

I liked this story of revenge, but I got to a point in the book, and there wasn't a lot of character development.  It was a lot of new monsters to fight, and new characters that Sal had ticked off in her life.  The final third comes together, but I really feel like this book was about 200 pages too long.  The writing is good and I would definitely read more by this author.

I received a review copy of this ebook from Orbit Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you for allowing me to review this ebook.
Was this review helpful?
I had never read anything by Sam Sykes, but I liked the description of this book. It featured a woman with a sword, a magical gun, and an attitude, so I thought I might like it. I did acquire this book to review as a courtesy from Net Galley.

Seven Blades in Black is the first book in a new series by Sam Sykes, but you can read the first book on its own and get a solid story. While the main plot isn’t over (by far, I’d guess), the main action of this first book is brought to a close.

Sal the Cacophany is a bounty-hunter with a tragic hidden past. She has tried to put her anger aside so that she can live through each day, but she keeps a list of names of those who wronged her in a pocket, waiting for the day that she can satisfy her vengeance. Meanwhile, she spends her time seeking out renegade Imperial mages known as Vagrants. Having served in the same capacity in her own past, she uses her knowledge to track them down, kill them using a magic gun, and then gathers the Dust from their remains, selling it for profit.

At the beginning of the book, Sal is held captive by the Revolution and is questioned by Governor-Militant Tretta Stern just before her planned execution. The two great powers in the world (the Imperials and the Revolution) have been at war for a long time with little regard for the civilians who struggle in the desolate Scar. Most of the novel is written as Sal relates her recent activities to her captor, forestalling her execution by a few hours and then a few days.

Sal’s tale starts as she tracks down Daiga, a nearby Vagrant. After their fight, she searches his tower and finds a note implying that Jindu, one of the names on her list, is recruiting Vagrants for something sinister. She realizes that she may have a chance to find him this time and the story follows her in her pursuit of her former associates.

Sal inadvertently ends up with two companions: Liette, an artificer and her former/current lover, and Low Sergeant Cavric Proud, a Revolutionary officer who is at first forced to pilot a gigantic armored tank-like device, but later stays because he begins to see his glorious Revolution through a perspective.

While the subject matter in this novel is dark and the protagonist is violent and vengeful, there is a lot of fun in the pages. I mean, Sal rides a giant bird named Congeniality and throws sarcasm around more than is good for her. Her gun, the Cacophany, is a powerful weapon, but also has a sinister aspect to it, communicating to her and becoming upset if she doesn’t kill often enough. But her sword is a plain blade and she has named him Jeff.

This is a long book that requires some attention throughout, but was a satisfying story in a unique setting. When the ending unfolds and the truth of Sal’s past is revealed, I was surprised to find her able to function as much as she does. Her backstory is heartbreaking and with knowledge of Jindu’s goals, she can’t escape confronting it, even beyond her goal of revenge. I’ll definitely pick up the next one in this series.
Was this review helpful?
Really fascinating main POV character and a ton of great world buildings. Just enough information to string you along while also saving some reveals as the book progresses. I'm looking forward to more works by Sykes!
Was this review helpful?
The voice of the main character Sal is what drew me in and kept me hooked through out the whole book. I found her witty and relatable despite her incessant thirst for revenge. Great start to a series and I cannot wait to read more from this author.
Was this review helpful?
This book is about wizard-hunting gunslingers. Sal, the main character, is slapped into chains by the revolution and, awaiting execution, gives her final confession which takes the length of the book. Sal is a sarcastic surly, self-deprecating character and that's what I loved about her. Also she's in an f/f relationship, if that's something that will win you over. 

Sal's blood-soaked backstory was handled brilliantly. There's a lot of good timing, great action, amazing dialogue, complex characters, humour, romance!

However, it felt like the author assumed the reader knows how the in-book world works and all about the war that was going on in it despite not having read it before., which pulled me back out of the book whenever that happened.
Was this review helpful?
An odd phenomena that’s been enabled mostly by Twitter is that I sometimes find myself a fan of an author before I’ve ever read their books. Authors have author friends and retweet them, and the authors I like and follow on Twitter retweet their like minded friends so I end up liking authors whose written works I’ve never read. I find this strange because I can’t imagine how this would happen before Twitter. Maybe reading author interviews in a magazine, or recommendation lists, but the sort of intimate knowledge of who an author publicly associates with seems to be something that’s been uniquely enabled by internet social media, namely Twitter. This is all a roundabout way of saying that I largely like Sam Sykes the person but this is the first time I’ve read a Sam Sykes novel and now I very much enjoy Sam Sykes the author. 

Seven Blades in Black starts with Sal the Cacophony recounting her deeds from a prison cell. I was immediately skeptical of how much I would enjoy this because I (mistakenly) thought it would emulate the storytelling of The Name of the Wind, which is a novel I did not like and did not finish (“wow Kvothe, great at everything” - my review). Within this framework, Sal takes us on a hell of a ride as she hunts down a list of fellow Vagrants who have wronged her. Sal has a large handgun (named The Cacophony), a bunch of magic bullets, a magical scarf, and that’s about it. 

This novel is an exercise in trusting an author. When it starts like another novel I didn’t like, it proved me wrong to misjudge it. When it doesn’t explain its setting or history from the start, it respected my patience by giving me enough to keep going and eventually answering my questions. When it threw “TEN THOUSAND YEARS!” and “Eres va atali” at me without a whole lot of context, it explained what those phrases meant at a time when I would appreciate their meaning. I don’t want to explain these things here because I found a lot of enjoyment in keeping those questions in the back of my head. All this boils down to a recommendation that if you’re put off by the first couple chapters because you’re confused, please keep reading. 

With that in mind, Sykes expertly builds a world where Sal can get in over her head, alone or with friends, and dig herself out, and make you root for her, even knowing that she’s a terrible person. This is a thick book but it’s a very rewarding read. Over the initial skepticism hump, I was utterly hooked from beginning to end because the characters were compellingly written and the story was well paced. There are moments in media that make me feel things. As an unemotional lizard person, those moments are rare for me, and rarer still in novels. Sykes sets up a couple moments like that in this novel, where all the little things add up to meaning, and it's very well executed. 

Sal the Cacophony makes a huge mess and suffers for it and I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t get answers to everything, but I got enough answers that I don’t feel like I was led on. It is well worth the investment and I can’t wait to read the next Sam Sykes novel.
Was this review helpful?
An interesting new series, with some great new characters.
Fans of Sykes's previous series will like what they read here, and newcomers will no doubt also get a great deal out of the adventure.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this one so very much! It was action packed, and so very immersive! I can't wait for book two!
Was this review helpful?
I don't think I can properly give this book a rating as I only made it about 60% through and skimmed the rest, and that this is more of an "it's not you, its me" kind of situation. I was provided a copy of this book for review purposes from Netgalley and the publisher.

I didn't really know much about Sam Sykes or this book before starting it, except that he was sometimes really funny on Twitter. Had I looked into it more, I probably wouldn't have requested a review copy from the publisher, but that fact plus the cool looking cover plus the idea of a badass female protagonist had me super excited so I went ahead and hit that "request" button.

I would feel really comfortable calling this book "grimdark," even though it seems nobody can ever agree on what that really means. It's very dark, a lot of people get graphically hurt and killed, there's enough cursing to make the stereotypical sailor blush, and nothing ever seems to get any better for anybody. I sometimes like that kind of book! But this one didn't work for me, and after trying for over a week to get into the story, and trying the audiobook too in case it was mode engaging that way, I just wasn't not looking forward to this book at all. 

That's not to say there weren't any good parts! I thought the way magic worked was interesting (although it seemed to keep changing as different characters would get introduced) and and some parts were funny. It just wasn't enough to keep me going through everything else.

I would recommend people who like Mark Lawrence or Joe Abercrombie check it out though! Not all books are for all people, and this one is clearly for a lot of people, I'm just not one of them.
Was this review helpful?
This book was so much fun! It's like Jay Kristoff and Robert Jackson Bennett got together to write high fantasy western, later adapted by Quentin Tarantino, after they all watched Tank Girl while extremely drunk. The world building is ace, the characters are great. The levels of violence are about what I expected (read: high), and the humor is extra. The magic system is cool too -- not entirely original in itself, but unique in how it's integrated with the geopolitical world building. And Sam Sykes can sure write the hell out of a magical action scene!

Main character Sal is pretty badass but not in the hot-chick "SFC" way; she's more complex than that. (And while I love that Sal's gender is completely irrelevant, the constant use of drinking, farting, and ass-scratching as shorthand for a kind of modified "one of the guys" status can get a little old.) Her relationship with Liette, the genius tinkerer, is a highlight. Her relationships with others tend to be a touch less developed, with more telling and less showing.

The language can be a little repetitive, and I didn't totally get a few key plot details, such as why Tretta was so obsessed with retrieving, or at least gathering intelligence on, Low Sergeant Cavric Proud in the first place, given everything else going on in the Rebellion army. There's also an important twist that was telegraphed pretty early on, followed by another related twist that I didn't realize was supposed to be a twist and which also seemed under-examined somehow. I guess that's what Book 2 is for! I shall look forward to reading it.
Was this review helpful?
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited to review this new book by Sam Sykes. He has a strong sense of world building from his previous work (I reviewed City Stained Red here) and I think he has a hilarious Twitter presence.

What I did like:
-Revenge narrative
-Horror elements
-Lesbian (or possibly bi) protagonist
-mish-mash of magic, machines, western themes

The entire revenge narrative and plotting were very strong for me. I could feel the seething and hate with every move. It literally ruined the one good relationship Sal had! I liked how the backstory unfolded and I especially liked the “confession” storytelling device. Some of my favorite books are the “story within a story” narratives!

When I say horror elements, I’m referring to the monsters that are created in the Scar by magic gone wrong. For instance, Sal and co come across some nith hounds, which are half people and half dog, but it’s not a direct half, there are some hands for paws, faces for nostrils, unnatural swaps, but always vicious. Other creepy monsters include a scrath, that is a being from another dimension that is implanted into a person’s body. But the possession of the body is unnatural, and described with long limbs, rippling skin (ek!), and half a face that is twisted the wrong way! :O Like take an image of a nightmare and put it on the page!

Shout out to the LGBTQ rep here. It’s not implicitly stated one way or another, but it is implied that Sal’s former relationship was with a man who betrayed her, and her current relationship is with a woman (they kiss!).

What I struggled with:
-The cover
-The title

Sal the Cacophony carries a gun that has magical bullets called Cacophony. The cover should have her carrying a gun! Jeff the sword is not magical and not considered a “character” in the same way the Cacophony is. Also what is this illustration?? It doesn’t make sense and really turns me off from the book. If I’m judging a book on its cover, this is not appealing. The face is realistic, but the harsh colors are illustrated? I’m not sure what it is trying to convey–even after I’ve finished reading it.

The title is also a bit misleading. Is it a reference to Sal’s past trauma? There’s no indication in the story why the title is what it is. I’m sorry, but this frustrates me.

Sal is an angry gal, no doubt about it, so when the book is just all anger and internal conflict, it starts to get repetitive. Further, I didn’t think I was reading a woman’s perspective. The POV was 3rd person limited, and I felt that Sal’s thoughts read more as a man than a woman. The beginning was especially challenging because she’s basically acting like a stereotypical fantasy male character. It’s not that this is wrong, but I just felt that I didn’t have a sense of the character to distinguish her from a male voice.

My last frustration had to do with the end of the book and the availability of portals. I can’t really go into detail here because of spoilers, but basically I didn’t understand how Sal knew where they were or how they worked.

So overall, I liked this. I would read the sequel. I think that Sal is an interesting character and I like the world building that is happening here. I can kind of see where the series is going and I’m interested in following it. I don’t think Sal is the typical hero and I appreciate that. I do also want her to get revenge and reclaim what was once hers, so I’ll have to wait and find out!
Was this review helpful?
Nearly 700 pages of pure awesome. This is one of those books that doesn’t feel long at all despite the page count. It's non-stop action from beginning to end with a story of revenge that kept me fully invested. Now I just have to not so patiently wait for the next book, which will definitely be a pre-order for me.
Was this review helpful?
SEVEN BLADES IN BLACK is Sam Sykes’ newest novel and the start of a new series, THE GRAVE OF EMPIRES. I’ve seen it described as “action fantasy,” which I guess is fantasy but with more punching? While there’s plenty of punching (and shooting and eviscerating) in SEVEN BLADES, what makes it memorable is that at every turn Sykes seems to be asking “how could this be even more awesome?” and then delivering. The result is break-neck chase scenes on ostriches, riverboats full of assassins, unspeakable monsters, souped-up magical fights, and a lot of poor decision making.

You could call it action fantasy.

Or you could call it a lot of fun.

Sal the Cacophony has a list of names. It’s the list, really, that brought her to this room where she’s being interrogated by General-Militant Tretta Stern of the Glorious Revolution. Well, that and the fact that she’s kidnapped one of Stern’s soldiers. And burned down a few cities, but she has an explanation.

Sal is a Vagrant, which means that she was once a member of the proud, magic-using Imperium. Now she’s an outcast fighting for survival in the wild west of the Scar, where freemakers, revolutionaries, imperials, and even some of the religious zealots from Haven all scrabble for the upper hand.

Driven by her almost primal need for revenge, Sal’s mission to kill everyone on her list brings her up against insanely powerful magic users. Which means that as much as she hates to admit it, she needs more help than even her semi-sentient, magical firearm (the Cacophony) can provide. Whether that’s willing help, from her lover Liette, or unwilling help, from the kidnapped Cavric Proud of the Revolution, Sal has to take what she can get. And she does take it, pushing herself and her companions to the breaking point as she fights to cross off each name of the mages who left her with so many scars.

Sal is clever–and the writing is, too. Sometimes it seems almost too clever (if that makes sense), like it’s asking for a pat on the head for being funny. Sal is a real personality and most chapters start with an aside from her. It’s a great way to get to know her and her history, especially at the beginning, but as the novel continues the conceit begins to get in the way of the story. It slows the drive of the narrative, but given the turbo-charged action, some readers might welcome a breather.

The same goes for the frame story with Governor Stern. Frame stories can be a drag when not fully integrated into the story itself, but here the frame story does some important heavy lifting as it pulls the reader away from the relentless momentum of Sal’s story. Stern’s skepticism of Sal is a good counterpoint to Sal’s own first-person narrative and it also gives Sykes another avenue for both character and world-building.

Speaking of worldbuilding (did you see that smooth transition?), I really like the world Sykes sketches out in SEVEN BLADES. The first book of a series is a big ask but Sykes handles it well. While we spend most of our time with the Vagrants and the Revolutions, there are tantalizing glimpses of the fanatics from Haven and of the Imperium that should reassure us that there are plenty of show-downs to come. I loved the mix of technology and with typical fantasy elements and each group’s relationship with magic or technology seems carefully thought out.

For a book that includes this sheer volumes of explosives and expletives, SEVEN BLADES is also remarkably reflective, taking the time to develop Sal in all of her brokenness. The trauma of Sal’s past affects every aspect of her relationships and Sykes doesn’t rush past the pain. Instead he holds the pain up, lets it catch the light, shows the reader how it infiltrates every aspect of who Sal is.

One way Sykes attempts to highlight Sal’s vulnerability is by giving her a lover. Liette is a good addition to the story, but her relationship with Sal felt more frustrating than revealing. Sykes kept hitting the same note with them and while I understand that a story like this isn’t necessarily focused on character growth, by the time we reached the end of the novel it felt really repetitive. In fact, the novel’s greatest weakness may be the occasional feeling that despite all the action, we’re not really going anywhere. This is especially true in the last third of the book, which felt like it could have been streamlined without losing any essential elements.

SEVEN BLADES IN BLACK is fun introduction to a character who will stick with you for a while. Sal the Cacophony is witty, profane, broken, wild, and doesn’t give a…hoot…what you think about her. She is also undoubtedly about to make some more bad decisions. I’d like to be there when she does.

**Let me end with a quick PSA: **don’t read the back of the book** Read this review instead. I mean, you already are, so gold star for you. But really. The back of the book will only reveal things that someone (???) thought would draw readers in, but that discerning readers don’t discover until WELL into the book, which is just rude.**
Was this review helpful?
This didn't really do it for me. There were some solid ideas and an interesting fantasy world, but ultimately the characters and the narrative voice (both in third-person and first-person) just didn't do it for me, feeling much more casual and un-centered in the world than what I typically want. So ultimately I think it's just a mismatch relative to style preferences.
Was this review helpful?
I’m so surprised to be giving this book 3 stars. For the first third or so, I thought I’d be looking at a solid 5 star read. But as the story wore on, a lack of plot/too much emphasis on action at the end with large patches in the middle being completely devoid of action, a plot twist that was so obvious I didn’t even realize it was supposed to be a surprise and a failure to live up to the awesome premise heavily dragged it down. There was plenty of good too, things like great writing, interesting characters, brilliantly done worldbuilding and a really cool magic system. I did actually like this book, 3 stars to me is ‘good not great’, but it’s just a let down on what it could have been. 

The premise is simple and wonderful: Sal the Cacophony has a gun, a sword (named Jeff!) and a list of names of those that she is out to kill in a crazy world of magic-torn landscapes and civil war. Telling her story to her captor, we follow both her interrogator in the present and Sal as she tells her tale. 

Seven Blades in Black had so much crazy awesome stuff, like magic guns! And birds instead of horses to get around the world! Magic that you pay a physical price upon every use! But then too much piled on to weigh it all down. I really wish the book was either shorter or better paced. I don’t want this review to sound like I hated the book, I really didn’t, it was a lot of fun in places. I’m just pretty disappointed that it didn’t live up to the great premise. 

I will definitely be checking out the second book in the series when it’s released, I just hope the big moments can be better paced and Sykes’ can mix up the character relationships so they don’t feel quite so one note and repetitious.
Was this review helpful?