Title: Seven Shades in Black
Author: Sam Sykes
Publisher: April 2019, Orbit Books
Blurb: 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.
**Incredible thanks to Orbit for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review**
Okay, let me give you a little history, before I go in and attempt to review this book. I have been meaning to read Sykes for…forever, it feels like. I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon him, but I started following him on Twitter because I couldn’t get enough of how hilarious his content in (seriously, I want my own author marketing to be as on point as his “Buy My Books” marketing is), yet he also sprinkled in some heart and some quality writing advice, too.
I always knew I’d read his books.
It was just a matter of when.
So, when Orbit emailed me and asked if I wanted to read Seven Shades in Black, hell yes, I was all for it. Similar to Brian McClellan, Orbit is a great motivator to help me read authors I always said I would, but hadn’t gotten around to yet. The blurb for this book, in particular, sounded really interesting,
and despite really not enjoying that cover, I was ready for my first foray into Sykes’ writing. When it arrived in the mail and I realized it was a glorious TOME, I was even more amped.
What I expected, from his Twitter feed, was something humor-filled, interlaced with great sex scenes, with some heart and seriousness thrown in for good measure.
What I got was a serious epic of a tale (though definitely funny, at times!) with so much heart and so much emotion, my feelings were ripped to shreds by the end of it and I am still not okay.
So, naturally, I fucking loved it.
I won’t be able to do this book justice with this review, let me say that right up front. Sal the Cacophony…I mean, first off, what a name. Secondly, she is just so badass, yet so broken, so human, so real, it’s hard not to cheer for her…even if you also question her and wish she would do some things differently, at times. The rest of the characters were just as interesting and I was surprised at how attached I became to them (even some of the minor characters; like Erel ((shit, I can’t remember how to spell her name and my copy of the novel is at home, my apologies!)), can she get her own book, too, please?).
The worldbuilding was incredible. Perhaps it’s in tangent with me being on a Borderlands kick recently, but I loved the grittiness of this world. The magic was really, really cool, the Cacophony itself was terrifying and gave me chills, Congeniality deserves her own novel (and I will die on this hill) and the history that we learn as it unfolds is both staggering and incredible. The setting, in particular, caught my attention, as well as the creatures that he created, which Sal had to face? *shudders*
The writing is where it really got me, though. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but there was a level of eloquence, a mastering of pace, that surprised me and made me fall in love to no end. I wish I would have pulled some quotes as examples, but so many times, I just had to pause and admire the beauty of the line, whether it was the word choice that was used, the imagery it created and how it made me feel like I just got punched in the gut during my period.
Sykes is also incredibly talented with pacing and execution. Though I was frustrated through most of the book, just wanting to know MAJOR SPOILER about Sal, when I finally learned that she AN EVEN BIGGER SPOILER after they YOU FUCKERS, HOW DARE YOU and that’s why she couldn’t NOPE, NO HEART HERE, IT HAS SINCE BEEN SHREDDED, I couldn’t help but applaud, because the delivery was perfect and made it totally worth the wait.
I stayed up until almost 3am finishing this book last night (which, maybe don’t read this right before you go to sleep? Your dreams will be weird as fuck, if you do *says from experience from the past week*) and I was just floored. This was an amazing masterpiece of a novel, a gift to the fantasy genre as we know it.
The sequel cannot get into my hands soon enough.
PS: Also, though I always want cinematic renditions of my favorite novels because duh, but I actually really want a video game of this. Like, this is PERFECT material for an incredible, open world RPG (that I will struggle to play through, because the horror of these creatures would have me panic-firing and throwing my controller against the wall until the cows come home). So, can we do that, please?