The Malevolent Seven by Sebastien de Castille
Publication Date: May 16, 2023
Summary from NetGalley:
“Seven powerful mages want to make the world a better place. We’re going to kill them first.”
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. That 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 rescue some very bad people to help us on this job…
ARC provided by Hachette Book Group via NetGalley for an honest review.
This was a funny and engaging read that had me smiling and laughing at all of the characters antics. But don’t be thinking this is a light read, it’s not, it is quite dark, violent and gritty. This group is so dysfunctional, and yet even though they often want to kill each other, deep down you can tell that they love each other, or at least don’t totally despise each other. They are all antiheroes who despite themselves end up almost saving the day.
Cade is the sole narrator, and he was perfect for the job. I loved his sarcastic banter, his way of talking to his audience/reader, and his whole attitude about not being able to redeem himself because of all of the horrible things he has done. Cade also has secrets that he hides from his companions but are slowly revealed to us over the course of the book. But even with all of that, he is still quite likable and relatable.
The other characters are not as well developed as Cade, especially Alice and Shame, but you get to know them well enough that you develop a fondness for them. I really liked Corrigan, who is Cade’s companion, not sure friend quite fits, from the start. He has an affinity for thunder and fire, and pretty much will just kill you if you annoy him to much.
The big highlight of this story was the magical system. I loved it and thought it to be unique, or at least I have never come across anything like it before. The wonderists/mages, draw on powers from other universes/alternate worlds to create their magic. In this way they are able to circumnavigate around our laws of physics. Each mage is attuned to one of these worlds and is only able to draw magic from it. It is explained better in the book, but you get the gist. Some of the affinities were really interesting.
The story is well done, with a pretty fast pace and lots of action. There is a tiny bit of info dumping by Cade, explaining the world to the reader, but it is done in a humorous way for the most part and I really didn’t mind it. There is a lot of mythology, religion and magical history woven throughout the book as well as politics. Oh the politics, this will send your head spinning trying to understand it all, but in the end it doesn’t really matter if you do or not. The world is well developed and the characters fit into this messed up place very well.
I have not been able to find any indication that this is going to be a series, but it damn well better be, because we are left hanging at the end of this one. If you are a fan of this author’s work, I think you will enjoy this one. If you are into antiheroes who don’t particularly like each other, or even necessarily want to save the world, this is a book you should consider reading.