Take Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, put a modern, supernatural spin on it in the grimdark sub-genre, and you get an idea of what The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston is about.
The woman, Black Herran – a demonologist – is putting together a team to lead her armies and she’s got six of the most ruthless, vicious characters ever brought together. There’s Amogg, a kickass orc, Maeven, a necromancer, Lorimer Felle, an old-school vampire lord, Captain Varena, a pirate lord, Tiarnach, a demi-god, and Jarek Hyden, a mad scientist type of alchemist.
These are not heroes, but some of the cruelest creatures on the planet, but author Cameron Johnston puts them in the protagonist role, generally saved for the heroes.
Together, the group was unstoppable. They brought an entire nation down, and on the eve of the final victory to seal the deal, Black Herran disappeared. Now she’s back, 40 years later, and she wants to pull her squad together. A new enemy is trying to finished what she started so long ago, and if there’s going to be any evil ruling the country, it will be she and her six evil cohorts.
I found the characters here to generally be a lot of fun. Amogg the orc was probably my favorite. He actually seemed the most level-headed and confident of the group, which is a bit odd, but that was part of the fun.
But where the characters were a lot of fun, the story itself, even though borrowed from a classic film, lacked a drive for me. The story seemed like simply a device to have this set of characters interact with one another and to show off their unique skills. I was not at all engaged with what was happening – only who was doing things.
Like the story, the world-building is just ‘there.’ There’s nothing particularly unique or special here. This is a very generic fantasy setting.
And still, I had fun. I enjoy dark fantasy. But I would have enjoyed it a lot more, I think, if there were more guts laid bare to the story.
Looking for a good book? The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston is a bloody dark fantasy with some great characters but they needed a more powerful story to bind them together.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Maleficent Seven
author: Cameron Johnston
publisher: Angry Robot
paperback, 416 pages