Ah, the usual caveat I know Sam Sykes and I read this book as an Advance Reading Copy, an edition sent to me for free by the publisher As always, this does not affect my review of the book.Seven Blades in Black weighs in at a substantial 771 pages the edition I have is a chunk For fantasy readers who enjoy a complete immersion in a new world with a unique magic system, this book is for you In a time when most new fantasies seem to be part of a trilogy or longer series, Seven Blades in Black is a stand alone story with a completely satisfactory ending Even so, there is plenty of room in the world and setting for other tales to be told WHOOPS Editing this Unbeknownst to me at the time I posted this, this is book one of a trilogy But I will repeat that I found the ending satisfactory So if you want a great big read that can lead to evenbig books, this is a solid entry point I try to refrain from spoilers in my reviews Instead, I ll tell you that the narrator protagonist is a unique character As her back story unfolds along with the action, pieces fall into place in a very satisfactory way But it s not only the protagonist who is believable the other characters evolve with the story This is a story where the villains are as memorable as the heroes, and sometimes the dividing lines between them are narrow indeed.There is action, humor and romance, as well as magic in a well developed setting Its a solid read. Exciting and inventive I never realized how much I needed wizard hunting gunslingers in my life Buy Sam s book. This is my kind of book Fast paced and funny, tempered with tender moments and some really excellent worldbuilding The characters from Sal the Cacophony to the entire supporting cast especially the bad guys are colorful and complex And if, like me and every other rational human being on the planet, you re a fan of Final Fantasy and anime, you ll find a lot to love in this series.Also, there s a sword named Jeff Need I go on No No, I needn t. This is something you don t see very often a fantasy obviously inspired by westerns It s filled with outlaws, lone gunmen and our hero wandering the desert like setting with a trusted steed though in this case, the steed is a giant mean spirited bird, inspired by Final Fantasy s Chocobos.The plot focuses on Sal the Cacophony, who is awaiting her execution She decides to give a last confession though, telling of the recent events that lead to her leaving several towns burning and countless lives lost She tells us how she once was a completely different person She tells of how she created a list of people who took her old life away and how she recently crossed off some of those names.Sounds a bit like a fantasy Kill Bill, right Well if you re looking for that check out Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie which fits that description much better and is also quite good This isn t a book about picking names off a list one by one While names of course do get crossed off, this is closer to your classic quest story, where it focuses on the traveling and the goals, with the revenge being accomplished in the process of completing the quest What makes this interesting though, is that Sal doesn t really see the quest aspect, she only see the names on her list and will go through any length to cross them off even if means doing some good to get them done.The characters in this one are all a treat What Sykes accomplishes is something of a marvel in terms of characters Every villain who shows up, be they a one chapter event or plot important multi chapter encounters, comes off as interesting and unique Hell, my favorite one is a bounty which opens the book before the main plot kicks in gear, with a magic user who floats weapons around him during a duel, while having polite conversation and listening to opera Each one is interesting enough that I wanted to knowabout them While the side characters are great, two of our leads are downright wonderful Sal is a delightful lead, bringing charm, humor and a badass protagonist filled with surprises She s a character who is scarred both physically and emotionally, yet has had to learn to live with it She s had to find a drive to keep going, and in this western style setting, she plays a classic drifting bounty hunter The other character I really enjoyed is Liette, who comes off as something of a jack of all trades support character, acting as a combination of arr, medic and mad scientist She s, if anything,cynical that Sal, and yethopeful of things improving I won t sayabout her than that, other than every scene with her was a delight and I wish she would have been used a bit .The book is also very funny I found myself genuinely laughing throughout Characters are very snarky and cynical, so the humor may not be for all, but personally it had me grinning throughout There were many times I thought about posting an update quote, but I realized that so much of the humor needs context of the scene to make it funnier but when you have that context, there are some dialogue gems here I do have a few minor complaints, but only two are really noteworthy First off, the middle of the book drags quite a bit There s a lot of wandering around, looking for someone to kill and then going to the next checkpoint The other is a slight annoyance with the character of Sal In so many ways, she s a very well written character She s funny, clever and I enjoyed seeing her outlook on things but for someone so cynical, who has been betrayed so many times in the past and such, you would think that when things start going really well for her, she might possibly, just possibly, consider if things are going well because of a trap I get that in most of these scenes, tensions are high and she s dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions, but seriously, after a while I was counting the pages until she would get knocked out again.Those complaints aside, this is an excellent fantasy novel It is the first in a series, but it works very well as a standalone, while still leaving plentystory to tell Well worth your time and a solid 4 5 stars Oh, and if all I said before didn t make you want to read it, let me close by just saying that there s a sword in the book called Jeff JEFF. This was one of those stories that had a fun premise but which never quite managed to translate that into a decent story It was a bit of a flop in truth and that was a shame as the blurb was fun and this seems like a book that was well liked by most of my fellow fantasy readers I lasted 12 hours of the 20 hour audiobook before I pulled the plug It just never hooked me at all I soldiered on for a while as there was nothing offensive or particularly awful about it but it was pretty dull and I found I just reached a point where I had zero motivation to continue The premise was actually decent enough This was basically a revenge western in a fantasy setting with all the added magic one might expect as well as a bit of humour to keep things from getting too dark The set up of the story was the exact same one as that found in Blood Song The main character, Sal the Cacophony, was relating her tale to her jailer as she awaited her execution It meant we got the story told in the first person format and had Sal as the sole POV character I felt like it should have been a fun tale especially as Sal seemed likeable enough and Sykes tried to balance out the darker aspects of the story with a bit of humour but that it ended up flopping because I just never connected with Sykes writing At no point was I ever sucked into the story It was a shame really as this really should have been my sort of book There was nothing overly original to be had in this one The story and characters were fairly standard for revenge western tales and the setting was fairly typical for fantasy series with vaguely 1800s era inspired worlds I m not going to moan too much about the lack of originality as I feel like this could have worked in the hands of atalented writer If I had to single out a specific flaw outside of the writing which I just did not connect with it was the fact that the book was a bit too woe is me in tone This is becoming a common complaint for me when reading modern fantasy as I feel like authors go overboard with the woe and the doom and gloom atmosphere to the point where their stories end up feeling like a ridiculous parody of proper dark fantasy I ve read a lot worse than what we got in this story but it was a mild annoyance and Sal s constant whining did annoy me a bit All in all this bore was a bit of a flop I m not having great luck with the modern fantasy series I m trying of late I guess it is a good thing the self published fantasy market is in a golden era since the traditional big fantasy publishers are churning out a bunch of crap lately Rating 2.5 stars I m rounding down to 2 stars as this one did not manage to hold me until the end Audio Note I feel like Daisy May did this lacklustre story no favours with her performance She was well spoken but had no real talent for performing the story and breathing life into it. 4.99999999We have a saying here it s actuallyof a gesture , when someone does something the hard way and ignores the easy way, you stretch your hand over your head, you grab the ear on the other side of your head and say this is my ear.I feel some parts of the book did just that It wasn t bad I just didn t have the mental capacity and the right environment to read this book This book needed me to focus and I couldn t do that after like 30% mark and that s the only reason I m not giving it 5 stars.It s a shame tho bc the writing is really good, I was highlighting like crazy at the first chapters of this but I guess you can be too good it s bad.But that s all the bad things I can say about this If you like characters with depths, if you like strong, cool badass female characters than this book is for you If you have read Red Sister or Nevernight and enjoyed either the writing or the protagonists then you ll enjoy this And if you have no idea what I m talking but still likes to read about a girl firing magical bullets than this book is for you.Now I must say this tho, if this book confirmed anything it s that I m a total sucker for a good revenge story specially one narrated after the events took place and you know the fate of the protagonist, there s just something that keeps me gripped to see how did we get here XDSal the Cacophony is probably the coolest character I read about I didn t say best I said coolest Imagine if Mia Corvere from Nevernight decided to get her a gun that fires magical bullets and was one heck of a gunslinger Yeah that s how cool.Andthan Sal the characters in this book are all amazing in their own way They all have depths and the development of everyone good and bad was phenomenal And honestly only now that I m writing this that I m thinking that every character in this by the end has its arc and it s so good now to look back and see how they changed, I m in aww Liette or maybe you know her by her other name Twenty Two Dead Roses in a Chipped Porcelain VaseCavric, Jindu even Tretta and she wasn t featured that long, she basically just listened to Sal talking they all weren t the same by the end Can you really askthan that from a book If you need a favour, you bring her flowers If you need her forgiveness, you bring her jewellery And if you need both, you bring her a book. To me it s quite a challenge to write this review, but then again so was reading this very book to me at least It almost literally started with a bang and I found myself immersed into this world from the start You want to know what happened to Sal and how she has gotten to that point in her life It leaves you in the search of answers.This book is massive and I was really convinced from the beginning that this was going to become one of my favorite reads of 2019 Only that didn t quite happen As the story progressed I grewbored and it cost me a lot of strength to pay attention Let me tell you something I was very confused for almost the entire length of the book because not everything was explained properly The author somehow assumed that I knew everything about this world and the war that had been going on, without having read this book before That s how it felt to me X People are wounds They cut and they hurt and they bleed Some hurt for a little while and go away Some don t stop hurting until you make themSo yeah, this book didn t turn into what I hoped it would be and for that I am saddened.Books in the series Genre High Fantasy, Adult Pov Third Person Female Type Book 1 out of 2 in the The Grave Of The Empire Series Rating 2,5 starsTwitter Instagram Youtube Last.fm 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.Sidenote How dope is this cover by Jeremy Wilson 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 andAs 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 BOOKHUGE thanks to Orbit Books for sending me a copy I didn t even have to punch someone s grandma in the face. SCORE Sam Sykes Returns With A New Fantasy That Introduces To An Unforgettable Outcast Magician Caught Between Two Warring Empires Among Humans, None Have Power Like Mages And Among Mages, None Have Will Like Sal The Cacophony Once Revered, Now Vagrant, She Walks A Wasteland Scarred By Generations Of Magical Warfare The Scar, A Land Torn Between Powerful Empires, Is Where Rogue Mages Go To Disappear, Disgraced Soldiers Go To Die And Sal Went With A Blade, A Gun And A List Of Names She Intended To Use Both On But Vengeance Is A Flame Swift Extinguished Betrayed By Those She Trusted Most, Her Magic Torn From Her And Awaiting Execution, Sal The Cacophony Has One Last Tale To Tell Before They Take Her Head All She Has Left Is Her Name, Her Story And The Weapon She Used To Carved Both Vengeance Is Its Own Reward