Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes

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Rating 9.5/10
Complex characters, great dialogue, intense action, a compellingly bonkers magic system, intricate worldbuilding, brutal violence, humor, romance

"And I felt like I was choking on my own blood again. I felt like I was drowning on dry land. I felt like I wanted to tear my throat out so I could breathe again. I felt like I wanted to take out my gun and start shooting until things made sense."

Well, fuck. If this isn't my jam, I don't know what is!

Sal the Cacophony (rad name, yeah?) felt as though she was a part of my soul. I related to her in many ways... for awhile there, I was feeling personally attacked! Goddamn. Sarcastic, sweary, tattooed, self-deprecating, a bit surly yet trying to remain optimistic, tough, slightly jaded by some trauma in her past, enjoys a dirty joke or ten, loves whiskey... but like, she's the way cooler badass fantasy version! Unfortunately, I don't have a gun that shoots magic or a sword named Jeff. YET.

Seven Blades in Black is burnt! Er... lit. Whatever the kids say these days! But it's also literally on fire. The world within the pages known as the Scar, that is. The Scar is a devastated wasteland between two empires - the Imperium and the Revolution - who are at war. This is where we find Sal on her quest for revenge. She is on a mission to track down and kill the mages that have betrayed her by stealing her magic. As the story begins, Sal is arrested by the Revolution and is awaiting execution. Interrogated by Governor-Militant Tretta Stern about the trail of bodies that Sal has left behind and a soldier that has gone missing, she is set to be executed for her crimes. But first, Tretta wants answers.

I've followed Sam Sykes on Twitter for years now, although this is my first book of his that I've read. I'm so glad I finally took the plunge (I do own his other books, but it's me... the broken record always rambling on about the never-ending TBR struggle...)

Sykes has said that this is his love letter to Final Fantasy and he unabashedly wears that influence on his sleeve here. There is a JRPG storytelling quality that is addictive as fuck and this has that and more. As a big fan of the Final Fantasy franchise and of JRPG's in general, this gave me the warm fuzzies. Oof.

"If it were possible to make love to books, I would.

Downstairs, Liette's shop was neatly organized and pleasingly sparse. Upstairs, Liette's parlor was a madwoman's design.

Every wall was lined with shelves and every shelf was positively bursting with books. Some of them were crammed to the breaking point, some of them sagged in the middle from the weight of heavy tomes, some of them just gave the fuck up. Books grew in piles and columns across the carpeted floor, a forest of paper and leather that seemed to blossom out of the floor. Books, opened and pages marked, lay in a haphazard spread across the table in the middle of the room and upon the armrests of the sofa facing it."

At almost 700 pages, I can't help but admire the sheer skill and cleverness of the plot that unfolds throughout this wrist-breaker. It never felt bogged down or excessively long. Sal's blood-soaked backstory was handled brilliantly by Sykes and added some truly gut-punchy moments. His timing is just utter perfection! Complex characters, great dialogue, intense action, a compellingly bonkers magic system, intricate worldbuilding, brutal violence, humor, romance, A FUCKING GIANT RIDING BIRD NAMED CONGENIALITY. I just adored this book so completely!

Seven Blades in Black is a fantastic beginning to the Grave of Empires trilogy and I'm eagerly waiting for the next installment! 

::face pops out of your screen:: READ THIS BOOK!!

(HUGE thanks to Orbit Books for sending me a copy! I didn't even have to punch someone's grandma in the face...  SCORE!!)

Review originally published here.

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All reviews for: The Grave of Empires

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