Book Review: The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

Publisher: Angry Robot Books

Publication date: 10 August 2021

Genre: Fantasy

Page count: 424 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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.

I wont lie, the first thing that caught my eye about The Maleficent Seven is that fantastic title. While it’s not the kind of fantasy that I typically read these days, I ended up being won over by this ragtag band of villains. Oh , and the fact that it happens to contain some of my favourite tropes:

  • One last job
  • Small group defending against an overwhelming enemy
  • Villains as heroes
  • Reluctant alliances
  • Ageing characters who are still badasses

A quick fun fact about me: The Seven Samurai is one of my absolute favourite movies of all time (seriously, watch it if you haven’t seen it yet). It inspired the Western film The Magnificent Seven, which you have probably already guessed is connected to this very book. Johnston takes the bones of this plot (small town defended by a ragtag group of warriors against considerable odds) and spins it into a rollicking fantasy tale. This book is packed with action and banter — it feels like a chaotic DnD campaign with your best and weirdest friends.

I wont lie, it took me awhile to get into this book — I just wasn’t sold on it until about 30-40% of the way through. However, once we got to know some of the characters and the greater world better, I got more and more attached. Johnston does a great job of creating refreshing lore and culture around classic fantasy races and themes — the orcs were my absolute favourite — and I’ll always be won over by the ‘one last job’ and ‘greatly outnumbered group working against a huge army’ tropes. While there are really no ‘good’ characters and everyone has their own, selfish motivations, the enemy in this book is horrifying. The Falcon Prince and his army of fanatics were absolutely terrifying in their zealousness and power. If I had to choose between them, I’d probably side with the demonologist and her captains too.

In terms of characters, I didn’t think I’d end up liking any of them very much, but I was totally won over by a surprising number of them. Amogg the orc chieftan and Lorimer Fell the vampire lord were fabulous characters, but my favourite was the fallen war god Tiarnach. His character arc throughout the book is just fantastic and I just adored him. None of the characters in this book are perfect (nor would you want them to be, they’re villains for a reason), however Johnston gave them a surprising amount of depth. You can’t help but root for them.

The Maleficent Seven is a popcorn-y fantasy book — it’s fast paced, action packed, and wildly entertaining. Will it change your life? Probably not. But if you’re looking for a fun fantasy book filled with battles and banter that you can devour in a weekend, I’d definitely recommend picking it up.

CW: violence and gore, animal death

Want to try The Maleficent Seven for yourself? You can pick up a copy at the following sites (affiliate links):

Blackwells | Book Depository

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