Acclaimed author Sam Sykes returns with a brilliant new epic fantasy that introduces an unforgettable outcast mage caught between two warring empires.
Her magic was stolen. She was left for dead.
Betrayed by those she trusts most and her magic ripped from her, all Sal the Cacophony has left is her name, her story, and the weapon she used to carve both. But she has a will stronger than magic, and knows exactly where to go.
The Scar, a land torn between powerful empires, where rogue mages go to disappear, disgraced soldiers go to die and Sal went with a blade, a gun, and a list of seven names.
Revenge will be its own reward.
For more from Sam Sykes, check out:
The Affinity for Steel Trilogy
Tome of the Undergates
The Skybound Sea
Bring Down Heaven
The City Stained Red
The Mortal Tally
God's Last Breath
About the Author
Sam Sykes is the author of the acclaimed Bring Down Heaven trilogy, a vast and sprawling story of adventure, demons, madness and carnage. He lives in Arizona.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ahoy there me mateys! I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . . While I enjoyed this book, it didn't completely float me boat. I think that this stems from me misconception that this was a standalone novel. After finishing this, I really do wish it was and I even know what the ending could have been. But I can hardly fault the author for writing a series can I? I absolutely did love the main character, Sal the Cacophony. She is sarcastic, fierce, intelligent, stubborn, destructive, obnoxious, full of self-preservation, and kinda insane. I dig it. Sal is out for revenge. She is basically an outlaw who hunts down outlaw magicians for money and said revenge. With an AWESOME gun that might not be completely inert and a sword named Jeff! So why does Sal want revenge? I am not going to tell ye wretches that! The world building in this one be fun. It has the feel of both a western and a fantasy. Basically there are four crazy factions - 1) the Empire with its magicians; 2) the Revolutionaries with their machines; 3) the Scar with its independent "neutral" city-states; and 4) the Vagrants who be renegade magicians with allegiance to nobody but themselves. I loved the magic in this world and how the trade for power works. This was one of the best aspects of the novel. I also very much enjoyed the other characters of Cavric, the proud, honorable soldier and Liette, the anti-social, book-loving scientist. I loved the ridiculously long and poetic names given to people of a certain standing. I even really enjoyed the framing of the story as Sal is in jail about to be shot for treason with the reader receiving her "confession." But this did have problems. The book really moved up until the 50% mark and then the plot and pace slowed down substantially. Seriously, several large portions of the section from 50 - 75% could have been removed with no real change to the story. There was a large reveal that I thought was coming (it was) and it irked me. But then the author did some interesting things after that which drew me back into the story. And there was Sal. I loved her for the most part but she got repetitive A LOT in terms of both bravado and self-loathing after the half-way point. That could have been toned down a whole bunch for the sake of flow. And I was confused when the story didn't end like the writing led ye to believe it would. I am glad I got to read this as I really did love the magic systems and Sal. While I would have preferred a standalone story, I be interested in reading the next book in the series. Just be forewarned should ye pick this up and go into it with the correct expectations. Cause the magic and Sal be worth it So lastly . . . thank ye Orbit Books!
Full Disclosure: This book was read as an e-ARC (Advance Reader Copy) obtained via Netgalley from the publisher in advance of the novel's release on April 9, 2019 in exchange for a potential review. I give my word that this did not affect my review in any way (if I'd hated the book, I just would not have reviewed it). Seven Blades in Black is the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy by author Sam Sykes. I enjoy Sykes on twitter (you may be familiar with his comedic interactions with Chuck Wendig) but my experience with his actual work has been a bit more mixed - I enjoyed the first in his "Bring Down Heaven" fantasy trilogy (A City Stained Red, review here), but found the second in the trilogy (The Mortal Tally, review here) to be a massive disappointment, with some unlikable characters and a way too slow storyline. So I had some mixed feelings going into Sykes' release of the first in a new trilogy, but put in the request for a prerelease ARC anyway to see if I'd feel differently. The result is....mixed, but mostly positive I'd say. Seven Blades in Black very much feels like a mash-up of "Kill Bill" and "The Usual Suspects" - except you know, if those movies had magic, giant mecha, gunslingers, demons....you know, the usual fantasy smorgasboard. Sykes crafts a really interesting (though crapsack) world for this revenge tale that kept me engaged from beginning to end, even when several of the book's big "reveals" were rather obvious and easy to see coming. Best of all, while this is apparently the first in a trilogy, it works quite well as a stand-alone, so there's less of a commitment needed to go into this book - well, less of a commitment other than committing to reading a 700 page book. Still, there are some pretty serious flaws as well that keep Seven Blades in Black from being a real winner, particularly the way its female protagonist is written (she's written as if she's a man, and it's not deliberate so it felt kind of off). Still other than that, I really liked the lead character and the world is dark, cynical but highly inventive, which allows for Sykes to put forth a really interesting and occasionally twisty plot. And the ending is highly satisfying, even if you don't intend to read further in the series. Definitely worth a try.
I received a free copy of SEVEN BLADES IN BLACK by Sam Sykes from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Sal the Cacophony is a Vagrant, which you e-v-e-n-t-u-a-l-l-y learn is, basically, a Ronin. Sal used to serve the Empire, but, now, she and her magical weapon hunt others like her. Meanwhile, the Empire, the Revolutionaries, anti-magic cults, and other Vagrants hunt Sal. Sal, captured by the Revolutionaries, is telling her story to an interrogator while she awaits her imminent execution. LGBT. There were not any detailed erotic scenes, but the main character is clearly either gay or bisexual. There was no notice of the LGBT content in the book’s description. The book contains a significant number of f-bombs; it was a staple of the Sal’s vocabulary. It took seemingly f-o-r-e-v-e-r to get any context for the story, so I started out confused about what was going on and stayed that way for the same f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I never connected with the characters. I didn’t find either Sal or her tale interesting, so I wasn’t invested in the outcome of the story. My only wish 30% into the novel was that the book would hurry up and end; it didn’t, so I closed the file and will not be finishing the book. Though I obviously did not like it, I appreciate the opportunity try the novel.
Sal the Cacophony. Probably the best character name I’ve heard in a long time. She is a loud, hot, mess of an individual and cacophony suits her to a tee (though the name doesn’t just refer to her as a person, ooh mini spoiler.) Sal is a woman on a mission of vengeance. She strides across the desert with an angry gun on her hip, looking for the wizards who tried to kill her, hoping to return the favor. Sal is a woman who will surely level a town shortly after walking in. When you see her on the street, you don’t run away, you lie down and pray that your impending death will not hurt as much as you think … (sigh) … as you KNOW it will. The destruction is not ALL her fault. Sal lives in a world at constant war with itself. There is always someone trying to blow someone else up … hopefully not you, but someone. Her story is gripping, tragic, clever, funny and fantastic. She rides around on a giant chicken/ostrich type bird named Congeniality and I love that nasty, grumpy, smelly thing. She is the epitome of the strong, female badass, but is hard to love. Sal is a woman with a heart, but has lost her way so profoundly that caring about her is practically a terminal disease. You might not die from it, but you will be hurt. Sal is tough and tender-hearted at the same time. She is bi-sexual and her fashion choices are gender non-conforming in a world where that doesn’t seem to make any waves whatsoever and that’s just fabulous. In short, she is someone you have to meet. Written as an homage to Final Fantasy games it also made me think of the anime, Trigun. At once violent, crazy, entertaining and a little demented. Thoroughly enjoyable! I was a little confused through the first part of the book, but once I slowed down and put a little effort into understanding the back and forth time jump of the setting it got easier. After a while, I realized just how much I was enjoying myself in this story and I really look forward to new installments in the series. Song for this book: Devil’s Got a Gun – Whitehorse Disclaimer: I received this book free from Netgalley
This novel only takes the idiom, “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned,” to the zenith, but it also puts revenge tales on the same level as Quentin Tarantino’s, Kill Bill movies. Sal the Cacophony is one angry woman and she’s on a journey to make sure those who have made her this way pay with their lives. She has a list with 33 names on it. The first book in The Grave of Empires trilogy (or series?) focuses on seven of those names. Sal the Cacophony is a Vagrant—a mage who no longer fights for the Imperium—who is imprisoned and awaiting execution by the Revolution—a group of non-mages who oppose the dominance of the mages. She is questioned by Governor-Militant Tretta—a figure who is only concerned with earning a promotion so that she’ll become more noticeable to her superiors—who demands an explanation surrounding the disappearance of Revolutionary Low Sergeant Cavric Proud and the attack on one of the towns within the region known as “The Scar.” Sal accepts both the (multiple) charges and her fate and tells the Governor-Militant the recent events, which led to the disappearance of the Low Sergeant. Tretta—and readers—learn of all the events right up to Sal’s arrest. Sal tells of her last bounty job, which turned into the hunt for the names on her list, which uncovered a conspiracy, which became a rescue mission, which turned into a massacre, which led to her arrest. Along the way, we learn what happened to the devout Revolutionary Sergeant Cavric, and Sal’s girlfriend, Liette, who is a mage. Sal is a woman with many aliases, abandonment issues, and a lot of anger. And, it is ALL justified! The appeal surrounding Seven Blades in Black will introduce SFF readers who haven’t read Sam Sykes’ books before to him. The description surrounding this novel as a “blend of Kill Bill and Final Fantasy” is very accurate. Fans of George R.R. Martin and Brian McClellan will enjoy this new series, too! Readers of epic fantasy will enjoy this story and appreciate the effort the author makes in clarifying both The Scar and Sal’s character. This has been one of the most humorous books I’ve read in a long time, and I’m already anticipating Book 2! Seven Blades in Black is a welcomed addition to the speculative fiction genre.