Sebastien de Castell, The Malevolent Seven (2023)

Author: Sebastien de Castell

Title: The Malevolent Seven

Format: e-book

Pages: 384

Series: ?

I started my adventure with de Castell’s novels a few years back, with the Spellslinger series. It was recommended to me by several people, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Will and Mogsy here. They were right, the Spellslinger series is quite fun. I enjoyed the first installment moderately; it wasn’t either bad enough, or good enough, to merit a review, or a decision to continue – but when I saw a new de Castell book, set in a different universe and for all intents and purposes seemingly (that is, until I read it) standalone, I decided to give it a chance.

And once again, The Malevolent Seven is not a bad book. It is fun, in the light entertainment+popcorn way that enjoys its own, quite roomy niche across the genres, and a significant popularity among readers. It is immensely readable, the words are flowing, the action chugs along merrily, the mood never becomes too morose nor the stakes too keenly felt. But that’s it: it’s the read-and-forget kind of book, an airport staple, where nothing really touches the reader, nothing really makes them think or feel. A disposable good, nice to have but not really necessary – if you forget your copy on a plane, you just shrug and move on, and are not necessarily devastated you’re never going to know how it ends. 

If that sounds condemning, that is not my intention. It’s reasonably entertaining and can even be fun while it lasts and the reader doesn’t stop to think about the plot holes along the way. There is a certain quality to de Castell’s writing, a conformity to the major tropes linked with poking gentle fun at some slighter ones – a safe, contained rebellion measured to appease the largest possible audience. I could see many similarities between the protagonists of the Spellslinger series and The Malevolent Seven: a certain immaturity and naivety, a goodness of heart covered in thick, calloused skin that can nevertheless be peeled off to show the gold inside. There is a high level of constant snarkiness that becomes tiresome to the reader, and other characters, but never to the protagonist himself. A tortured past, gradually revealed, that informs and guides the present. Conspiracies and fights in which the protagonist is invariably the key ingredient. There isn’t much to say about the supporting cast – they are rather two-dimensional, as befits a story focused solely on the main character. Have I mentioned immaturity? Both Spellslinger and The Malevolent Seven are guilty of that particular sin: the juvenile-seeming obsession with self that plagues many a title in UF and YA genres. The Malevolent Seven, however, beyond a limited magic system, doesn’t offer much in terms of worldbuilding, either. We visit a few places, even a different plane of existence, but they all seem only sketched out, and very stereotypical. The villain is laughably flimsy, the way they’re recognised as villain and dealt with seems rushed and way too convenient, further destroying any suspension of disbelief the reader might’ve desperately clung to.

Shoot. Once again, that sounds rather condemning. Alas, that’s on me. I guess I just shouldn’t have requested and read this poor book when what I really wanted was something more tangible, thought-provoking and substantial. You see, I didn’t actively dislike The Malevolent Seven. I didn’t consider DNFing it, for one, and actually read it pretty quickly. It just felt entirely forgettable, only mildly amusing, and eventually rather disappointing. But even the disappointment was fleeting, lasting only as long as it took me to shrug and close my Kindle. Not bad, not good, just… middling. I appreciate the chance to read The Malevolent Seven, but I won’t be reading any more by de Castell.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.

Score: 5/10 stars

31 thoughts on “Sebastien de Castell, The Malevolent Seven (2023)

    1. It’s one of those tiresome “I’ve convinced myself I’m terribly bad but really I’m just super good and cuddly misunderstood care bear” characters who plague a lot of recent “subversive” fantasy. I can only say I’m joining you on this particular front 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Sorry this didn’t work for you, Ola. I enjoyed the first Spellslinger book but I didn’t feel the need to continue. Or maybe I read the second book, I don’t remember! In any case, I’m not really interested in this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tammy!
      Yep, totally get that, they’re basically in equal measure interchangeable and forgettable! I learned my lesson, that’s for sure 😅


  2. Your review made me think of those little trains that you find in amusement parks or shopping centres. They are kind of cute, and handy when you are old and cranky, or a little kid, but not exactly the ride you were hoping for.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that was definitely not the ride I was hoping for. In my defense, it was marketed as funny, witty and subversive (without quotation marks) and I fell for that nefarious ploy! Lesson learned, though, so there are positives to this situation 😉


  3. Strewth, you’re a picky reviewer, aren’t you?! But then, that’s why I enjoy your reviews – you don’t hold back, and you read and if need be crit stuff harshly so I don’t have to. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “””mildly amusing, and eventually rather disappointing”””
    I guess that this book might be good for a light read or an intermission between darker stories, although your comments about the childish disposition of the main character are not very encouraging…. 😉
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a quick and relatively painless read; that’s the extent of my praise, I’m afraid – the plot doesn’t make much sense and the characters are cardboard cutouts, but if you need something light, there are certainly worse choices out there, Maddalena! 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  5. With that title, I was expecting the book to be a YA version of The Seven Samurai or The Magnificent Seven. But I’m always happy to learn of books/authors I don’t need to read. Thanks, Ola!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was my hope, too, Betsy! But the analogies were very superficial, not much beyond the number itself, and nothing at all in terms of themes and thoughts.

      Welp, it’s always the problem of striking balance between trying something new in the hopes it’ll turn out good, and keeping to something tried and tested that we already know will be good 😉

      Next time will be better, hopefully! 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Popcorny is definitely the style the author is going for! I have read many of his books and substance wise I can definitely see why why his work would feel lacking, but in terms of just pure fun it does the trick. Your description of this being light and fun makes me look forward to picking it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the adult series by this author, it is more mature and it has the perfect, for me, balance between grim and humor. I enjoyed the first two books of the Spellsinger series, up to a point, but I am not the biggest fan of that, but this one I really enjoyed. I agree with you about the worldbuilding and the villains, and it feels more juvenile than The Greatcoats series, but I had a really really good time with this one. And I am sorry that it didn’t work out so well for you, but at least you didn’t hate it!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thaaanks? I’m not exactly sure how to take “was fun, but not enough to merit a review or continuation”. It seems a grey area, Ola 😂 And I’m not sure you need to write him off completely after one book— I mean, if you did that, you’d never have read any more Salinger!

    Liked by 1 person

                1. Oh, he was a self-centered, hormone-driven, incredibly whiny teenager, which is practically the definition of “dick”. But he was authentic in that enough to make you hate him! 😁 Spellslinger, on the other hand, portrayed an idealized middle-aged memory of being a teenager – and that’s nowhere near authentic in my book 😉

                  Liked by 1 person

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