Cover Image: The Maleficent Seven

The Maleficent Seven

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The Maleficent Seven, by Cameron Johnston, is a fantasy retelling of the classic “gathering of heroes” tale as seen in The Seven Samurai, or The Magnificent Seven if you prefer.

The Dread Demonologist Black Herran disappears on the eve of the final battle that will see her army win and leave her ruling the world. Forty years later, she turns up and recruits six of her former captains to make a last stand against a new threat from the north.

The army of the Lucent Empire is the fighting force of the Goddess of Light, the Bright One, and is led by the fanatical Falcon Prince. Where you would usually expect to see the army of the light fighting for good against the demon-summoning almost-world-conqueror, here the tables are turned and it’s the Demonologist who is seen as being on the side of good.

Fighting with Black Herran are a necromancer, a vampire lord, an Orc warlord, a pirate queen, a former God of War and a rather deranged alchemist. With all these different skills and abilities competing against each other for page time, there’s just a little too much going on, and it feels like the story is trying too hard.

There were some good creative choices made with the vampire lord and former God of War for example, but there were also some negatives for me. The pacing was a little off, with a slow and repetitive build up as the six captains are tracked down and recruited, before the battle at the mountain-pass town of Tarnbrook.

The geography also didn’t quite work for me, with all the focus on Tarnbrook being the gateway to the south for the Lucent army, but then the possibility raised of them bypassing Tarnbrook and bringing the army to the south by boat. It just didn’t quite work for me.

All in all, it’s a decent book but not one I found to be as good as the concept sounded.
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If you read The Goblin Corp, this book is a better written thought less fun version.
Every character has their own motivations, everyone has a brutal death (almost everyone), and Jerek Hyden is a Nazi fuck.
I enjoyed this book, though would have liked more of each character.  The POV moves from person to person, giving the reader a full view of a complex situation.  I appreciate that, but would have liked more of Red Penny and Estevan.
I liked the characters more than the plot.  The plot was similar to Lord of the Rings in that we see the military preparation for one side of the upcoming battle and see the other side at the fight itself.  
I recommend this book for the characters alone.  Everything else is ok, but the characters make this book.
**I received an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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A very entertaining read! I was already familiar with the maleficent seven trope, but I still think Johnston did a great job. There is nothing mind bending about the concept behind the story, but the characters’ arcs, the choice to make them all villains was entertaining. I really liked reading about these 7 villains bickering between one o nether. Johnston writing style is still a bit clunky at times, most evidently in dialogues - some of them really read like something take from a stage act.
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The impact of the best books is when you’re left wanting more at the end. I deliberately slowed down reading the final chapters – the last part of the battle – so I could savour it all. But that impact I mentioned goes further, it leaves you thinking about what you’ve read. As a reader you marvel at the ingenuity and skill of the writer and evaluate the issues and concepts they’ve introduced.
The Maleficent Seven is one of those books. I enjoyed it from the opening chapter and my satisfaction grew as the story developed. The premise of the story is pretty obvious from the distorted title. Like Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and its western remake, seven baddies defend a small town from an even greater villain. As the tagline states, Seven bloodthirsty monsters. One town. Their last hope. It’s a variation on The Suicide Squad (a better one). So, what makes this story so good?
Firstly, the chemistry of the characters generates an effective chain reaction. Everyone hates everyone else, simple. Yet it’s not. Hatred and vengeance is affected by shifting motives and circumstances. People can change, even the evil ones. It brings about cautious allegiances and delayed betrayal. Evil can take many forms in order to achieve its goal.
In other words, you never know where you are. Expected the unexpected. This is what Cameron Johnston does so well in this story. You never know where the characters are going to take the story. Their relationships bring a deeper level of satisfaction with the barbed insults, the threats, the increasing antipathy. You’re left laughing at times.
Secondly, the ethical issues are brilliantly dealt with in this story. Sure, everyone is bad. They’ve all done terrible, awful things. Some more than others, some with a great deal of enjoyment. I love how evil is placed on a scale in this story. Some of the baddies may be a mere 3 out of 10 in the evil stakes, their actions might be justified by ignorance or cultural differences. Others earn a whopping 10 out of 10 because they have no redeeming features and they deserve everything they get. And sometimes that is a truly terrible fate! By the end you’re left reviewing the meaning of Evil, if it’s done for the right reasons, is it so bad?
Thirdly, the quality of writing is sublime. This is an epic story, narrated over a broad landscape with a cast of Shakespearian proportions. The author glides over the events, skilfully giving us insightful moments before carrying us on to the next awful event. There is a lovely wry tone to the writing which alleviates some of the “badness” we witness.
All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable story, filled with villainous characters you will love to hate sometimes - and cheer on at others. Cameron Johnston goes from strength to strength.
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I received an ARC copy of #TheMaleficentSeven from #NetGalley.

A great read. For being a bunch of bad guys, you definitely couldn't help but like this. Everyone in this story was playing their own angle and it was interesting to see whonwas actually going to come out on top. I'm interested to see is there will be a sequel.
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Haven't read an ARC in June as I wanted to be closer to release dates for some, and the Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston is a great reminder of why I enjoy them a lot.

I have received this book in exchange of an honest review, thank you to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the opportunity.

I have my own blog now, so please do give it a visit if you're interested in my other reviews :)

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I said it before, and I will say it again, I'm very lucky to have been able to read so many strong ARCs this year and continued to do so with the Maleficent Seven. Main reason for that in my honest opinion, before I even begin to discuss the happenings in the book, is that the book delivered exactly what I was promised to get.

My absolute favourite trope in fantasy is gathering a cast of protagonists where they are usually heroes in the literal sense, so seeing it in a different way in this book was an easy hook for me. What makes it work so well for me is that this journey is broken into 3 different parts, where each part has a very clear designation and reason to exist in the book while the author wastes zero time establishing the objective of each one of them and that's something I will always appreciate.

The first part is the gathering of my unlikely heroes, which gave me the needed chance to meet and get to know them before I even get started with Black Harran's own agenda. One of the things I really enjoyed about them, other than the differing abilities and types (if I can say that?), is that they are each following their own not-so hidden objectives while the second part is about the defense of the town and the third is the final needed bits to wrap it all up. In a book with such a grimdark outlook and the main characters are supposedly horrible people, I really hoped that they will really deliver on that aspect like another book did a month ago. Which The Maleficent Seven did in abundance.

There is no loyalty here, especially not after the betrayal and this book doesn't shy away from it whatsoever. Obviously, I really don't think that all of them can be considered morally-grey, some are better than others while there are some who are just darker than black, but overall, the mix of conflicting ideals (especially how he dealt with Honour in a battle) while trying to push their own objectives forward was a very interesting struggle before I even begin to look at the plot.

What really helps them make it even more intriguing for me, was how their abilities were utilized and it's another thing I appreciated in the book as having this in the description:

"a necromancer, a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish warleader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist.

And not giving me enough chances to see them in action would have been a sorely missed opportunity, which I can happily say isn't wasted here at all. This brings me back to the broken up parts of the book and how well Cameron Johnston utilized them. Setting the pace in a series is difficult, I'll argue that it might be one of the hardest thing for an author to do while making sure that it's not too much for the reader, especially in a high fantasy series like this one where a world-building of sorts needs to be established.

The author doesn't go the generic route for anything here because other than the different than usual protagonists he has here, he also spends the time explaining how the world works in the relevant areas, the different factions I have to pay attention to, Gods and their worshipers and how that play into it, the abilities of the characters and other creatures also get a chance to be portrayed if there is a need of it. It's also not done in a way that gives the impression it's "withheld until critical" which I once again appreciated since withholding information is tricky business and if you have different Point of Views then using it for this is a very good idea to do so, in my humble opinion.

I wouldn't necessarily call any of the events in the book slow, as it felt like the author was challenging himself to see how crazier he can make it in every new happening which I also think that he nailed because the battles in this book never stop. Having a cast of mostly overpowered crazies gives the chance to do so which shows that the author has the talent to write very cool action scenes that are just so incredibly bloody and gory that it fits the overall theme he's going for here.

I enjoyed almost every single aspect of this book, the pacing being my favoruite, save for one of the characters who despite reminding me heavily of Lord Dingwall from Brave was a little too vulgar for my taste, which I understand works well for the overall mood of the book and their personality, but I've always had a problem enjoying characters like that anywhere. So I'll credit it up to differing personal tastes? Yes, let's go with that :)

Overall, it's an enjoyable book, it's high stakes while still being fast paced and incredibly fun to read. I'm also curious about the author's next work because at first glance, I need to keep them on my radar for more (hopefully) fun books!
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Genre: adult fiction, epic fantasy, high fantasy, dark fantasy, war, demons, magic, vampire, orc, pirate
Age range: 17+

Overall: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5 
Plot: 5/5
Writing and Setting: 5/5

Content warning: *swearing, extreme gore, violence, use of weapons, alcohol use, binge drinking, death, injury, mental illness: PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, war, sexual themes 

The gist of my review:  

If you like the writing of Stephen Aryan, diverse, hilarious characters, and a begrudgingly group alliance like in Suicide Squad, then ‘The Maleficent Seven’ by Cameron Johnston is the read you’ve been pining for. 

When all the heroes have failed to defeat the tyrannical religious zealot conquering the continent, the fate of the world relies on the anti- heroes of the past.

In ‘The Maleficent Seven’ we see characters from all walks of life, including a god of war, a vampire, a mad alchemist, an demonologist, a necromancer, an orc chieftain, and a pirate queen. They begrudgingly take up arms with one another to save the last standing colony of Tarnbrooke. 

I hadn’t expected to like this book as much as I did. Throughout the book we get to experience such great character growth and development, magic, skills, and individual evil plots and ulterior motives behind each character. 

The reason as to why I didn’t give it a 5/5 is because there was a few choice curse words from a character that I didn’t necessarily think needed to use them. This character is a naturally crass individual, but I think there is still other words that could have been used in its place. 

Other than that, I found this book to be virtually perfect. 


Characters: 5/5

There is seven very diverse main characters in this book. This review would be incredibly long if I went in-depth about all of them, so to speak generally, the characters in this book were simply phenomenal. 

Each character had their own motives, drives, powers and skills. In the beginning of the book, we realise that all of the MC’s hold a grudge or a drive to kill the others, yet due to a power, strength, magical protection, they all are unable to hurt one another without putting their own safety at risk. I think this creates a very interesting dynamic between each member of the group and only serves to highlight that the group are only working together because they have a mutual interest. 

I have nothing but praise for Johnston and how he represented women throughout this book, particularly with Amogg, Verena and Red Penny. Normally in novels centred around medieval times, women aren’t depicted as members of war or shown as fierce combatants, so it was a proud moment when these characters displayed strength and willingness to fight to protect those they love. 
 
Plot: 5/5
The plot was incredibly interesting. The twists and turns kept me on my toes and all the schemes and underlying plots developed into this mass crescendo at the end. There were only a few lulls in the plot but it was expertly written to give the reader a sense of ‘the quiet before the storm’. 

Writing and Setting: 5/ 5
We see multiple perspectives throughout the book from each main character. The writing is in third person which allows the reader to experience not just the character’s thoughts but also the surrounding environment and how the character interacts with this space.

Also, was that a lord of the rings reference…? 

Without a doubt, the world building must be praised. We see a vast array of kingdoms, races, creatures, towns and locations that were fascinating to read about and is unique to this story and incredibly creative. 

This book will definitely be a knockout once it’s released.
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I really loved this book. Cameron Johnston makes you despise all of the characters and still like them all at the same time. This book has everything you want in a fantasy action book: Battles, intrigue, infighting, demons, necromancers, you name it. 

Absolutely worth a read and you won't be able to put it down. Pure mayhem and delight.
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From start to finish this book bludgeons you by it's brutal brilliance, there's simply nothing to dislike & everything to enjoy.
For me, every great book is built on the foundations of the characters & The Maleficent Seven is absolutely full of fully rendered & incredibly endearing characters, who carry not only this book forwards but the reader too.
A novel take on a very old concept, it is told in a unique way, full of dark humour, impeccably told violence, depravity & loss, that it is impossible not to appreciate it.
Although the publisher & Netgalley were kind enough to allow me to read this book early, I've also pre-ordered this book as I want to revisit it again and enjoy it all over again.  
Forgive me for the horrendous pun, but that speak volumes....
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It was an early review calling it a Kings of the Wyld / Suicide Squad mashup that got me excited for The Maleficent Seven, and I fear that comparison was a misdirection that led to disappointment. While it was a fitting description of the first third of the book, in which black humor and sarcastic repartee pair perfectly with violence and vulgarity, the rest of the book takes a sharp turn to grimdark, leaving most of the humor behind . . . and that's where the disappointment came in.

To his credit, Cameron Johnston does a super job of establishing a cast of characters, each and every one of them monstrous or mad. Amogg, the kickass orc leader, Maeven, the deceitful necromancer, and Lorimer, the old-school vampire lord, were the outstanding characters for me. I enjoyed the very formal sort of interplay between Lorimer and his aide, and I loved everything about Amogg and her gender-progressive clan of orcs. Tiarnach, the fallen, drunken God of War, was initially intriguing, and I liked where his arc seemed to be headed, but he lost my interest by the end.  As for Jerak, the mad alchemist, maybe it was a matter of just too much build up, but he never quite lived up to the horrors of his legacy, although I did chuckle at some of his monstrous inventions.

As for the plot, I loved the idea of angry, bitter, backstabbing villains getting back together after a massive betrayal to defend a small town against a holy army, and that part of the book was fantastic, but the twist betrayal that drives the last third was less interesting. I thought the spiritual component of good versus evil, light versus dark, Goddess versus Demon, had some real potential, and was looking forward to seeing how that played out, but it faltered in the end, with to many of those conflicts failing to find a satisfactory resolution.

The pacing is frantic, which is fine so long as you're reading, but as soon as you stop to think about it, the lack of depth or substance begins to eat away at the story. It's entertaining but, ultimately, I didn't find that I really cared about much of it. I was never invested in the characters or the outcome, and didn't really have any attachment to either side, which I think is the biggest problem I had with the read. Villains and anti-heroes can be a ton fun, but when they're taken too far, placed into a conflict in which there is no 'good' side for which to cheer, it's hard to care who wins. The lesser or two evils is not the heroic triumph I look for in my fantasy.

The Maleficent Seven was a fun first third, and would have been an amazing book if it had continued in that vein, but the sharp turn to grimdark, without any emotional involvement, had me skimming pages rather than devouring them. Not a bad book, not by any means, but I'm afraid false expectations at the start led me astray into a book that just wasn't for me.
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Johnston's fantastical and depraved version of The Magnificent Seven delivers on every level. 

If you like the idea of seven of the most treacherous scum bags that inhabit this world, coming together again after 40 years to protect a small town, well, this is the book for you. 

It's a tale as old as time, molded in the realm of dark fantasy. You've got a demonologist, a necromancer, a pirate queen, a vampire, drunk God of War, a blood thirsty orc, and a mad little alchemist. All back together again, no love lost . 

Johnston's best quality is the diverse voices ge gives to each player in the story. None of them sound even remotely the same. You're acquainted with them in no time, some after just a few pages. The author has a way with crafting a voice. 

4.5/5 The ending led me to believe there could be more, but I'd rather it stay as a kick ass standalone (having said that I *would* read more).
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I was fortunate enough to get an early copy of the book, so please note that the faults I mention in my review may still change before publication. Thank you to Angry Robot and Netgalley for the review copy.

I was really excited to read this one after reading the blurb. It's a fast-paced, entertaining read with a lot going for it. That being said, I don't think the writing style was for me, but this is by no means a bad book, it's actually really great, I just didn't connect the way I hoped. This review ended up longer than I expected, but I have a lot of thoughts.

Characters
I’m a big fan of any anti-hero narrative and love seeing more and more being published these days. I  really like that I couldn't trust any of them and they were betraying each other, even though they were working together. It added an extra layer of tension.
I can't remember if it's ever actually stated how old the characters are. Either I missed it, or it's just not there. I assumed they were in their 50s/60s, but some confirmation would've been cool.

Dalia - Awesome character. Love seeing a female character in such a prominent position of power and feared badassery. Although I kind of didn't like that she had to give up her position in the very begenining because she was pregnant. Like, women can have babies and also careers. Just think too often in stories women are made to give up their lives in order to have children, and I can't help but eyeroll a little at the trope. But each to their own.

Maeven - We probably see Maeven more than anyone else in this book as we follow her during the character collection process. She's an interesting, self-serving character who I think deep down has a soft side. I didn’t necessarily like her, but she was still a great character despite that.

Lorimer - I liked him, but didn't really connect with him in any way, and I found his dialogue a little stilted and theatrical. Probably done purposely because he’s a really old vampire lord, but it made him feel like an over-dramatic vampire caricature.

Tiarnach - Among all these serious, brooding characters, he was some much needed comic relief. He immediately became my favourite and I felt he had the most natural sounding dialogue for them all. His humour and quick one-liners were exactly what the story needed up until his arrival. However, as the story went on, I feel like his quick wit degenerated into unintelligent vulgarity for the sake of it. I like a bit of vulgar humour if it’s funny but Tiarnach’s was a little overkill in the end. Perhaps too many references to fucking people with his big, hard cock, just saying.

Verena - A quietly intelligent woman who, among such big and brash personalities, got a little lost amongst the noise. Though I think out of them all, she probably had the most honour and humanity. 

Amogg - I really liked the pairing of Amogg and Tiarnach whenever they were together. They had some great banter. I love when a story is a little more tongue in cheek and I definitely got those vibes from any Amogg/Tiarnach scenes. They almost reminded me of Legolas and Gimli. An unlikely friendship between enemies.

Jerak - For nearly half the book we're told how monstrous and disgusting the alchemist is, and for a longer time all we're shown is a chipper, enthusiastic little man. While I enjoy this interesting juxtaposition of an overly happy murderer, in the end it felt like the characters were telling me how to feel about Jerak when I was seeing nothing to back up their opinions. Which got a little annoying. Granted, we do see Jerak is glorious action eventually, but I think the hate and horror piled on him in the beginning was a little overkill. If he'd been left as more of a mystery I might not have felt so irrationally angry with the other characters. It wasn't until over half through that I started to see the Jerak they spoke of and I started dislike him as much as them. Couldn't give a shit about the stuff he does to humans, but I didn't like what he did to the pigs.

So after spending an entire book with these characters, and on reflection, I didn’t actually like any of them and was quite relived to see the back of them. Maybe this was done on purpose. They’re all villains, after all, and had very few redeeming qualities about them.

Plot
This is going to appeal to so many people. On the face of it, the plot is a blood-drenched action adventure novel with a colourful cast of characters. 

Think Magnificent Seven meets Kings of the Wyld meets Suicide Squad meets R.E.D. And if that doesn't sound insanely cool, I don't know what does.
Basically, extremely dangerous retired villains getting back together after 40 years to defend a one-horse town against a fanatical army. It was this idea that instantly had my attention. The plot, on the whole, delivers exactly what it promises and you can't say fairer than that.

I did have a few plot hole questions in the beginning, however.
The pacing was a little extreme. The first 50% was slow and the final 50% was fast. In general, I just think the book could’ve been condensed. Given what actaully happens in the books, 400 pages might be too many.  
In that first 50% of the book, we just have Maeven going around collecting the characters ready for war, which is fine, I do like this kind of story arc (I enjoyed it in Kings of the Wyld), but the problem here, I think it just went on for too long. When we all already know the characters will agree to come together to fight the war, getting those characters together doesn't need to be 50% of the book. It probably all could've been wrapped up in a couple of chapters, giving us more time to focus on the main point of the plot.


Setting
On the face of it, the world feels vast, I just don't know how vast. A little underdeveloped and not explored in enough depth for me to picture it, or for it to feel real. Place names are given but I literally know nothing about these places or what they look like, or how far they are in context to other places. Like, how long did it take Maeven to travel from place to place? Not that I want to see all this tedious travel in the book, but a line or two explaining how long it took to get around wouldn't been helpful. I think they only had a few weeks before the army arrives and five different locations to get to before then.

I'd like to say more about the setting but I really don't know enough about it to go into any detail.
But what I did know about the world I thought was well written. I did find it very interesting that in this world, orcs are gender neutral until they choose a gender. I also thought it was cool that there weren't just humans in this world, but also sorts of races, including orcs, vampires, and ant people known as hivers. Really gives a sense of how vast the world is. 


Writing Style
The writing is totally fine, though not to my taste. It seems to favour telling over showing a little too much for me. It made it almost difficult to picture things in my head. I wanted to see things for myself, rather than being told how people felt or what things looked like.
There's random, out of place, moments of head-hopping. The story will be entirely in third-limited, and then suddenly it turns omniscient in a "little did they know" sense, which was quite jarring for me. Surely you can't just jump from third-limited to omniscient in a single sentence. That's got to be breaking some kind of writing rule, right?

The narrative lacked clarity at times. There were a few moments where I stumbled on who was being spoken about because just he or she was used rather than a character name. Something like this is an easy fix and removes all confusion, especially when you have so many characters being mentioned.

Also, another proofreading wouldn't hurt it any. I noticed a few instances where words were missing or extra words added, spelling mistakes, echoes, head hopping, and such. It's fine, we're all human, but there were a few more here than the average novel. But again this is an arc copy and not a finished copy of the book.


Final Impression
It really was a lot of fun. I think my issue lies in my own personal tastes. I prefer character driven over plot driven stories, and even though this book is packed full of colourful characters, I still felt like the plot was the strongest point, and the overall driving force of the story.
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Cameron is a great writer. Cameron is also a great story teller. These are two separate skills, and not every writer has both in good measure. Cameron has both in GREAT measure, and I couldn’t put THE MALEFICENT SEVEN down because of it!

This book has everything: Orcs, vampires, pirates, demons, the undead, various magic systems with consistent and sensible rules, necromancy, mad alchemy, old gods, new gods, epic battles on land, an epic battle at sea, and a damn kraken! 

The POV bounces around a lot—I think there were like 9 viewpoints—which sounds excessive, but it’s so well executed that it doesn’t pop the reader out of the story. 

Yes, this book is vulgar and gorey at times, the last third of the book is pretty much all battle scenes. But the pacing and writing are so good that I barely batted an eye when arms were ripped off and the mangled dead were reanimated. This book is also funny, with Tiarnach offering up amazing one-liners and comic relief.

THE MALEFICENT SEVEN is one of the best books I have read in 2021 so far!

This ARC was provided by NetGalley and publisher Angry Robot in exchange for an honest review.
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The Maleficent Seven was an interesting read, as not many books provide the perspective from the baddies, seeing their scheming ways first hand made for an intriguing story. The story follows an infamous demonologist known as the Black Herran, who once upon a time was a dreaded leader, who abandoned her army on the eve of complete victory. She is back once again 40 years later, in order to gather her 6 captains to try dominating the world once again. 
The story within The Maleficent Seven is an intriguing tale - when I read the synopsis for this novel, the idea of following the big bad guys immediately drew me to this novel; always wondering what goes through the mind of the evil doers which leads them to try destroying the world. Now that I have finished reading The Maleficent Seven, I am left in a little of a muddle in how I felt about the story. The characters themselves were all interesting, each with their own stories and motivations. My feelings of let down surround more from not fully understanding the purpose behind the bad guys - within the story it does cover some of their end goals but they aren't hugely clear until the end of the novel and during the mean time I just wasn't invested in their adventure. Even at the end of the novel, I didn't feel a sense of satisfaction that the journey was worth the effort or the amount of betrayal. I felt similar about the so-called hero within the story, who was an interesting character in his own right but I felt left down by his motivations at the end of the story. 
Fortunately, this novel is filled full of interesting characters, whose conversations and interactions between each other served as fantastic reading and story telling. There are 6 captains that Black Herran recruits within the novel - Maeven (a necromancer) is given the task to recruit the others back to the cause but along the way it is clear that she has her own motivations away from those of Black Herran's. Through the story she recruits a powerful vampire - Lorrimer Felle, the old god of way - Tiarnach, a pirate queen -  Verena Awilden, a orc warlord - Amogg and a crazed Alchemist - Jerak Hyden. Each of these crazed individuals have their own agendas within the books and strong feelings towards each other - it's this chemistry between these characters that really brings the book to life. These characters are all evil, doing despicable things to the normal folk and each other, wanting to kill and betray everything around them. But what also made the dynamics within this book interesting, was the brotherhood that developed between certain characters, making these individuals deeper and more interesting to read about. 
The idea which I loved within the novel was the antagonist (which is a grey term within this novel) - the Falcon Prince is a character who is trying to take over the world, a crusade driven by a deity who has blessed his mission. The idea of using religion as a reason for ones actions, especially when it is used to force others to follow suit, is one that I have always enjoyed within our own history, and even more within my reading. Within this story the concept of who is the bad guy is a complex question with a simple answer - no one in the story is good. The idea of one group of bad guys and monsters, trying to stop another monster was what kept me reading throughout, to see what would happen when these two huge forces of evil collided. The book moved at a rapid pace, the story ever changing and this is even more so when the two sides collided within the second half of the story. 
Overall, I did enjoy The Maleficent Seven and the concepts within, exploring what the idea of evil truly is, made the story an interesting read. I was left a little deflated by the motivations during the read but overall the characters were strong and glued the story well together.
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This is the single most fun book I've read all year. For a touch of dark comedy and a love of villains, you could do no better. Recommended to all fantasy fans. 

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest assessment.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher I was able to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
***
The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston is a stand alone dark fantasy that was horribly enjoyable.
Black Herran, 40 years ago on the cusp of victory peaced out and left her six generals behind. In the chaos of her disappearance the generals turned on one another and their victory turned to ashes. Now Herran has called on her Necromancer general to gather her old allies to take on a new enemy, the Lucent empire, followers of the Bright One who have been slowly taking over their world. All of them have their own reasons for joining Herran again but it doesn’t mean any of them are happy about it, or trusting of their one time allies.
A dark and bloody tale of what happens when the bad guys are not necessarily the good guys but still maybe better than the people claiming to be good guys… maybe.
***
I have such mixed feelings over this book. It doesn’t hold back on the description of death, and seriously, none of them are good guys. Some of them have slightly good qualities but they are in no way shape or form good guys. My favorite characters by far were the vampire lord, demigod, and orc warleader. The book moves through all their points of view, some more than others but you get an inside look of all of them.
This was an interesting book and kind of fun but I also found myself also having to take breaks because the death and description of death was just constant and again the good guys are pretty monstrous and the bad guys are even worse. I know a lot of people I’d recommend this book to already, but it’s definitely not going to be for everyone.
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NB: free copy received for honest review

Forty years ago, on the verge of ultimate victory, the demonologist Black Herran simply vanished.

Now a new danger threatens the continent, and an apparently ordinary peasant woman throws off the disguise she has worn these past two score years and summons her former captains for one last titanic battle.  They're the only ones powerful enough to have a chance; if they can keep from killing each other first.

Obviously drawing heavily on 'Seven Samurai', this fun fantasy romp takes as its starting point the simple question 'what if our only hope was the bad guys?'.  It's got a fun cast and heaps of over the top action to keep the pages flicking by quite smoothly.  Recommended if you find the premise at all appealing.
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This book was a bloody ride, and I enjoyed every moment. Some parts made me shrink away a bit at the sheer volume of gore, but it wasn't unreadable or gore for gore's sake. I liked that none of the characters came out of the book looking like the good person. Each individual had real, and glaring, flaws. I really enjoyed exploring this detailed universe as well while learning about all the creatures that inhabit it. The adventure was plenty of fun and I'll be back for more if there's a sequel.
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Seven anti heroes... A Vampire, a Demi-God, a Pirate Queen, an Orc Chieftain, a Mad Alchemist, a Necromancer and The Demonologist Black Herran.
Black Herran has returned after she disappeared 40 years ago, on the eve of a glorious battle. Her old team captains have scattered and she needs to bring them back together to save a small town from a religious zealot hellbent on annihilating non believers.
This is dark but with a side helping of humour (Lots of blood and gore, so not for the faint hearted).
The seven protagonists are a real motley crew, my favourites were, Lorimer the Vampire, Tiernach the Demi-god and Amogg a very big female Orc.
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I really looked forward to this book, and I think it plays its conceit out exactly as promised: the Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai inspiration is closely adhered to and the Grimdark trappings are branded on. And ultimately, there is fun to be had here. But the flaws outweigh this, for me.

The plot is thin and full of holes and—crucially—not one of the ensemble members’ motivations are in the least believable, especially Black Herran. Indeed, there isn’t a character in the whole book with any real depth. But there wouldn’t be, as they’ve all been copied from elsewhere. The book is a surface fusion of Castlevania, Pirates of the Caribbean, Warcraft, Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men, the Thor movies, plus a dozen other film and TV sources. It makes the book incredibly visual and cinematic, and I could see this being a script more than a novel, but if it was a film it would be The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with all of that film’s slapdash misunderstanding of the source material it draws upon. 

The author clearly enjoys battle simulations and fantasy combat, and he has an eye for giving you the vantage on the action that you’d want, but when the action stops, characters start speaking, or there’s any amount of introspection, the writing just isn’t up to the task. His world is so badly diluted by different fantasy settings that any localised world-building just falls flat for want of a cohesive base.

But it’s fun. Unchallenging and pacy, with well-timed shifts in perspective, it keeps you around to the end. But I wouldn’t reread it and I couldn’t recommend it. As such, I won’t be putting a review on my site for this book, as I don’t think I’d be helping this book reach a more receptive audience than me.

I am grateful for the opportunity to review this book, however. Sorry I couldn’t be more supportive.
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