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.
This is a big, chunky book.
And I loved it.
All of it.
I loved Sal the Cacophony. I loved her snark, her attitude, her relentless drive to cross all the names off her list. I loved her gun (the aforementioned Cacophony) which fires magic bullets. She’s scarred, emotionally and physically but refuses to let that get in the way of her quest. She’s splendidly cynical and world-weary, and often very very funny.
“…most Vagrants showing up where you live will ruin your day. Not me, of course. A girl like me tends to ruin your whole week.”Sal the Cacophony
Sykes clearly loves a lot of genre stuff – this is almost like an episode of Final Fantasy writ large (even featuring Congeniality – a large, grumpy bird creature not entirely dissimilar to FF’s chocobo) – blade guns, hulking mechs, bloody awesome magics (and often very bloody).
It’s so JRPG it hurts. But in a good way.
And there’s a sword called Jeff. Who doesn’t want to read a story featuring a sword called Jeff?
I loved the worldbuilding, the magic system, the sheer joy of the writing on display here.
We follow the story as Sal tells it in flashback to her executioner as a sort of confession. And what a story it is. It’s fast and furious, funny and tender, bloody and brutal. We travel across the world of the Scar as Sal tracks down the Mages on her list, determined to end them before they end her. It’s a story of revenge against the people who took something from her.
And Sykes does a magnificent job with that list – each one is splendidly different and unique. And each boss battle (as they seem to be) ratchets up the tension and peril by yet another notch, until the glorious finale.
Supporting characters are just as good – Liette, Sal’s mad scientist friend is wonderful – I’d love to see more of her in future.
Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes is published by Gollancz and is out now. Thanks to Gollancz for the advance copy via NetGalley to review.