Book Review: “The Maleficent Seven” by Derek Landy

There are few book series that I have patience for if they go beyond 3 books and that patience is further diminished for series that result in various spin-offs.  This is not so for the Skulduggery Pleasant series.  The series is now up to 8 books with various novellas and the new spin-off novel featuring Tanith Low.  Even given this legion of books, I am continually in awe of how the story and its characters grow.  So much so that even though only the first three books have been released in the US (one of the biggest oversights among a pile of oversights and mistakes made by the American Publishing Industry) I import them from the UK as soon as they are released at great cost and it is totally worth it!  Also, it is kinda cool to get packages from the Royal Mail . . . anyway, time for the review!

Book Description:

This time, the bad guys take the stage.

Tanith Low, now possessed by a remnant, recruits a gang of villains – many of whom will be familiar from previous Skulduggery adventures – in order to track down and steal the four God-Killer level weapons that could hurt Darquesse when she eventually emerges. Also on the trail of the weapons is a secret group of Sanctuary sorcerers, and doing his best to keep up and keep Tanith alive is one Mister Ghastly Bespoke.

When the villains around her are lying and scheming and plotting, Tanith needs to stay two steps ahead of her teammates and her enemies. After all, she’s got her own double-crosses to plan – and she’s a villain herself…

My Review:

5/5 Devious, yet lovable, villains

As the description mentions, this book doesn’t follow Valkyrie or Skulduggery.  In fact, these heroes of the other eight books don’t even make an appearance.  This, combined with the fact that this book focuses on villains, makes for a distinctly unique experience in the Skulduggery Pleasant universe.  Sometimes its good to be bad and there are few better companions on such a walk down the wild side than Tanith Low and Billy-Ray Sanguine.  Now, those of you who have read the only three books published in America, you may be confused by that last sentence and might say: “Tanith is a good guy; what are you talking about?”  Well, Derek Landy has made a hobby of tormenting, torturing, and otherwise making Tanith’s literary life hell.  You see, he intended Tanith to die at the end of the first book.  The agent thought that was too depressing and convinced Landy to change her fate.  In response, Landy has been taking vengeance upon her in every book since.  This culminates in the fifth book, just when things are starting to look rosy for Tanith, when a remnant (think concentrated and sentient evil) takes up residence inside of her, turning her into a sociopath.  After this moment, she becomes an independent bent on world destruction.  I always liked her character; however, I like her much more as a villain.   Anyway, she serves as our guide to the darkside in this novel and she is fabulous in this role.

One of my favorite things about Landy’s books are the secondary characters.  From the villains who get maybe 2 total pages in a 500 page book to the hilarious and unique heroes that might only show up in one chapter, these characters are often the unlikely stars of the books.  This book takes many of these incredible characters and  features them.  It was marvelous to spend more time with these characters, hopping across rooftops with Spring-Heeled Jack or tunneling through the ground with Billy-Ray Sanguine.  Additionally, getting a deeper understanding of what makes these characters tick was a great insight to these seldom highlighted characters.  Giving these secondary characters a chance to shine is a genius idea and I couldn’t have been more happy with the experience.

While I have only been highlighting the villains in this review, Landy does feature some secondary hero characters in this novel.  Characters we’ve known and loved from their brief exposure in the other books get more room to stretch and shine and a couple new characters that are bound to become new favorites.  The stand-out stars in this group are the monster hunters, Gracious O’Callahan and Donegan Bane, who are new characters in this book but I’m sure will make appearances in those to come.  Their banter and lighthearted humor in even the most brutal situations is impossible to dislike.  That said, the real stars are the bad guys and Landy is one of the best bad guy writers out there.

Landy is extremely comfortable with anti-heroes and villains, something that shines through in each of the Skulduggery Pleasant books, but only really has gotten a chance to run free with it in this novel, and it is exhilarating.  The characters are well presented with varying motivations and goals and enough background to inform readers unfamiliar with the characters from previous novels, while retaining enough mystery to be intriguing enough to draw those readers to the other books.

The action is well written, as always, and often has a Tarentino feel . . . except MUCH better written.  The flow is fast and extremely kinetic, cinematic, and dirty as an alleyway street fight!  With other authors, you often end up with a snoozefest between fights, not so with Landy.  Despite how intense the combat scenes are, the energy generated by such scenes is never sucked away by calm moments; instead, this energy is converted into humor, intense intrigue, and visceral sense of foreboding.  This makes for constant movement and reader involvement without resulting in reader fatigue.  Like his other books, the minute you turn the last page of one book you will immediately want to start the next book.  This works out great with “Maleficent Seven” as the 8th Skulduggery book was released a couple weeks afterward, so I was able to jump right into the next (and ERMIGHERD, so good!).

All of Landy’s books are readable as individual novels.  Each story arc is ended in each novel, which means you can read the fourth book before reading the first three and still have no problems enjoying yourself.  That said, you miss out on some of the character growth throughout the novels.  That is where this book excels as a companion.  While this book takes place directly after the events in book seven of Skulduggery Pleasant, all the characters in “Maleficent Seven” are secondary and tertiary characters, so you miss nothing in the character growth and experience.  The obvious exception to that being Tanith; however, Landy does an excellent job of informing the reader of her past by including her backstory in short vignettes throughout the novel.  By explaining it in this manner, including things the readers of previous books won’t know along with things they will know, it doesn’t result as a halt in the flow of the novel or seem like recap for those familiar with the other books.

The ending is, frankly, perfect.  There is enough of a triumph for the bad guys to make you happy for rather guiltily rooting for them the whole book while being balanced by enough of a doorway for the good guys to recover so you don’t feel TOO guilty for cheering on the bad guys.  I can’t wait to see how the events in this novel play out for Tanith and the other characters in any books that come.

The biggest issue with this book, is the availability of the book itself.  If you are in the UK, you can get it with no problem.  If you are in the states, it will be more of an issue and an increased price point.  That said, I WILL be importing it and the 8th Skulduggery Book.  So, you’ll be able to check it out in the next couple months.  However, this just goes to show how STUPID American Publishing can be.  Seriously, Harper Collins: What is wrong with you?!?  Only the first three books?  The first book was awarded best Irish Book of the Decade . . . THE DECADE!  Why the dozens of vapid, uninteresting series with no end and only the first three books of such an amazing series?  A series who’s stories are hands down better and more imaginative than Harry Potter, characters who are smart and capable and GROW throughout the series instead of stagnant poster children for borefest 3000, a female main character that reads as completely real and entirely capable of tearing Katniss Everdeen in half without breaking a sweat (though she wouldn’t do it unless she had to), and world building that is almost without par among modern literature . . . C’mon Harper Collins . . . you should know better!  Okay . . . I may have gone a little overboard and off-topic there.  I apologize, but I’m not wrong!  Bad move, Harper Collins.  😛

All-in-all this is a wonderful companion to the Skulduggery series while also functioning as a great spin-off, independent novel, and introduction to the series.  You’ll feel like you’re strapped to an ICBM screaming through the atmosphere, powered by magic, action, hilarity and you’ll love every second of the trip.  I can honestly say I would love to see more books that focus on the dark side of the Skulduggery Pleasant world . . . Especially if it has more of Billy-Ray Sanguine!  Seriously, he is such a great sociopathic book crush!  We all love a bad-boy, after all!

Have you read it?  Let me know what you think in comments!

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