I love a good “getting the team back together trope”. There is something so fun about going down a list of unlikely allies and having the hero show up on their doorsteps and convince them to come back for one. Last. Job. It’s a simple and easy plot device, but it does a great job of building natural tension and emotional payoff without the need for a ton of context. So, when I saw that Cameron Johnson had written a villain-based version of The Magnificent Seven, called The Maleficent Seven, I requested an ARC as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the book did not live up to my excitement.
Maleficent Seven has a fairly cut and clean story. Once upon a time, a grand villainess named Black Herren built up an army to take over the world. On the eve of their grand victory to take over the world, Herren grew tired of the constant infighting of her six generals and abandoned her own cause to go live in the woods and start a family. This caused the army to disband with a lot of negative feelings all around. Now, many years later, a new villain has arisen to destroy the world and threatens the family that Black Herren built. Thus, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and re-recruit her old generals to teach this upstart what true villainy is about.
The problem with Maleficent Seven is that the high-level premise simply doesn’t have enough depth beyond its elevator pitch. Black Herren’s decision to get the band back together feels extremely contrived and it was hard to build goodwill for the character. This isn’t helped by the fact that Herren’s first move is to recruit her right-hand woman, a necromancer named Maeven. Once Maeven is recruited, Herren falls off the edge of the page and Maeven leads the recruitment initiative for the next third of the book. The result is that I grew very attached to Maeven, but once all the team had been convinced to join up I found myself completely uninvested in Herren’s goals. I ended up quitting the book about two-thirds of the way through because I just didn’t care about the plot.
Despite quitting, I did enjoy reading about Maeven traveling around and pulling in all these all old villains. There is a great mix of bad boys including a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish war leader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist. However, the next problem arises from the fact that the meetups of the old frenemies felt too rushed. Maleficent Seven felt like it was sprinting through the recruitment portion of the story to get back to “plot”, which meant that the part of the book I liked most felt rushed to get back to the part I didn’t really care about. The characters are fun, but they aren’t particularly deep or original. They embody their tropes, and they are good tropes, but there isn’t a whole lot extra there.
The Maleficent Seven is a fun reimagined romp of The Magnificent Seven. Unfortunately, not enough was added to the premise to fully engage me as a reader and I ended up falling off the bandwagon. It is definitely possible that you might love this short and sweet story, but it failed to maintain my attention.
Rating: The Maleficent Seven – DNF/10
An ARC of this book was provided to us in exchange for an unbiased review. The thoughts on this story are my own.