Unless something extraordinary happens, The Maleficent Seven will be in my top 3 books of the year! It wasn't what I expected but that just added to the enjoyment.
The Maleficent Seven is set in a pretty brutal world. 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 war leader, 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. Now 40 years later, Black Herran must bring her former captains back together for one final stand in the small town of Tarnbrooke where she's been hiding out.
You may look at the types of captains Black Herran has and think that those don't sound like good people, and you'd be right. You're essentially cheering on the bad guys because there are bad guys and then there are even worse bad guys. I've always been a fan of dark characters - I love Luke Skywalker (who doesn't?) but I'm all for the Empire and Darth Vader. So reading characters that are brutal in nature and will do anything to win isn't new to me, yet there was something about this that makes it all different and it's that there are even worse people. You want them to win, not just because they're cool and sometimes funny, but because it's quite clear that they're just wanting to save the world from worse people.
The characters are well fleshed out and surprisingly endearing - Tiranach is an exceptional character who is referred to as the god of war and seems to get more vibrant and younger the more he fights, even though he doesn't know that his problems for the past 40 years is a complete lack of war. Lorimer the vampire lord is also so well written that even though he's a monster you can't help by like him. Both characters were hilarious in their own way, but also quite savage in nature.
Every character was captivating in their own way, even side characters like Penny who is just a normal human that comes into play during the second half of the books, and it just made me want to keep reading and meeting more people because it never felt over-crowded. Just don't get too attached to characters. There's death, lots of death.
The pacing of the story is superb. It's all go from the beginning and even in its slower moments there's still plenty to keep you going and entertained - and the slower moments aren't that slow, just a change of pace to keep things interesting.
The only thing I'd have liked to see a bit more of is from The Falcon Prince. You get a little bit, but a bit more would have been nice in selling how deranged he was. A chapter of two from his perspective would have been great. It's not needed but it would have been nice.
If lots of gore and bad language isn't your thing, then best to avoid this. But if you don't mind that and want characters that you'll love with non-stop action (the final quarter (final third?) is just pure action) and a captivating story then this is a book to read. It's a standalone novel that concludes everything nicely, with some prologues tieing up loose ends. It's not often that you finish a book and can't think of any negative, but here we are. I loved it and even though I read a digital copy thanks to NetGalley, a physical copy is definitely needed for my shelves.