- The Maleficent Seven
Author: Cameron Johnston
- ISBN: 9780857669087
- Published: August 2021
- Pages: 400
- Format reviewed: E-Book
- Review date: 06/08/2021
- Language: English
As you grow older you start to realise that people are not black and white, but shades of grey. The nicest people can do terrible things and even bad people can sometimes be good. This argument is hard to use with the likes of Demonologists, Necromancers, Mad Scientists and Vampires. What type of evil must they be facing to be considered on the side of good? Cameron Johnston will tell you in The Maleficent Seven.
Forty years ago, Black Herran was on the precipice of an all-out victory that would see her rule all lands. Her army consisted of the worst people and creatures the world had to offer. Rather than see her supreme victory to an end, she vanished, leaving her captains to fight among one another and lose. For decades Black Herran hid and raised a family, but a new threat has arisen that needs her old skillset and her old captains. Will they return to the General that betrayed them and can they work long enough together without killing one another?
The premise behind Maleficent is an excellent one – a fantasy novel told from the perspective of the mad, the bad and the ugly. The prologue paints exactly the type of person Black Herran is and her captains. These are not nice people. They would gladly walk over the corpses of thousands to get what they want. This can make them hard to like, so what is so bad, that these people look good?
This is the element that Johnston needed to get right for the book to work. The answer is the Lucent Empire and their Falcon Prince. They are spreading the word of their powerful Goddess across all lands and will kill anyone that is a non-believer. Their slaughter and cruelty are on par with what Black Herran has done in the past, but it lacks humanity. The Maleficent Seven may be bad, but that is because they are flawed beings with complex desires. The Lucent Empire just seems like a heartless killing machine.
It is the relationships between the various captains that make the book tick. There is a faded War God who is drunk most of the time who has a complex relationship with an Orc leader who would see them fight to the death. The Vampire and the Necromancer do not get along and no one trusts Black Herran. As for the mad Alchemist, they would all see him dead as he is truly the vilest. Rounding off the lot is a Pirate Queen who is only helping to protect her own clan. All of them are distrustful of one another, but Johnston cleverly creates reasons why they would all be involved and willing to work together one last time.
The book is in two major sections: the gathering of the captains, and the battle. For the first third of the book, we learn who each of the captains is and learn about their motivations. This holds the reader in good stead for the latter part of the book as there is a major siege. The back and forth covers many chapters and to keep the reader’s interest Johnston sprinkles in character moments. The siege is not just about the carnage, but also about who will live and who will die. By this point we care.
The battle itself is also very well written, I enjoy a good historic fiction novel and the battle in Maleficent reminded me of the work of Bernard Cornwell and I do not say that lightly as Cornwell is an expert in battle writing. There is a sense of pacing as the Lucent attacks are forced back and then regathered. Rather than repeating the same pattern, Johnston assures that each skirmish is different. Each of the captains is given the chance to show their bloody skill set.
Maleficent is as fantasy novel for fans of the genre who want to read something a little different. It is a fantasy novel, but also has action, comedy, and pace. By focusing on bad people, there is more of a sense of the unexpected. Wheels are working within wheels; betrayals can happen at any point. Even among this sickened group of people, some are worse than others. You know that an alchemist must be awful when you start siding with a flesh tearing vampire.
Written on 6th August 2021 by Sam Tyler .