The Malevolent Seven by Sebastien De Castell – ARC Review!

Picture a wizard. Go ahead, close your eyes. There he is, see? Skinny old guy with a long straggly beard. No doubt he’s wearing iridescent silk robes that couldn’t protect his frail body from a light breeze. The hat’s a must, too, right? Big, floppy thing, covered in esoteric symbols that would instantly show every other mage where this one gets his magic? Wouldn’t want a simple steel helmet or something that might, you know, protect the part of him most needed for conjuring magical forces from being bashed in with a mace (or pretty much any household object).

Now open your eyes and let me show you what a real war mage looks like . . . but be warned: you’re probably not going to like it, because we’re violent, angry, dangerously broken people who sell our skills to the highest bidder and be damned to any moral or ethical considerations.

At least, until such irritating concepts as friendship and the end of the world get in the way.

My name is Cade Ombra, and though I currently make my living as a mercenary wonderist, I used to have a far more noble-sounding job title – until I discovered the people I worked for weren’t quite as noble as I’d believed. Now I’m on the run and my only friend, a homicidal thunder mage, has invited me to join him on a suicide mission against the seven deadliest mages on the continent.  

Time to recruit some very bad people to help us on this job . . .

De Castell’s Greatcoats is one of my all time favourite series, so you can guess how excited I was to find out he was returning to writing adult fantasy. The Malevolent Seven contained his trade mark wit, incompetent characters who somehow manage to succeed… kinda, and a wondrous magic system. Basically, I loved it.

Cade Ombra is not a good guy. He spends his days working as a mercenary Wonderist, someone who has the ability to access and use magic. When his current job goes sideways fast, he finds himself on the run with Corrigan, another wonderist who offers him a job he would rather refuse… too bad he has nothing else to do. The job though, requires slightly more power than Cade and Corrigan can muster, so now they just have to find five other wonderists to join them on this potential suicide mission… let the recruitment commence.

With The Malevolent Seven, De Castell brings us his regular bunch of semi-competent individuals who are more likely to kill each other than succeed and somehow make them into a found family. None of these characters are good… except for maybe Galass… and they all take this mission with their own goals in mind, but once the mission changes and they start to realise the true danger, they all start to begrudgingly work together… rather more begrudgingly than you’d like considering the fate of humanity hung in the balance. These characters, and their interactions, absolutely made this book for me. Having the majority of them be mercenaries for hire lent a dangerous and questioning air to the story, you never quite knew who you could trust, and who was just playing an incredibly long game. Their interactions were snark filled, sometimes volatile, and filled with humour, and even towards the end of the book, when they had finally come together, there was still that edge of humorous hostility surrounding them.

You base a book around Mages and you expect magic… something we got in spades. Wonderists have the ability to almost leech magic from other planes of existence, something that leads to multiple varieties of wonderists and through them magics. We spend a good bit of time learning about the magic and I enjoyed the descriptions as well as learning about all the different planes where their magic comes from. This obviously added to the world building, which was already pretty well developed. Though we get a boat load of information, and at some points there is quite a lot of telling over showing, I never found it info dumpy in anyway and enjoyed following the characters working out of events.

The writing was pretty typical De Castell… which I adored. It was witty, fast paced and filled with plenty of energy. There were no real slow parts to this story, instead we bounced from battle to battle, some noticeably smaller than others and sometimes just good old friends wanting to murder each other, and with the addition of a few well placed plot twists, The Malevolent Seven was a pretty hard book to put down. But I think the part of the writing I enjoyed the most was how our MC Cade almost broke the fourth wall in parts when he kind of slowed the story down and explained how we got here, or his reasoning, and this gave me very big ‘staring straight into the camera while I’m telling you this bit’ vibes. It made me feel like I was actually part of the story, along on the journey with our bunch of misfits and certainly made the story a little more unique.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was 100% stolen by the characters. De Castell has this knack for writing a bunch of completely morally corrupt characters, who are absolutely not good people, and making you fall in love with them all. You’re impressed that they managed to hold off killing each other by the end of the book, and boy does the ending make you want more. More of the world, more of the characters. I’m not sure if this is going to be a series or not, but I would definitely pick up any sequel that cropped up, especially with the book ending as open as it did. Suffice to say if you enjoy your characters, magic and world on the darker side, aren’t afraid of a little blood and enjoy found families who try to kill each other… this is the book for you.

10 replies »

  1. This such a great review. The love you have for this book burst through it! I knew you’d love it and now I’m even more psyched for the audio and book tour!

    Liked by 1 person

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