Figure 1 – Malevolent Seven Cover ©

The great thing about reviewing books is that sometimes surprise packages full of books you never heard of arrive on your doorstep. The bad part is that sometimes, packages of books you wish you’d never heard of arrive on your doorstep. Fortunately, there aren’t that many of the latter. Let me say as a preface that although I read a lot of fantasy, a lot of what I read leaves me cold… tired tropes, lame plots, thin-to-vanishing characters and OMG, the derivative works. So when I found this box of books from Hachette on my doorstep and opened it, the first thing I see is a fantasy with a title that’s obviously a takeoff on the title of one of my favourite Westerns. (The remake, just BTW, was just okay; it was saved by some of the actors, like Chris Pratt and Vincent D’Onofrio.) And the author? Clearly a pseudonym; after all, who in this day is named “Sebastien” with a last name like that? (I said to my wife, “Just wait, he’ll probably be a member of Acadamie Duello.”)

Figure 2 – Sebastien de Castell (Author photo ©Pink Monkey Studios)

”And the author picture (Figure 2)? Fake! Phony! Obviously a male model! I bet this book’s full of the same old same old as mentioned above!” Well, dang. I have to eat my words. a) The author really is so named; b) and the picture, while posed, is actually Sebastien himself (but I’ll bet he really is a member of Academie Duello).

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Academie Duello is a Vancouver-based outfit that claims to be the world’s largest training facility for Italian swordplay and western martial arts. And they’ve recently added axe throwing to their curriculum. For any of my local readers who write medieval fantasy and want to know what they’re talking about in writing sword-based fight scenes, it’s a great place, plus they run a “knight camp” for youth of all ages. (Unsolicited plug, btw.) I’ve been to a couple of book launches there, like Johnny Christmas’s graphic novel of William Gibson’s Alien sequel, and at least one of J.M. Landel’s Alaina’s Song books.

Anyway, I was proven wrong about the author’s name, but it’s some kind of wizardry-type fantasy, and most of them—even Terry Pratchett’s subversive fantasy Discworld series—involve guys wearing pointy hats (or women), chanting spells and so on. So I went ahead and cracked the book; opening to Page 1, which says (in part): “Picture a wizard. Go ahead, close your eyes if you need to… See? Old skinny guy with a long, scraggly beard… The hat’s a…[b]ig, floppy thing, covered in esoteric symbols…” Yep. Just as I thought. Same old “same old.”

But wait! It goes on: “Now open your eyes and let me show you what a real war mage looks like.
’Fall, you pasty-faced little f*ers,’ Corrigan roared.…”

Hmm. Maybe I should read on—so I did. And enjoyed the heck out of it. Corrigan is not the hero of this book; his “best friend” Cade Ombra is hero, protagonist, and narrator. Instead of “wizard,” “mage” (yes, I know, but the term is correct for certain wonderists, like “blood mages”), “warlock” or “witch,” the power-wielders in Sebastien’s book are called “wonderists.” (And, oddly enough, most of the male ones get addressed as “Silord, which is a portmanteau of “Sir” and “Lord.”) There’s a whole, well-thought-out explanation for magic (as we call it), involving what we’d call “good” and “bad” guys, but it’s not necessary to know or understand it to enjoy this story. Oh, and when I say Corrigan is Cade’s best friend, well—the term “best friend” is variable when we’re speaking of wonderists; another of Cade’s “best friends” is a demoniac (a minor demon), to whom Cade sells bits of his soul in exchange for one-time spells. Hey, with friends like those…

Anyway, Cade and Corrigan, with their little group of spellsters (sorry, wonderists), are basicall mercenaries. They sell their services to the highest bidders, no matter their orientation on the good/bad scale.

They’ve come to a certain town because they’re being paid to destroy a castle for a certain Lord Lucien, who is giving them certain benefits, like, f’rinstance, a pair of young people (called “sublimes”), who were raised to believe that whatever their owners want them to do—whatever!—is their highest and greatest moral duty to do. This awful (to me, anyway) bondage is sanctioned by the Celestial Lords, kind of the gods—though I simplify too much—as opposed to the Lords Infernal, who are their opposite.

Anyway, it gets really complicated and Cade and Corrigan, aided by Cade’s demoniac, Tenebris (kind of a shadowy guy, heh heh), go on another quest to save a certain Lord and attain a special Artifact which is sought after by  all wonderists everywhere.

The plot is not terribly straightforward; Sebastien is trying to explain how his take on good and evil people (is Cade evil? He says he is, but he keeps doing good things), on various dimensions and universes—some of which, like the Celestial and Infernal realms, can’t directly cross into Cade’s world, but there are ways around that.) The Celestials are supposed to be the “good” top of the chain, but they can sanction some pretty wicked stuff. All this is going on amongst some pretty madcap action.

There is no way I can even give you the flavour, let alone the complexities, of this particular fantasy. Sebastien has a certain wicked (somewhat nasty) sense of humour. I enoyed it more than I think I should have, but then I have kind of a nasy sense o’humour myself at times. I will definitely have to look up some of his other books. Sebastian is, by the way, a resident of Vancouver, BC., and has won acclaim for other book series. This book is due for release on, I believe, the 16th of this month, by Hachette UK (Jo Fletcher books), so look it up on Amazon.

Comments? Bouquets? Brickbats? I’m here on Amazing Stories® and on Facebook, or you can even comment by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!

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