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.
File Under: Fantasy [ Heroes or Horrors? | Flames and Faith | Blood and Guts | Hell Demons ]
"Coarse, crude, bloody, brutal, and utterly over-the-top... A go-big-or-go-home delight."
“Visceral and gripping fantasy, horribly and hugely enjoyable.”
– Anna Smith Spark, author of The Court of Broken Knives
“Cameron Johnston is an exciting new voice in fantasy. His writing has a dark sense of humour and his debut is bursting with imagination and wonders. Fantastic stuff!”
– Stephen Aryan, author of the Age of Darkness trilogy
"Like Kings of the Wyld smooshed together with Suicide Squad into a glorious, gory, sweary melee."
– Rob J Hayes, author of The Ties that Bind series
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 115 members
I have read Cameron Johnston’s previous books and thought I had a good idea of what this book would be like… I was wrong! This is by far his best, it’s absolutely bloody brilliant, There are no redeemable characters (not really) although my sympathy lies with the God of Courage 😉 but I didn’t care, no spoilers but the ending does leave room for further books in this insane universe and I would really like to read more about please!
The premise of this book is so insanely cool, I smiled when I read it. For the first few chapters I was worried that I wouldn't be on board with the authors writing style. However it soon started to click and I found myself loving this book and it's villains. The author does something profound. He makes us care for monsters that have slaughtered thousands, without making them soften over time. Sure we learn more about our characters and their motivations but they still start the book as monsters and end the book as monsters. 5 out of 5.
The Maleficent Seven was not quite what I expected but I still enjoyed it a lot. I was expecting something with a little more humour and, while it was definitely there, it was darker than I was expecting.
What I did find was a rather brutal, often violent and sometimes disgusting (I mean that in the there’s lots of blood and guts sense, not I was offended by what in was reading way). The characters are not particularly nice people and they all seem to be enemies with each other but they are forced to work together to stop a religious zealot.
The story was interesting enough. It’s fast paced and self-contained so you get a complete story that doesn’t drag on and outstay its welcome. There’s a couple of nice twists and turns throughout the story to keep you interested. It was a lot more grimdark than I had anticipated before reading the book so there’s that to bear in mind if that’s not something you’re into. I very much enjoyed it, though.
I think that the characters are very strong and they all manage to feel like separate and distinct people, which is a pretty good feat when you’re dealing with seven major characters and a handful of secondary characters. Black Herran is interesting enough, she didn’t take the path of most bloodthirsty protagonists and gave up the fight at the beginning of the book, then spent forty years incognito before having to take up her battle again. My favourite character, however, was Lorimer, a vampire who is trying to reclaim his lands. He gets some pretty good lines and I liked how badass he was.
The rest of the characters were entertaining enough but Jerak, a mad alchemist who likes experimenting on people, made my skin crawl quite a bit. He’s introduced as someone who no-one really wants to be around and I can see why: he’s horrifying. Maeven, I couldn’t decide if I liked or disliked. She was a kickass character but a bit too backstabby for my liking in a character.
On the whole, I did enjoy The Maleficent Seven. The story was well plotted and paced and the characters carried the story well. It was darker than I was expecting but I still liked it a lot.
Strong new voice (at least I think it is) in the fantasy world. This was full of action with strong characters and a very interesting plot. The world was great and overall this book had some sort or originality or creativity to it that pleased me a lot. I loved what this publisher doing, bringing good new author to the game and always with some sort of touch that make them stand out of the mass. I recommend it!
This book is crass, violent, unpredictable and one crazy adventure and I loved every page. The basic premise is 7 b*stards begrudgingly come together to fight a bigger b*stard; a demonologist, a necromancer, a vampire, a pirate queen, an orc, a god and an alchemist, all with their own vengeance for each other and it’s as wild as it sounds. No character is inherently good, in fact what they do on the page is pretty dark at times, and yet the banter between them, particularly between the blunt Amogg the orc and the drunk Tiarnach the washed up god, or the hatred between Maeven the necromancer and vampire Lorimer, it’s so entertaining! This is an unforgiving book, a lot happens, there are a lot of characters and it darts about so don’t read it for a relaxing time!!
This book won’t be for everyone, for some perhaps the tone won’t connect, but if you enjoyed the unashamed bluntness of Kristoff’s Nevernight and his casual reference to bodily fluids straight from the start, you’re going to enjoy Johnston’s writing. The language is blue, the characters are morally grey and that’s when they’re behaving, the pace is pretty constant and while usually I’ve struggled with a book where I haven’t liked or agreed with a protagonist, somehow you love, or at the very least like, these terrible people, you really find yourself rooting for this lot (apart from Jerak, Jerak is a ****).
Thank you NetGalley for the early copy to review, I needed the laughs and uninhibited escape.
I already had a copy of this on pre-order when I was able to get my hands on the digital ARC.
This book lived up to all the expectations I had for it. A fun team assembly ala ‘Kings of the Wyld’, along with an equally loveable much of characters. My favourite, as much as one can have a favourite out of this crop of horrible people, would have to be the Vampire Lord of Felle’s Reach or the one time Demi God of War. It was a joy to see how these characters interact with one another 30 years after a failed campaign. Their hatred for each other is matched only by their hatred for the enemy, the Falcon Prince, whose own acts of evil make the Maleficent Sevens look small.
I loved this Akira Kurosawa inspired fantasy and hope to see Cameron return to this world especially after such a fantastic conclusion to the book!
After reading the author's "Age of Tyranny" duo-logy I was really excited to hear he had another book coming up. Given the opportunity to read the ARC, it was an exciting to see a whole new world, along similar lines to Nicholas Eame's "the Band series", with even a dash of "The Heroes" from Joe Abercrombie.
The Maleficent 7, the dread Demonologist Black Herran and her 6 Captains, reunited after 40 years to help stop a terrifying Crusade. It was a fun angle to have the "bad guys" as the ones stopping the "do-gooders". The brief glimpses of the "Good guys" provided a fresh take on the fantasy trope, that those with God may not be entirely right....and which God?
I do think the author could have dived into Black Herran's story more (my reduction from 5 stars to 4), but all the Captain's characters all felt really fleshed out, with some very awesome back stories. The Twisted Alchemist felt a lot like Joe Abercrombie's Morveer from Best Served Cold, while the "Demigod" was by and far my favorite POV.
Buy this book! It was a journey I couldn't put down.
This. Was. Fun.
Bare bones: Black Herran, the infamous general with a power to summon demons from depths of hell, had a change of mind about the whole ruling-the-world thing in the eve of the final battle and left her army without a word. Forty years later, she calls in her ex-First Lieutenant, necromancer Maeve, with a task to assemble her former captains: a vampire lord, a pirate queen, an ex-god of war, an orc chieftain and a mad alchemist in order to make a stand in the small village against the spreading Empire of religious fanatics.
The Maleficent Seven, just like The Magnificent Seven, just like the original Seven Samurai is a very linear story: first act is assembling the former team one by one, the second act is them strategising how will they defend the village, finally leading to a third act and an epic culmination. The twist here is, of course, that they are monsters.
But what is it really that makes this story so appealing? Why is it recreated so often in many different ways? I kept thinking about this as I was reading because Cameron Johnston did something interesting: you are absolutely never in the doubt that these Seven are monsters. All of them are genre-recognizable creatures of dark and in most cases we got to see them in the role of antagonists. Johnston is leaning heavily on all those familiar traits that makes them scary and he is showing them in all their glory. And yet, you are on their side. The guys they are fighting against are holy knights, with swords of godly flame, sticklers for propriety and honour, but you pump your fist in the air when a giant orc smashes their heads. This is because the true appeal of this premise is not really the camaraderie nor the heroism- it's that we simply love rooting for the underdog. You, as a reader is on the side of monsters because odds are not in their favour. That premise makes for a good story, but in fantasy setting where rules of physics don't apply and there is magic? It's epic. It's over the top. It's on steroids and just plain fun.
Because of who they are, Black Herran and her captains are interesting characters to read about, both in their pov sections and in their interactions. They are monsters so their reasons for risking their lives in this fight are entirely selfish and self serving and all of them have some side-plan. When it comes to their powers, I'd say they are for most part archetypical depictions of their monster so you can expect them doing bloody, brutal and cruel things. Adding a bit to already known concepts and giving each of the captains distinct personalities managed to make this book work, because it clicked for me only when they started interacting. I really liked Lorimer (a terrifying single-vampire solution to almost every problem), Verena (queen to the bone), Amogg Haddak (orc culture in general was fun) and Tiernach (foul-mouthed god, vampire antagonizer and shit stirrer). If I would take issue with anything it's that I finished the book knowing the least about Black Herran. Secrecy is definitely part of her appeal, but I don't think her and Maeve, or the villain were as well rounded characters as others.
This is pretty straightforward, fast paced and easy read. Pitched as Magnificent Seven meets Suicide Squad, I'd say it gives just as much fun, camp and blood. :)
I kindly received a copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The idea that the world can only be saved by 7 villains is great. The characters were so rich and in some cases were in that grey zone of 'are they truly evil?!' I loved the vampire and god of war.
The magic system and world were really easy to understand and imagine. The descriptions of the battles were really good too.
I liked how realistic the book was - no shying away from atrocities even including women and children. It made it so much crueler and believable.
There was great twists in the book that will hopefully set it up for a sequel.
The village of Tarnbrooke needs a hero, well seven to be exact. However, all they have are villains, and it is up to them to stop the fanatically religious Lucent Empire crushing the known world and converting everyone (and I use that term loosely, very loosely!) to their new god.
Welcome to the world of The Malificent Seven where the good guys are monsters and the bad guys are worse.
In Cameron Johnston's new book, the story starts on the eve of Black Herran's victory to become overlord of everything. We are not quite sure who she is fighting, but one thing that we are certain of is the fact that this ain't no ordinary fantasy book. For one, the main hero (and again, I use that term lossely, in fact looser than before) is a demon summoning sorceror who will happily feed her enemy's souls to her pet demons and laugh gleefully as she watches them chow down on their flesh, and commands an army of similarly well adjusted, nice to puppy dogs army of reprobates. Except not everything is what it seems! As, just as she is assured her imminent victory, Black Herran gets a serious attack of the feels when she discovers she is bringing an innocent into this world and decides that fek this and the demon lord she has sold her soul to, that she's off to live a life of domesticity in the village of Tarnbrooke.
And as if on cue, say hello to the bad guys. An army of religious zealots called the Lucent Empire, who are quite happy to throw the inhabitants of who they meet, off cliffs in order to see if their God will save them, in order to prove their piety.
Upon discovering that the said Lucent Empire is on it's way to the place that she calls home, Dahlia, the once dread Black Herran, who is happily living that life of domesticity and is not having any of this rubbish, decides that in order to stop the jumped up little zealots ripping her life away, she must revert back to what she does best. Cold heartedly tearing apart, limb from limb, anyone who stands in her way.
And as the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the stone hearted killer, but you can't take the stone hearted killer out of the girl.
With that, Black Herran happily blackmails her old general, the necromancer Maevan into gathering her other old generals together so that they can make a stand and send the tyrannical Lucent Empire off on its merry way with its tail between its legs, or probably worse.(I wouldn't like to think where they would shove the tail actually!)
After a little bit of arjee bargee, and much effing and jeffing, Maevan agrees to Black Herran's demands and happily hops, skips and murders her way across the continent getting the Scooby gang back together again.
What ensues is a fun gore filled romp as we meet and greet the gang. Amogg the Orc, Verena the Pirate Queen, Lord Lorimer Felle - the shape changing, human eating vampire, Tiarnach - the drunken ex war god and Jerak Hayden - the mad Alchemist.
Everything is turned up to eleven in The Maleficent Seven, the gore, the fighting , the characters and the bad guys and I must say that I enjoyed it immensely. The book is filled with sly humour and blood soaked action.
The characters are well developed, each one having a reason not to like or trust their comrade in arms, and each gets their five minutes in the spotlight. Obviously, Lorimer the vampire stands out as both he and Maevan have the largest role in this ensemble cast of monstrous beings, but each of the other characters are well rounded enough to provide the support to shore up the story.
Add to that Cameron Johnston's ability to write cinematic action sequences and your on to a winner.
However, to round the book off you need a story that is going have shoulders big enough to carry this lot, and again Cameron Johnston provides that and does it well. It would have been very easy for the idea to run out of steam at some point. However, Cameron Johnston deftly keeps the pacing, story, action sequences and character development at just the right tempo to keep the book moving along at an enjoyable and engaging level.
So, get yourself in gear, crank up the music and join Black Herran screaming her favourite tune " Hellrath ain' t a bad place to be" and let battle commence.
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.
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.
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).
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....
Genre: adult fiction, epic fantasy, high fantasy, dark fantasy, war, demons, magic, vampire, orc, pirate
Age range: 17+
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thank you Netgalley and Angry Robot for providing me with an early copy in exchange for an honest review!
Oh boy where to begin.
The Maleficent Seven was wild, compelling, gross, and a journey like no other. I laughed, shed a tear or two and even cried out "wow that's gross". Cameron created a high action, fast moving tale that just kept me begging for more. This is the read I needed after two not so great reads in a row.
The Maleficent Seven follows the point of views from the villains who are going after the "good guys" (who are totally insane fyi). We get to see the team come together in the classic "lets go and find everyone and convince them to join in our cause" journey only of course those ways of convincing each other are more on the heinous side of things rather then the do well kind. I absolutely loved this, (I usually do I wont lie) Each character was introduced with just enough background that it made you feel like you had been following them for much longer. Each one had a distinctive voice and I feel being able to successfully pull that off in a short amount of time can be difficult for some authors, but Cameron made it look easy. We get to follow 7 people and a few side characters and each one stood out.
Tiranach was without a doubt my favorite character. I felt so much pain and heartbreak for him, he was the one who kept getting the tears to flow from my eyes. I wasn't full on bawling but I am a sap and this mans story just broke my heart and seeing how he handled it made me hurt even more for him. He had for me the most intriguing background and I was constantly rooting for him and loved every moment he was focused on, I just could not get enough of him.
Lorimer was my second favorite. I don't like vampires, I never have, they bore me with their whole " oh no we can't go into the sunlight" bit, I have always been a werewolf kind of girl. But Cameron said "girl you will fall so hard for this vampire" and I freaking did. Lorimer (from my experience) is not like any other vampire out there. I'm not going to give away it way but I really feel like Cameron brought something new to the world of vampires and I would love to see more like this particular one. His abilities, manners, speech and interactions were captivating and hilarious, Just like with Tiranach I wanted more and more of him.
I did not walk away from this book hating anyone, I mean even Penny left her mark and she is a side character. Everyone was captivating in their own way and it made me want to keep meeting more people. All the conversations felt real and not forced (and never gave me second hand embarrassment thank heavens) Cameron really has a way with characters.
The pacing of this story was fast and I mean break neck speed fast. You will find yourself flying trough pages and each page makes the story more compelling. I had a desire and craving to just know what would happen next. I needed to know what happened to Maeven's sister, I needed to know who would win, who would die (and yes lots die). I stayed up till 1:30 am to finish this because I just couldn't put it down. Cameron grabs you and just refuses to let go, and frankly I should have seen that tactic coming as he did the same thing in his debut "The Traitor God". Cameron knows just how much story to dangle in front of you to keep you hooked and obsessively wanting more.
The action is fast, bloody and honestly at times gross, I can handle this so it wasn't an issue for me, but as a warning I will say there are parts with animal torture/death. There are mutilations, and gore everywhere, I mean one of the characters we follow is a necromancer and she does some nasty stuff and it's in some pretty gnarly detail. If you can't handle that kind of stuff than this might not be for you. But if you can than you are in for a treat because the action just comes and feels like it never ends and the final part is just nonstop action.
The story plot its self was captivating, I mean I have only said that a 100 times now. I loved the idea of following a bunch of villains taking on the quest to do one solid act of actual goodness for the world because these "good guys" were not as good as they really thought they where. The only problem I had was that we don't get to see to much from the opposing sides point of view. I would have liked to see a little bit more of that. I feel it would have gave The Falcon Prince that push in really needed in selling how deranged and mad he was. I just kept hoping that at some point I would see the world from his perspective we got one moment of it and after that it was all through the eyes of everyone else we follow.
The story has a solid ending but honestly if Cameron wanted to continue with this world ( I don't know if this is suppose to be the start of new series or a standalone) but I feel he has enough material to work with with how it ended. And frankly speaking, I would buy it in a heartbeat.
This is a brilliant fast paced fantasy about seven vicious killers, all of whom have some kind of magic. Some of them are various degrees of human and some are...something else. They all hate each other with a passion but when an even deadlier force of evil presents itself Black Herran, a demonologist, calls all her bad guy buddies together to try to save the day, and possibly their world. But will they all be able to put their differences aside and unite for one last battle against the greater enemy? Like hell they will.
Maleficent Seven is a darkly humours romp with a cast of unforgettable characters. Very fast paced, very violent and very entertaining (if perhaps a little too long), this is a fun read for all fantasy fans to sink their teeth in to.
Another outstanding effort by one of the most talented writers of fantasy in the business. Cam Johnston continues to write books that are edgy, fantastical, with a sly wit that many can't even touch. I loved this one so much and will be reviewing it shortly on the blog as soon as I can collect my thoughts better, but suffice to say, this was a tremendous fantasy read.
The Maleficent Seven is without a doubt one of the most fun fantasy novels I have read in a while. On the one hand, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and on the other, it deals with some very serious issues. Without giving too much away, the enemy that is descending on Tarnbrooke is a zealous religious cult. Popping up after Black Herran disappeared, this new Empire has taken over the kingdoms bit by bit slowly erasing the old ways and with it the old gods. As with most fantasy worlds, the old ways and the old gods are the ones that people with magic, and those who have other gifts, lean towards. This new enemy tries to paint themselves as the good guys, however, they’re oppressors who make it violently clear that it is their way or off a high cliff with you.
That is where our merry band of villains come in. Wronged, vengeful, angry and some of them wanting to know where the hell their former General has been and what the bloody hell she thought she was playing at 40 years ago, they’ve banded together again to stop this Empire with each of them having their personal reasons to do so. Most of them don’t like each other very much, at the most some of them tolerate each other – but they all need each other to get the job done. They also all agree that this new Empire needs to be stopped at Tarnbrooke. They don’t give a monkies about why it has to be this town, they just understand the need for a strategic point to draw the line for battle.
I fell in love with all of the characters, save for one of them who truly is a horrific monster, and Johnston has done a fantastic job of subverting the ideologies of good and evil. These aren’t anti-heroes; there is nothing grey about them. In a panel hosted by Glasgow in 2024, alongside Stephen Aryan, Johnston spoke about writing one of the characters and his struggle to even remind himself that the character was a complete bastard. He found himself beginning to like the man, then would need to remind himself that no, this man had done truly awful things and wasn’t looking for redemption. Looking back at the book I can see that tactic in action because I remember feeling the exact same way then that character, and many of the others, would do something that reminded me, nope these are the bad guys.
It was really refreshing to read a novel where the bad guys were unrepentant and unapologetically themselves. They didn’t cower from the townspeople they were trying to help, they didn’t try to fit in. They had a job to do and they knew that what made them monsters was what made them the only ones able to do the job. Too often authors feel the need to make their characters turn good, to have a heart of gold hidden beneath their monstrous exteriors. They’re just “misunderstood”. If that’s what you’re looking for then The Maleficent Seven is not the book for you.
The end is absolute perfection and had me howling with laughter. The only thing I dislike about The Maleficent Seven? It is sadly a standalone novel. In the same panel, I asked Johnston if he ever intended to go back to the universe of The Maleficent Seven and he confirmed that it was a standalone novel. I agree that it works perfectly as one, I’m just sad not to see these wonderful characters again. The host suggested that maybe he could return for a short story one day so I’m guessing I’m not the only one who felt that way ;)
The Maleficent Seven is unlike anything you will read this year. Even if you think you’ve read a book about villains, I can assure you that you’ve not read one like this. The cast of characters is so diverse, so full of charisma and the world-building is incredible. While there are religious elements in the form of the Empire they are facing this is not a religious fantasy novel, in my opinion. It’s an adventure, a reunion of seven monsters and like any reunion, it goes off with a bang.
This book was.. picture this, The Suicide Squad but instead of Super Villains, they're Super... natural creatures/monsters! Including, a demonologist (our heroine) a vampire, a Thor like God turned into an alcoholic, an mad alchemist and a freaking Necromancer!
This was fast paced, crazy, over the top and so much fun! Be mindful of the content warning with this one because it has gore and lots of violence.
I will be re reading this book before this year ends because it was THAT crazy good.
*Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review*
The author's own review for this book cited it as "like Kings of the Wyld smooshed together with Suicide Squad into a glorious, gory, sweary melee", and he was not wrong!
I so enjoyed this story, which managed to be as fun and witty as it was gruesome and bloody. The initial portion of the book set up the discontent against the Lucent Empire and the formation of a group of mismatched rebels hopeful to remove them from power.
There were so many different creatures and races included in this. I thought it might become messy to read of so many inclusions, inside the kingdom of Essoran, but it really worked for me and made it a fun and diverse read where I never knew what would next appear. Vampires, necromancers, and orcs were just some of the characters that appeared, and they journeyed into underground ant nests, across the high-seas, and in disreputable taverns in search of their next ally or enemy.
Every character was a flawed one. They had more unlikable personality traits than likable ones and yet somehow all managed to quickly gain their place in my heart, as soon as they were introduced. Most had few morals and so bloodshed and death often followed in their wake. This became a very dark read and I was eager to journey with these characters and to see how depraved the author would have their actions become. He did not disappoint.
I have a soft spot for the underdog, those who have been defeated and rise again from the ashes, and ragtag, mismatched crews. All three featured here and bonded me with their side of the war as immediately as it did with their individual characters. Everything about this - from the humour, to the continual new settings explored, to the war looming ever closer, and the individuals who littered the pages - appealed to me and I have not one negative to say about this book. I can't wait to read from this author again!
Johnston does an incredible job putting together a group of characters that you hate but still love and care for at the same time. Very much of a fun popcorn book. It wasn’t a book I would say was life changing or the best but definitely has a lot of entertainment value.
Absolutely excellent, I cannot begin to describe this book, except with words that do not do it justice. Full of real entities that come to life (and death) on every page, from demons and grubbs to vampires, orcs and (almost) gods, through complete nutters to actual humans with all the foibles, frailties and strengths.
Fantastic Fantasy at its very best, read it if you dare!
I suspect you will not regret it.
This book promised to be a lot of fun. It kept that promise. In spades.
A riff on the classic Magnificent Seven with a group of individuals defending a town from a Big Bad. Except these seven are definitely not heroes.
I enjoyed the introduction of each character. I would be hard pressed to point to a favorite character in the book. They all had their moments for me.
If this book sounds remotely interesting to you, do yourself a favor and get it.
It is not often that I am seduced into requesting a book based on its cover. In fact very recently I have criticised a book because the cover failed to live up to the narrative inside. But in the case of this book I admit I was seduced both by the title, I have a fetish for the number seven, The Seventh Seal and The Seven Samurai are among my most favourite movies, and the cover, I just knew I had to have it.
Do I regret this weakness? Not a bit. This was a good book, in a very rare form of fantasy, should we call it brutalist comedy? Or comic brutality? Anyway, a form of fantasy that it must be incredibly difficult to write; something that makes you laugh and cringe at the same time...
One of the things that from the beginning that got this crone's seal of approval is that four of the seven are female, including the leader, the shifty demonologist. The other female characters are the necromancer, the pirate Queen and the orc (I mean the sex doth not the orc make, does it? And an orc in either sex would be as brutish). The male characters are the vampire, who is black (another break with the genre), the former war God and the MAD MAD alchemist, who no one likes. In fact the maleficent seven are truly maleficent, and they don't like each other very much at all.
Now this may be one of the issues with the book, if you have a bunch of characters who are fundamentally evil and all betraying and backstabbing each other as well as the supposed goodies, it is difficult to find a sympathetic focus within the story. I never particularly found one, I think perhaps overall the characters most sympathetic to me was the vampire followed by the God. This is not much of a problem for somebody like myself, I mean I like Succession for God's sake, so I don't necessarily need an appealing character within the story to enjoy it, but it does help, and many people do.
However, the presumptive goodies are even worse. Whereas the maleficents all have their own respective ruthless personalities at least they seem to tolerate individuality, the goodies are Taliban level fanatics, using the justification of a religion based on beauty to repress, massacre and enslave the populace.
One of the main strengths of this novel is the plotting, which is pretty faultless, very much like The Seven Samurai, it is based on defending the demonologist's village from the fanatics. The world building is also extremely accomplished.
One weakness I perceived was the dialogue, I found it a bit stultifying, a bit slow, it should have flown freer it should have been funnier... I can't help but think that the author missed an opportunity here.
Would I recommend The Maleficent Seven to a friend? Yes, I definitely would, but only to that rather special friend with whom I share a tough stomach and a twisted sense of humour...
Thank you to Netgalley and Angry Robot for providing an ARC of The Maleficent Seven for me. All opinions are my own. This was a violent and fast-paced dark fantasy adventure I thoroughly enjoyed. That feeling of Dark Souls meeting DnD worked in the book's favor.
While I would've loved to see and learn of the world of our villains a bit more, the book had enough to create the dark and grizzly atmosphere it was aiming for. And even though the 7, constantly shifting POVs were a challenge to keep track of, the characters were quite engaging and fun. In the end, The Maleficent Seven is definitely a book I'd recommend to dark fantasy fans that enjoy fast-paced books.
While not for the faint of heart, this book is extraordinarily entertaining. It’s been a long time since I was dismayed when I finished a novel because I was so enthralled by it.
If you’ve seen the movie The Magnificent Seven, or, its inspiration, Seven Samurai, this book takes the basic premise (hence the name). Johnston re-creates the “last stand” situation from the movies but in a fantasy setting where the seven village defenders are villains. These are not just morally gray people, but straight-up murderers and psychopaths. There is Black Herran, a demonologist (aka, a witch), Maeven, a necromancer, Captain Varena, a pirate lord, Lorimer Felle, a vampire, Tiarnach, a disgraced war god, Amogg, an orc warrior, and Jarek Hyden, an alchemist (aka the mad scientist).
Every single one of these people are psychopaths or sociopaths who treat others as expendable to further their own goals. Yet, Johnston intricately balances their terribleness with understandable motivations. We get them. We find them fascinating. Their actions make sense. They are all given a few lingering humanistic traits that keep us from hating any of them. In fact, some of the most interesting parts of the novel deal with these aspects. We also get a few side characters that help even out the madness. The main villain isn’t very deep, unfortunately, but he serves his purpose well, and I think it’s intended that we don’t sympathize with him in any way. We don’t really need a complex villain in this story.
What’s also awesome about this novel is how old everyone is. Sure, some of them are immortal or at least semi-immortal, but half of the group are in their sixties and seventies. Black Herran is a grandmother. This aspect alone is worth picking up the book. The gender parity and jokes about traditional gender roles were excellent too.
The world-building is a little light, but the focus of the novel is not a world conflict, but the defence of one small town. I wasn’t really sure how big the rest of the world is or whether there were other necromancers, for example, but that honestly didn’t matter to me. I loved how Johnston utilized parts of traditional myths surrounding the various villain archetypes and twisted or expanded on them for the novel. Lorimer having both traditional vampiric tendencies and also more shapeshifter/regenerative abilities were quite fascinating, as an example.
I will say again - this novel is not for the faint of heart. There are numerous trigger warnings, such as mutilation, torture, animal cruelty (a small part), and death of innocent people, but like the nefarious natures of the characters, the novel balanced the gruesome aspects of the story quite well. It’s obvious the intention behind the novel is that it’s an over-the-top romp. It’s not quite the book equivalent of “extreme cinema”, but it’s violent and bloody and unapologetically so. It’s not a “serious” fantasy, I would argue. Were it so, it would be horrifying, but because the hyperbolic violence is self-aware or at least intentionally over-the-top, it’s lessened by that very fact. It’s almost silly at times because there is also a lot of humour in the novel. I laughed a ton.
The book was an absolute riot. I adored it. I wanted more.
I recommend it to people who like their fantasy bloody, irreverent, and have a dark sense of humour.
Thankyou to the author and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book.
This book was an awesome read for lovers of dark and gritty fantasy tales. I loved the morally grey characters, they always add some spice to a tale. The book was well written and exciting, though I did find some scenes were a touch boring.
Overall, an epic tale, but not for the faint of heart.
The blurb for "The Maleficent Seven" doesn't do it justice! But then, I don't think any blurb (or any review for that matter) could. This book is a wild ride, jammed with action and some pretty gruesome scenes (if you don't say "ooh" at some point, you might need help). If you enjoy fantasy with more than a splash of horror, you need to read this! I loved Cameron Johnston's writing and can't wait to read more of his work.
My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
If you base your book on one of the most iconic western films ever made, you best bring it. If not, Yul Brynner, and Steve McQueen will haunt you.
Cue the soundtrack; Johnston brought it. Way to go Cameron.
7 powerful evil miscreants come together to fight a religious force threatening to overpower the civilized land. Black Herron, a demonologist, is the leader. Among her 6 captains include a vampire, an orc and a demi-god of war. Everyone hates everyone and everyone is plotting to kill everyone else. Great action plot. Well-written and easy to read. Could not put this book down. Highly recommend that you buy this book.
Thanks Netgalley and Angry Robot for the ARC.
I am really pleasantly surprised by this! While the summary told me that it would hit most of the tropes and such that I adore, this was a fun ride with some depth that I didn't expect! This was the first book I've read from the author and while the first several chapters threw me off due to the writing style (just a personal preference), I'm glad I stuck with it as this book is a hidden gem! I
One of the things that I'm always talking about on my bookstagram is the lack of books with a villain as the main character. Books that follow a hero are a dime a dozen, and although there have been plenty of authors who have kept that trope fresh, after a while it can get a little old. I've always thought that villains were such an untapped resource. Villains follow their own moral (or immoral) code, they commit heinous acts, and more often than not they are selfish megalomaniacs. Why wouldn't you want to read about a character like that?? Villains do things for their own gain, and they follow their own philosophies regarding how to obtain and keep power. It's their subversiveness that makes them interesting, and Cameron Johnston knew that when he wrote The Maleficent Seven.
In The Maleficent Seven, Johnston introduces us to the demonologist Black Herran and her six captains: Lorimer the vampire lord, Amogg the orc warlord, Maeven the necromancer, Verena the pirate queen, Tiarnach the demigod, and Jerak Hyden the twisted alchemist. Once, they were on the cusp of overtaking their whole continent and putting it into the villainous hands of Black Herran, but at the last minute Herran disappeared and they lost their upper hand. In the power vacuum that followed a new power rose: the Lucent Empire. The Lucent Empire had one goal: convert the entire continent to their new totalitarian, evangelical religion. Now, 40 years later, Black Herran is back, and she needs her captains again so that she can stop the Lucent Empire before it engulfs everyone and everything in its path. The job won't be easy, especially because her captains hate Harren for the way she abandoned them. Each has their own agenda, but only time will tell if they can pull together one last time.
From the very first page of this book, I was in love. Black Herran and her crew were nefarious, filthy, mean, and cruel, but instead of coming off as one-note characters with just one goal, they each came off as nuanced, fully fleshed-out characters. It's easy to take a villain down the mustache-twirling route, especially in a book with 7 of them, but Johnston gave each villain their own motivations and backstories. They were all absolutely horrible people, but they were so well-written that you find yourself rooting for them! One of my main gripes with typical depictions of villains is that the author tries to give them redeeming qualities. Johnston does no such thing. While his villains may have a reason for their actions and may care about certain people enough to want to protect them, they are first and foremost VILLAINS. Their motivations are selfish, and they go about achieving them to the detriment of those around them. And I LIVED for it!
To me, this book was perfect. The worldbuilding was immersive, and I give it props for being a stand-alone book that adequately introduced the world and magic without it feeling rushed or like it was lacking. My one gripe is that it is in fact a stand-alone! I want more from this world! But the ending wrapped everything up nicely, which is something that can be hard to come by in a stand-alone. I left this book satisfied with the story I'd been told, and really that's all you can really ask for as a reader.
Great action, strong characters, mesmerizing plot. The world building was dynamic and creative. Cameron Johnston writes beautiful action sequences and knows how to develop characters you want to read more about. This was a really fun read.
People, I FREAKING LOVED this book!!!! It’s fun on a bun! Well, like the first third of the book is fun, then we definitely get into the grimdark aspect of things. But I enjoyed that just as much. I love a “found family“ story, but this ain’t it – everyone here hates everyone else and is just biding their time until they can try and kill them 😆. Heads up, the battle scenes are definitely gory and gruesome, but I’m not sure what else you would expect with this cast of characters (Jerak the alchemist in particular is completely psychotic and deranged). My favorite character by far was foul-mouthed Tiarnach the war god, although Amogg the orc was also fantastic (and let’s not forget Red Penny). And I really appreciated that half of the badass warriors were female. Yes Amogg, females have arms and legs and can fight too! Oh, and if you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t read epilogues in books, DO NOT skip them in this one!
Thank you to NetGalley & Angry Robot for this advanced reader copy. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Unless something extraordinary happens, The Maleficent Seven will be in my top 3 books of the year! It wasn't what I expected but that just added to the enjoyment.
The Maleficent Seven is set in a pretty brutal world. 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 war leader, 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. Now 40 years later, Black Herran must bring her former captains back together for one final stand in the small town of Tarnbrooke where she's been hiding out.
You may look at the types of captains Black Herran has and think that those don't sound like good people, and you'd be right. You're essentially cheering on the bad guys because there are bad guys and then there are even worse bad guys. I've always been a fan of dark characters - I love Luke Skywalker (who doesn't?) but I'm all for the Empire and Darth Vader. So reading characters that are brutal in nature and will do anything to win isn't new to me, yet there was something about this that makes it all different and it's that there are even worse people. You want them to win, not just because they're cool and sometimes funny, but because it's quite clear that they're just wanting to save the world from worse people.
The characters are well fleshed out and surprisingly endearing - Tiranach is an exceptional character who is referred to as the god of war and seems to get more vibrant and younger the more he fights, even though he doesn't know that his problems for the past 40 years is a complete lack of war. Lorimer the vampire lord is also so well written that even though he's a monster you can't help by like him. Both characters were hilarious in their own way, but also quite savage in nature.
Every character was captivating in their own way, even side characters like Penny who is just a normal human that comes into play during the second half of the books, and it just made me want to keep reading and meeting more people because it never felt over-crowded. Just don't get too attached to characters. There's death, lots of death.
The pacing of the story is superb. It's all go from the beginning and even in its slower moments there's still plenty to keep you going and entertained - and the slower moments aren't that slow, just a change of pace to keep things interesting.
The only thing I'd have liked to see a bit more of is from The Falcon Prince. You get a little bit, but a bit more would have been nice in selling how deranged he was. A chapter of two from his perspective would have been great. It's not needed but it would have been nice.
If lots of gore and bad language isn't your thing, then best to avoid this. But if you don't mind that and want characters that you'll love with non-stop action (the final quarter (final third?) is just pure action) and a captivating story then this is a book to read. It's a standalone novel that concludes everything nicely, with some prologues tieing up loose ends. It's not often that you finish a book and can't think of any negative, but here we are. I loved it and even though I read a digital copy thanks to NetGalley, a physical copy is definitely needed for my shelves.
Grimdark is not generally my genre...mostly bc I didn't even know it existed which is 100% a failing on me bc this feels a lot like the darker comics (The Boys, Preacher) mixed in with some Suicide Squad vibes so it's got great commercial appeal. I'm glad I got the chance to read it (and oh the gore) bc I wouldn't have picked it up otherwise and that'd have been my loss!
Wow! This book is CRAZY! It's unpredictable, gruesome, and bloody.
It's being pitch as "Kings of the Wyld smooshed together with Suicide Squad into a glorious, gory, sweary melee". I can't comment on the Kings of the Wyld aspect yet since I haven't read it 🙈 BUT def agree on Suicide Squad! The blunt, bloodier and funnier version. It's not for the faint heart. There are some scenes that even made me say ewww coz boy, that's just disgusting 🤭
𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒂𝒍𝒆𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝑺𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 is filled with imaginative and diverse cast of characters. There's a demonologist, a necromancer, a pirate queen, a vampire, a God of War past his prime, a vicious orc, and a mad alchemist. All of them have distinct voices and multi-faceted. The characterization is well done. They are villains who did despicable things yet I still root for them.
Overall, 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑴𝒂𝒍𝒆𝒇𝒊𝒄𝒆𝒏𝒕 𝑺𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒏 is an unputdownable and entertaining read. I highly recommend The Maleficent Seven if you like fast paced, action-packed, rich in culture, and wicked characters!
Thank you so much Angry Robot Books and Netgalley for the DRC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
I’ve been reading The Maleficent Seven this week and oh my goodness what a ride it was!!
It’s violent, sarcastic, hilarious, gory & full of character!
These seven villains who come together to save their world are so cleverly written. The blend of loveable to loathsome is perfect! I had my favourites that’s for sure!
This book is not for the squeamish or the faint of heart - it’s utterly brutal in description & has loads of swearing….so of course I thought it was brilliant!!
If you enjoyed Nevernight then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this!
Thank you @angryrobotbooks for my eARC in return for my honest review.
I finished this book about a month ago and I am STILL thinking about it. It is really a story that gets under your skin and stays there.
Full of villains as main characters and morally grey choices I enjoyed this book as it was so different from what I am used to reading. So many plots twists and turns that you need to sit down while reading! Such an entertaining book.
A fantastic, out-of-the-box, mad, and ridiculously fun novel by Cameron Johnston, <i>The Maleficent Seven</i> is a great dive into that wonderful final battle/end-of-the-world trope with one rather significant change... there are <b>no heroes</b>. Instead we have something far better/worse: Black Herran, a dreaded demonologist and war general, and her former captains:
- Amogg: Legendary Orc warrior who has been missing a good old-fashioned bloodbath
- Jerak Hayden: A deranged alchemist with a penchant for human experimentation
- Lorimer Felle: A vampire lord who needs to save his people
- Maeven: A powerful (and pissed off) necromancer, searching for her lost siblings.
- Tiarnach: A drunken god-of-war who has lost those he cares about most
- Verena: Queen of the pirates (and a grandma that you <i>should not mess with</i>)
From the get-go this book was pure entertainment. The characters were super diverse, and all of them ("heroes" and "villains" alike) had rich backgrounds and motives. There was certainly no love lost (on either side), and even at the best of times you knew that it was only a matter of time before someone got stabbed in the back.
The story was fast paced, violent, and at times completely over the top... in all the best ways. I was also pretty surprised by the amount of laugh-out-loud hilarity included in the book, for some great "palate cleansers" when things were getting a bit <i>too</i> heavy. Whilst the book is certainly not for the faint of heart, I found it super enjoyable and would highly recommend.
<b>Trigger warnings:</b> Murder, animal abuse, torture, mutilation, human experimentation, ritualistic killing, cannibalism, extreme violence, gore, nudity, PTSD, religious fanaticism... and possibly more I've forgotten.
4 of 5 stars
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.
Received arc from Angry Robot and Netgalley for honest read and review.
This was a fantastic read that had me hooked from the beginning.MIn characters were brilliant especially the boss, Black Herran, loved her.
I loved the idea of seven bad ones coming together to save a town,it was a brilliant read and so funny in bits.
I will definitely read some more from Cameron as his writing was absolutely brilliant.
Loved this book,definitely recommend.
I adored this one. Johnston manages to hit the same nerve that Nicholas Eames did with King of the Wyld, writing a book that is just fun from start to finish. Even though the characters are some of the most evil I've encountered in a while.
Just a fantasticly fun and delightfully evil piece of fiction.
The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston is a story about monsters, revenge and lots and lots of killing. It’s the kind of story that catches your attention like a kick to the balls by a drunk Scotsman.
We start the story with a brilliant prologue which really sets the possibilities of the world Cameron has created. The Demonologist, Black Herran, is the general of an army full of monsters, pirates, vampires, the undead and other devilish creations which are camped outside of a fortress when, on the eve of battle, she disappears. Her captains confused and unable to hold the army together scatter only for her to recruit them again for one last suicide mission forty years later.
“I have just unleashed one of the mightiest of all demons upon the Lucent Empire.”
I first heard about this book from my friend on Twitter @FantasyBookNerd who put up a glowing review. I was immediately intrigued by the cover and his review sold me. I applied for an ARC and was lucky enough to get one. I then devoured this story like a starving demon gnawing on fresh flesh. It is by far the most memorable and enjoyable book I have read so far this year. It just oozes fun, brilliantly choreographed battles, expertly executed characters and iconic scenes.
The first thing you will notice when you read this book is that it is unlike other fantasy books and you are going to hear this comparison a lot but this is like Suicide Squad (2021) meets Kings of the Wyld (and maybe throw in a bit of Overwatch). Sometimes though when you have too many different ideas going on in a story it can take away from the enjoyment as you flick backwards to work out which character is which or lose enjoyment through confusion. This story has absolutely no problem in keeping you engaged while never once confusing you with the various characters, their species, the action or their own wants and needs.
“I don’t give a fuck if you all die so long as I can take that Falcon Prince’s head. Me, I’m dead simple to understand.”
Cameron’s prose is sleek and smooth like silk on a laminated floor. There isn’t one part that felt like a speed bump in this book and the whole thing reads like an old favourite despite the fact that you are reading it for the first time. The story is a simple one. Black Herran and her crew have to defend Tarnbrooke, a town she has lived in for the past forty years from the rampaging religious zealots threatening to take over the whole of Essoran.
The characters are brilliant. To elaborate, there is Maeven (necromancer), Lorrimer Felle (vampire), Tiarnach (god of war), Amogg (orc warrior), Verena Awildan (pirate queen), and Jerak Hyden (crazy alchemist). They all feel real, have their own personalities, their own desires in the story and their inter-relationship actions and conversations really pull you into their conflict through their own eyes. You will really enjoy reading this story as you find a favourite character and root for them whilst also reading to find out what happens to the rest of them. The dynamics between the characters is so well crafted. The fact that they’ve been apart for forty years doesn’t change the flow of conversation or their hatred for one another and it shows all over the page, pulling you in with it.
“The Kraken is coming.”
The worldbuilding in Essoran is actually quite minimal. You will know of a handful of locations and visit less in detail but you will fully know the lay of the land as Cameron describes in varying detail the town of Tarnbrooke, the surrounding ocean and the people that live there. It really shows that you don’t always need a lot of worldbuilding if you can paint the world through the eyes of many different characters thus not taking away from the pace of the story or the characters own journeys. This story is a very character driven, action focused story and there is constant action in here.
A lot of it is fighting but the fighting is excellent. At other times it might be tense planning of battles, someone setting traps, soldiers being terrorised by something in the dark or heated standoffs between monsters working with Black Herran. Regardless, it always moves the story forward and always has you wanting to just read one more chapter.
“he admired the taste of a human heart even more, he thought as he ripped it free and sank his fangs into the steaming organ.”
To summarise, The Maleficent Seven is a fantasy book for adults and really is the kind of fun, excellent book that everyone needs to read. It’s like Kings of the Wyld but the other way round – you’re now reading from the monsters POV while “heroes” try to kill them as they provide one final stand-off and for me, I loved KotW but this is just that little bit more naughty.
Rating 5/5 – You need to read this book. Cameron Johnston is a fantasy name you need to look out for. The story that Cameron has painted on these pages is scarily good. Monsters, heroes, epic action, bigger monsters, constant twists and turns, brilliantly written battles and a hilarious and angry God of War. I don’t know what else to tell you without spoiling it. Get it. Now.
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The Maleficent Seven – Cameron Johnston
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in order to provide an honest review.
Cameron Johnston is a Scottish writer how is a gamer and has interests in archaeology, history and mythology. He has written dark fantasy stories such as “The Traitor God” and “God of Broken Things”.
“The Maleficent Seven” follows the story of an old war general known as Black Herran, who was feared and ruled over her people with an iron fist – she also was known as a demonologist; she could wield what lurked in the shadows. She had a pact with a great and old demon, thus allowing her the power she was able to wield over lesser demons, power she was able to cultivate to her own ends.
Black Herran had her trusted captains of her dreaded and dark army, they were loyal to her and followed without question. That was until she abandoned them all on the very eve of battle that would have seen them ruling over all the conquered lands. Yet abandon them she did and her captains and people were almost wiped from the lands of Essoran.
And for 40 years there was no word of the dreaded Black Herran and her follows, they were presumed dead and forgotten. That is until a new threat comes to take over and impose their new world order. The problem with this is Black Herran is not dead, she faded away into obscurity and became known by another name, had a family and lived in peace.
This peace is now being threatened by the goddess known as the Golden One and her brainwashed army of followers. In order to stand a chance of crushing this new rising power Black Herran and her captains must rise again, yet are they up to the task after all the time that has passed. Can they work together and forget old grievances or will they betray each other when it suits their own individual ends.
“The Maleficent Seven” is a dark fantasy story with a refreshing plot where the villains are the heroes of the day. The author gives the reader an intricate story line with detailed characters. I enjoyed reading a fantasy story that doesn’t have a hero as the focal point but rather several villains. Villains that actually won in the end, villains that were relatable and almost lovable. I can’t state enough what a breath of fresh air this story was, an original and creative work of fantasy.