The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston @angryrobotbooks #themaleficentseven

Today I’m very happy to be joining the book tour for Cameron Johnston’s very aptly titled ‘The Maleficent Seven’ (check out the banner below for all the dates and details).

M7

I would start out this review by saying that this is a bloody, no holds barred, grim and dark murderfest.  Over the top much – just a tad!! There is plenty of squick and a little bit of nasty not to mention some colourful cursing.  If that doesn’t appeal to you, well, you’ve been warned.

I must admit that having read some of the superb reviews I think I was expecting a good deal more belly laughs with this one, but, I guess that’s the thing with humour, it’s all rather personal at the end of the day, and yet, regardless of the number of laughs this elicited it is undoubtedly an entertaining, fast paced read with a twisted ending and some very vibrant characters.  To be honest it’s a clever story because it completely turned me around and I thought the ending was brilliant.

As we set off on this journey we witness Black Herran, dreaded demonologist and fearsome general, on the brink of success, as she abandons her army.  Forty years later she returns and starts to reassemble the warriors that captained her army.  As you might imagine, the six warriors in question were none too pleased about being left in the lurch just as glory stood within reach, add to that the level of mutual mistrust, disgust and general hatred that they mostly feel towards each other and this will give you a loose idea of the magnitude of the endeavour.  Why did Black Herran disappear and why has she come back to reunite her old squad some 40 years later.  I won’t broach the first part of that question because there lies the land of spoilers.  The reason for this new summons is Black Herran is trying to protect a small,almost insignificant if you will, village, against a religious fanatic who is currently terrorising the country, destroying the peace and killing all those who refuse to worship his chosen deity.

For the most part, the plot itself is fairly simple, collect together a curious, ragtag band of warriors and incentivise them enough to join together.  Then shore up the village defences and wait for war to approach.  It seems fairly basic on the face of it but there is more to this than at first appears to be the case.  Also, let’s just get out of the way the play on the title and the ways in which it relates to the similarly named Magnificent Seven.  Firstly, the fundamental difference between magnificent and maleficent is enough to clue us in that this is not a band of reluctant heroes in the making here.  These are a bunch of nasty mofos who have come together for totally selfish reasons.  Never doubt that.  We have the small village under attack and the outrageous odds of seven, albeit very capable characters, standing up against what feels like inevitable defeat.  The villagers of course idolise them, even though they’re afraid and a number make a good stab (not sorry) at trying to learn the basics of survival.

To the characters.  Obviously Black Herran, general and demonologist, feared by all.  Her captains are Maevan – a necromancer with revenge and rescue in mind. Lorrimer Fella – a vampire who wants to restore his land. Tiarnach – a demigod who lost his status when his worshippers were all killed and sought solace in finding the bottom of many bottles.  Verena Awildan – a pirate Queen who demands loyalty from all her brethren and is accompanied by a curious animal that offers her strage protection. Amogg – a female Orc who has succeeded in gaining renown and status due to her strength and fighting abilities. Finally, Jerak Hyden – an alchemist with a warped and deviant sense of right and wrong.  To be honest, at first, I struggled to like any of them.  And, I think that may be intentional on the part of the author.  However, as the book progressed I realised that I had quite easily found myself liking Amogg – she’s a very simple character in many respects, honourable, fierce and says things the way they are, she takes on the training of a bunch of women and Penny in particular is a character I liked and would like to see more of.  I then found myself warming to the vampire even though his early penchant for bloodletting and what felt like cruel torture turned me off a little at the start.  I found myself rooting for him.  Go figure.  I even came round to the booze soaked demigod and his ridiculous antics.  What is going on here – these characters ‘snuck’ up on me when I wasn’t watching.  I never got on board with Jerak – in fact remove one of the vowels in that there name and I think you have a more apt moniker for him.  Again, though, I think this is deliberate on the part of the author.  There are no shortage of characters and without doubt you’ll find yourself on somebody’s team.  To be fair I liked the pirate queen as well.  The demonologist and necromancer are a good match for each other – I won’t say more because there are a few surprises up Cameron’s sleeve in this respect and I have to give a shout out to the way he managed to turn me around, give me characters to shout for or shout at

The writing is very easy to get on board with.  There aren’t hefty descriptions weighing down the story and yet at the same time there’s a good enough feel for the place and I felt like all the characters had their time in the spotlight.  In fact the characters are the shining grace here really because they undoubtedly went through something of a development arc for me anyway.  Well, the characters and the final chapters where we finally get some answers – don’t get me wrong, there are little reveals along the way but the final denouement is the real winner for me.  That and the epilogue which I hope means that there will be at least a further instalment.

Overall, this one got off to a little bit of a slow start for me.  I think maybe I picked this up with the wrong expectations in mind and so that put me of course for a while.  However, once I got back on track I found myself forming attachments and rather impatiently reading towards the end to see what was really going on.  And that ending, well, it holds plenty of promise.   What can I say?  Be patient, the author has a cunning plan in store, so cunning you could pin a tail on it and call it a fox.  Again, this isn’t for the faint of heart but if you fancy a good grimdark, blood soaked, over the top story with characters that will give you varying degrees of emotions then what you waiting for?

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars

Here’s the blog tour dates – don’t forget to check out the other reviews:

The Maleficent Seven book tour