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Seven Blades in Black

By: Sam Sykes
Narrated by: Daisy May
Length: 20 hrs and 29 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (277 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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
  • Black Halo
  • The Skybound Sea

Bring Down Heaven

  • The City Stained Red
  • The Mortal Tally
  • God's Last Breath
©2019 Sam Sykes (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Seven Blades in Black offers villains that are as memorable and unique as the heroes. Action, magic, romance and humor mingle well in this mammoth tale. It's an immersive read in a well realized world." (Robin Hobb, New York Times best-selling author of Fool's Assassin)

"By the end of the first page, you'll know Sam is in love with his characters. By the end of the second, you'll know you are too." (Myke Cole, author of The Armored Saint)

"Exciting and inventive. I never realized how much I needed wizard-hunting gunslingers in my life." (Peter V. Brett, New York Times best-selling author of The Warded Man)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Story and Sacrifice

Seven Blades in Black marks a step forward and an achievement in the career of Sykes as a novelist. A smart, tightly written story with compellingly human characters, 7BiB is an exciting and entertaining listen. But what makes this story so impactful is how each of its elements cohesively works together to emphasize 7BiB’s central theme: Sacrifice.

Sacrifice permeates the story: the characters, the settings, the plot, even the mechanics of this science-fantasy world all hinge on sacrifice. Many of our greatest stories use this same theme, but 7BiB strives to expand its possibilities. In addition to more common variations on this theme: sacrifice of self, body, life, time; 7BiB asks what if you sacrificed your faith? Your relationships? Your identity? When is sacrifice worthwhile? Or justified? The magic system in particular encapsulates this theme beautifully: 7BiB’s world contains a variety of types of magic users, but the universal rule is that each “style” of power has a cost that is often appropriate (or appropriately ironic) and feels very logical in this setting.

I also appreciate how Sykes approaches world-building in 7BiB. A major trapping in science-fiction and fantasy is how you introduce a reader to your completely alien world. It’s a difficult balancing act: too much exposition early on and the reader becomes bored, too little explanation and the reader is confused or lost. 7BiB is a masterclass in this concept: the world and its mechanics are revealed piecewise throughout the story as they come up, and in a straightforward manner as if the protagonist were giving the reader a tour. This actually makes a lot of sense in-story due to a clever framing device in which the protagonist is recounting her actions to someone who is only slightly less ignorant than the reader.

Despite how approachable the story is, 7BiB is also gleefully bizarre. If the prospect of Tarantino’s Kill Bill set in a science-fantasy world is not weird enough, 7BiB is also partially influenced by John Carpenter’s The Thing and even 90s role-playing video games. While listening I could almost see the dialogue appearing as white text in a blue box (if you understood that reference, you’ll have a good time with this book).

The last praise I’ll heap on 7BiB is how gratifying the story ends up being. Despite its designation as the first part of a series, 7BiB tells a complete, self-contained story that left me highly satisfied, which is so refreshing in the mercilessly serialized landscape of modern fantasy novels. Not to say that I couldn’t imagine the story of 7BiB continuing, which I would be excited to experience.

To sum up, Seven Blades in Black is smartly written, entertaining, thematically cohesive, delightfully weird (yet extremely approachable), and highly satisfying. I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a rich, full story.

P.S.
May’s reading is clear, engaging, and fun to listen to. No worries there.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Perfect Blend of Rule-of-Cool and Character Study

There's a small, greedy part of me that wants to never tell a soul about Sam Sykes, because I want to use all his ideas in my DnD campaigns.

Sam is an author who I consider to be part of a newer wave in fantasy - he doesn't play to the cliché of Tolkienesque elves and dwarves, of not-so-subtle colonialism that has echoed through the genre for decades. Neither does he play to the supertrend of GRIMDARK, begging to outdo the tragedies of Martin or Abercrombie.

Sam's work reliably focuses on three things: characters with deep personal problems. A grinning disregard for propriety. And perhaps most importantly, an eagerness to ask, "What if?" purely for the fun of it. Something I think writers of both the aforementioned types of fantasy would do well to reexamine.

Seven Blades in Black does exactly that, by starting with a very simple one: "What if we mashed together Kill Bill, Trigun, and Final Fantasy? Wouldn't that just take the piss?"

Sal the Cacophony's story is one immediately familiar thanks to riffing on these concepts, but through Sam's excellent world building and understanding of character becomes one very much her own. She is now one of my favorite characters of all time. Even when I hate her. Even when she hates herself.

All of this brought to vivid life by narrator Daisy May. I will admit that Daisy's heavier cockney accent made it difficult for me to understand for the first chapter or so, but damn if she isn't the best for this job. She IS the voice for Sal. I just want other potential listeners to know that it may take some getting used to early on. Some names sounded a bit to close for my ear since I hadn't personally seen the exact spelling (Galta and Calto especially come to mind, apologies if I've spelled those names wrong).

I rarely write full reviews as I always end up going on longer than I intend, but I hope that conveys to you how much I enjoyed this story and cant stand that I have to wait to read more.

See, Sam and me, he and I had a deal. He'd write the books and I'd read em, revenge for ruin. And no one will say that Kael McDonald doesn't keep his word.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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truely a love letter to final fantasy

Sam Sykes master level Twitter shitposter guides you through an operatic tale of love betrayal, masks, big ass birds and bigger guns.
It is my sincere hope this one day becomes an animated series.

10 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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A fun listen at times, but not gripping.

The premise sounds great, and the world is seemingly fun, but I this is the first book of Sykes I have read and I think we are on different wavelengths. Every sentence is full of poetry or prose or added wit, each character, with a few exceptions, takes much longer to say what they mean than needed and overall this felt like it added length but no substance, which made it feel like a slog at times.

Overall if you're a fan of Sykes other works I would say this is probably for you, again the premise is cool, the world is interesting but it was hard to finish. That being said I'd entertain listening to a sequel if I had nothing else lined up.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Do yourself the favor of buying this book.

Sam Sykes is a prolific author, and I do a lot of reading, but I somehow failed to purchase his bibliography until after having laughed at his Twitter posts for over a year. I did myself a disservice by failing to acquire his works sooner, his style is unique and his prose may not be Shakespearean but it's visceral and real in a way that many authors fail to capture. His characters grow, they change due to the events of their lives, and even when they don't like what they have to do many of them make the hard choices even when easier options to save themselves are available.

I can't wait for the next adventures with Sal the Cacophony.

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The characters feel real

I loved the story, and thought that the narrator did an excellent job. She brought a lot of emotion to the performance. 5/5 stars indeed! I only wish the next book in the series were ready right now! The ending left me wanting more!

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if you like Rothfuss, look no further!

if you like Patrick Rothfuss, then this is about to be your new favorite book! The pacing of the story is very good and the details are teased out one at a time until you can't wait to see how it ends!

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Eres va atali

After seeing some of the great praise for this book and banter with the author on Twitter, I decided to pick it up. I loved the snappy dialogue, the clever call backs and the story-telling format. And Daisy May did an incredible job bringing the main character's voice to life.

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An action movie lacking much character growth.

Kept me engaged, weak characters, nothing but one fight after another. Daisy May was good.

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Horrible narrator, bad audio quality

I'm still trying to get through the book, because the story seems genuinely entertaining. The narrator, however, is absolutely awful. Her accent is a bit difficult to understand, she trips over names, and every "S" is hissed and whistled into the microphone. The audio and narration quality make this an excruciating experience. I'd love to hear a different version of this novel, but this narrator just isn't up to par.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful