The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston: Review

This explosive debut is madder than a truck of hatters and more addictive than chocolate on your cheat day. Read on to find out why you all need to read this story.

I was given an ARC (Advanced Review Copy/Advanced Reader Copy) by Angry Robot in return for an honest review of this book which you will find below.

Some information about this book:

  • Release date: August 10th 2021
  • Published by: Angry Robot
  • Pages: 400
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Series: Standalone (so far…)

Blurb:

When you are all out of heroes, all that’s left are the villains.

Black Herran was a dread demonologist, and the most ruthless general in all Essoran. She assembled the six most fearsome warriors to captain her armies: a necromancer, a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish warleader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist. Together they brought the whole continent to its knees… Until the day she abandoned her army, on the eve of total victory.

40 years later, she must bring her former captains back together for one final stand, in the small town of Tarnbrooke – the last bastion against a fanatical new enemy tearing through the land, intent on finishing the job Black Herran started years before.

Seven bloodthirsty monsters. One town. Their last hope.

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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.

Buy The Maleficent Seven from The Broken Binding and use the code BLURB5 on all your orders to save money (for more books).

Alternatively you can pick this up in Kindle, paperback or Audible on Amazon UK or Amazon US.

If you like science fiction and fantasy books then consider joining The Oasis Discord here – it’s free and has a great community, buddy reads, community reads and much more!

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