Looking for a Halloween Gift Idea? Try The Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy
This book is a stand alone novel set in the world of Skulduggery Pleasant but since it is truly stand alone new readers don't need to know the series to enjoy Tanith's adventures. She used to be one of the good guys, an Adept who worked for the English then the Irish Sanctuary using her Adept magical skills and sword to fight monsters and magical bad guys. Simple enough.
But then she got bonded to a Remnant a shadowy creature that pretty much takes over the host and turns them into a nearly unstoppable killing machine. And Remnants hate everything in the world except the coming of the one called Darquesse. And since she loves Darquesse so very much Tanith is willing to do anything to help her. Including stealing and destroying four God Killer weapons.
Although marketed to younger readers there's plenty of meat here for adults to enjoy, and please bear in mind that this is a darker novel and recommended for readers eleven and up. All images are scans of my own copy of the novel. If you own the rights to any material used herein and want credit and a link or something removed, please let me know.
WARNING: Massive spoilers ahead
The Maleficent Seven
The novel follows Tanith and her quest to rid the world of four God Killer weapons built by the Ancient Ones. She is doing this to protect Darquesse who she knows the real identity of so that when Tanith's vision of Darquesse destroying most of the world comes true there will be no way for mortal or mage to stop her.
But as wonderful as her sword and sorcery skills are Tanith although Remnant enhanced needs a team of bad guys to help her in this epic quest. Among them are her lover Billy-Ray, a vampire named Dusk, and other popular bay guys from the series including Black Annis and Springheeled Jack.
There is a team of seven good guys out to stop her however, although they just happen to be going for the weapons at the same time because they want to kill Darquesse. They include a variety of mages, each with his or her own skill set, plus they are handy in a fight and with guns and all sorts of other weaponry.
As the opposing teams travel the globe they must fight their way to each weapon and of course fight amongst themselves on Tanith's side. As her goal of the fourth and final weapon draws closer she starts handing out rewards. Only being a Remnant they aren't the kind of rewards anyone would want...
Tanith in the novel seems at times to be pure Remnant and she often refers to herself as such, but at other times she is the old Tanith or a combination of the two, and there are conflicting views of whether if captured she could ever be cured by removing the Remnant.
You get a lot of her backstory in flashbacks and you get to see how much she has changed. The old Tanith, the one fans loved was hyper, bouncy and fun to be with. And while Remnant Tanith still acts the same knowing there is no longer any warmth or love behind it makes her downright scary.
Still there is just enough of her left that she chooses to spare certain people at times even while she now clearly delights in killing. The Remant inside her, being thousands of years old has added every bit of experience it has to her, turning Tanith into a nearly perfect killing machine. But fans needn't worry since there are plenty of fights and Tanith's victories are not always a sure thing.
Derek Landy on Tanith Low and the Maleficent Seven
"I'm not evil. But Tanith is. You kind of forget that sometimes, but she is. She's evil..."-— Sabine
Tanith we learn was abandoned by her parents in a dank and miserable place away from the world of mortals to be trained as an assassin. Disliked and tormented by the others she is intensely lonely, but she learns her trade well, even passing the test of her first kill. After she is changed, and the hidden strength of her character starts to show.
She returns to her family upon graduation but things are never really the same and she moves on. She plies her trade for decades but as the world of mortals she moves in changes in the 1960s and 1970s so does Tanith. Music becomes her shelter and her lifeline back to her own humanity and she starts protecting people by fighting the bad guys.
Tanith eventually winds up working for both the English and Irish Sanctuaries and is one of the good guys. Until the Remnant takes over. Then she becomes something so terrible that even her assembled team of bad guys don't want to argue with her, despite her keeping her optimistic and rather perky personality.
Readers will notice though at times she returns to her training all too well or just shows the truth of being bound to a Remnant. She can suddenly become cold and unfeeling and the rewards she has in store for her team prove just how cold she can be.
Billy-Ray is a functioning sociopath according to Landy and that pretty much tells you all you need to know about him. An Adept like Tanith his specialty in Tunneling which means he can travel through the ground or walls ease. Good looking he almost always wears his signature sunglasses to cover up the fact that he has no eyes.
Which you won't be told in this novel, but he very calmly plucked out himself one day and now he can see better than people with eyes and for the love of all that is good please don't try that at home. Billy-Ray's weapon of choice is his magical straight razor that leaves scars that never heal if the victim is lucky enough to escape and as he is the Hitman Deluxe they usually aren't. He's truly in love with Tanith and blissfully ignores the fact that she doesn't love him even with a Remnant inside her.
The problem for Tanith of course is that he is also sneaky and always has ulterior motives to everything he does, in love with her or not. He is also homicidal to the extreme and all it would take is one time too many of Tanith flaunting relationships in his face...
Like the other bad guys Jack is also an Adept, though there are debates as to what particular species he belongs to. Jack is described as old and we know he is at least several hundred years old but he seems to be aging rapidly, rather like Black Annis because he is so lonely. Jack isn't a fool and describes himself as a monster and to most folks that is exactly what he is.
Jacks main skills are his manic savagery and fighting ability. In fights he uses his hardened nails, leaping ability and pretty much his entire body as a weapon. He loves to kill and you most likely don't want to know what he does with the bodies.
Despite an appearance that frightens women Jack falls in love for the first time (at least that the reader is aware of) with Sabine. He knows very well that he frightens and repulses her, but still follows her around helplessly besotted, much to Sabine's disgust.
The woman who is in love with him, Black Annis, absolutely repulses him and that is interesting as when Annis becomes angry she grows nails and teeth you'd think Jack would find attractive. In the end it doesn't really matter who is in love with who as Tanith has a nasty idea of rewards.
Poor Annis is seen as a monster and to be fair she does eat people. Of course her rotten childhood may have had something to do with it. Although only several hundred years old like Jack she seems to have aged rapidly for a mage, perhaps due to sheer loneliness. By and large Annis has gotten used to being alone and even likes it until she sees Jack.
To her he is the most handsome of men but as she has never had a friend except Scrannel at one point she has no idea how to win him. Her abilities are also Adept (you get the distinct idea here all bad guys are Adepts) and are related to her anger. When truly enraged her jaw dislocates to make room for teeth that can easily go through bone and her fingernails becomes claws that can rip through magical clothing meant to protect the wearer.
Not even a vampire, and Lady's vampire's are fearsome monsters is any match for Black Annis at full strength. She also has the wonderful defense of having her skin turn blue and become tougher than any armour. Despite all this she repulses Jack and you can't help but feel sorry for Annis who like so many monsters wanted only to be loved. And to eat people.