Review: The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

Rating: 9/10

Synopsis

When you are all out of heroes, all that’s left are the villains.

Black Herran was a dread demonologist, and the most ruthless general in all Essoran. She assembled the six most fearsome warriors to captain her armies: a necromancer, a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish warleader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist. Together they brought the whole continent to its knees… Until the day she abandoned her army, on the eve of total victory.

40 years later, she must bring her former captains back together for one final stand, in the small town of Tarnbrooke – the last bastion against a fanatical new enemy tearing through the land, intent on finishing the job Black Herran started years before.

Seven bloodthirsty monsters. One town. Their last hope.

Review

Just glorious fun. A roller coaster ride filled with gods, demons, vampires and all types of monsters! If you’d read Cam’s Age of Tyranny duology and thought that was great, he really upped the bar and this will will shatter even your wild expectations.

Writing/Plot/Pace: +9/10

“Seven bloodthirsty monsters. One town. Their last hope” The blurb captures the book perfectly.

What happens if worlds saviors are just a bunch of villain’s who are as despicable as (if not more) the enemy they are rescuing you from? What would we do in a situation we continue to hope for the protagonists (or perhaps non-antagonists might be better considering they are villains themselves) to emerge victorious all the while despising them? it certainly is a very interesting conundrum. It is a story of Necromancers, Vampires, Demons, Mad Scientist (Alchemist), Sea Monsters, Gods, Dukes of Hell, Holy Knights…it just has everything. Both in scope and variation the character diversity is just astounding!

What makes this different from the other takes of the classic Seven Samurai is the makeup and interpersonal relationship (or lack of one) between the main characters. it is not a tale of hope of redemption or glorified heroism. The MCs are evil, they hate working together, they plot against each other, they lack sympathy and/or empathy, they are selfish to a fault and ruthless to burh the world to get what they want. Definitely not a likeable group, I’d invite for a drink. The dynamics between them is something I especially enjoyed all through my read.

Staying true to the title, the books moves deftly between about multiple PoVs (You have 7 protagonists, 1 antagonist plus couple of others secondary characters) without being confusing even in the slightest. The way the plot weaves between the characters themselves, their intentions, their interactions and the plot is done smoothly that the oft encountered info dumps are totally absent.

The book just drops you at the beginning of a battle and the pace never drops till the climax. Pacing is perfect as we get adrenalin action sequences to blood chilling battle scenes, gritty drama all blended into one great story. The book has abundance of violent scenes, however they are done well without moving into the cheap gore category. The casual callousness shown towards pain, suffering and cruelty permeates every page which should be expected considering that both the antagonist and the non-antagonists are both big time villains. But despite the content, the book always has the feel of gritty adventure rather than a pure grimdark book, which I absolutely loved.

What I wanted more was more of macro worldbuilding. The books focuses on events near the village of Tarnbrooke. We only sneak peeks into macro world and this focused approach’s which works well with the plot but a bit more on macro worldbuilding might have added more oomph to the actually world shattering events happening here.

And as a cherry on top, it has a nice twist at the end that I desperately hope will lead to the next book in this world.

Characters: +9/10

Portraying a villain as a heroic role without actually making them a hero is a delicate balance to achieve and Cam has done s stellar role here. Every instance where we focus on the character, I hated their actions, but when they are fighting the antagonist, I wanted them to win. Deliciously balanced characters!

What sets this book apart is that every single character makes an impression. From the protagonists to the side character of Red Penny, they all have weight and importance to the story left an impression on me. They all have individual personalities and in hindsight I’m amazed at how much I swung from hating their character, to wanting them to win and then willing them to die once victory is achieved. I don’t think my words capture those mood swings well…but it’s something you have to experience on your own.

If you threatened to feed me to the demons, unless I nitpick something….then I’d have to say I expected a bit more oomph from Black Herran. Climax apart, I felt the rest of characters had more spotlight than her and I would have loved to see more of her (Hint to Cam: Just write the next damn book quickly please!)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. alburke47 says:

    That title…

    Like

  2. Rebecca says:

    I am absolutely reading this as soon as I can get my hands on it! Awesome review!

    Like

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