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…
Much as I totally loved the more recent Skulduggery Pleasant books, they were sadly lacking one very important element: Tanith Low! She has always been my favourite Skulduggery character and with each new volume I hoped for her return, only to be disappointed However, Derek Landy has now made amends for this by writing a whole novella devoted entirely to bad Tanith and I am happy to report that it is more kick-ass than a box set of Buffy.
Remnant-possessed Tanith is determined that Darquesse will be successful in bringing an end to the world. However, she knows that the forces of good (aka Skulduggery, Val and friends) will do everything in their power to prevent this, and this could mean using any of the four God-Killer weapons. With the aid of her lover, the sadistic hitman Billy Ray Sanguine, she recruits a team of villains, each with their own special attributes. How does she get such reprobates on board? Simple - she promises to give them the things that they each desire over anything else. This gang becomes her Maleficent Seven - obviously a play on the classic western film, though given their nastiness the group have more in common with the Dirty Dozen.
Unfortunately for Tanith (but fortunately for the rest of the world), the forces of good are on to her plan, and they assemble their own team to try to recover the God-Killer weapons before she can destroy them. Readers should not expect this Seven to contain Skulduggery and Valkyrie though: although the book is a must-read and acts as a fill-in between Kingdom of the Wicked and the (at time of writing this review) untitled Book 8, this is not part of their story and they do not make any kind of appearance.
This book shows us a Tanith we haven't seen before. Fans of the series will know that she is a master of combat, but in this book we also see her to be a master tactician and planner, although with the remnant in control she is not a force for good. In fact, she is conniving and devious, and not to be trusted at all, even by the despicable members of her gang, if they know what's good for them.
As well as the main story, Derek landy also includes some back history for one of his characters (no prizes for guessing which one), scattered throughout the book as mini-chapters. We see a young girl, deserted by her parents as they leave her in the hands of the man who is to be her mentor and trainer. As the book progresses we watch the girl go through a brutal training regime, make her first kill, and then eventually see her released back into the world as a fully trained assassin. These interludes do distract slightly from the plot, but they make up for this by giving us a long waited for insight into the back history of this great character.
Despite the absence of his two main characters, this book has everything else that readers have come to expect from a Derek Landy book: it's full of action, humour and, of course, scintillating dialogue. I have always felt that Landy does dialogue better than Tarantino and this book is overflowing with banter that is better than you will find in many of the classic buddy movies.
The Maleficent Seven was published in hardback at the end of last month and it's a great addition to the Skulduggery Pleasant series. However, I do have one small gripe - it simply isn't long enough and come the final page I just wanted more. At just over 280 pages it is significantly shorter than the last few Skulduggery Pleasant books and I felt it could easily have worked with another hundred pages or so.
My thanks go to the lovely people at HarperCollins for sending me a copy of the book.