I have been anticipating this book for months and was delighted to get an arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Deal With the Devil was everything I wanted it to be. I’ve already read it FOUR times.
Today a drive from Atlanta to Chattanooga would take about two hours, maybe more with traffic and where you start in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area. In Kit Rocha’s Deal with the Devil, it’s about 5 days with decomposing roadways, collapsed bridges, medical emergencies, armed bandits and other post apocalypse adventures. The Mercenary Librarians series is set in the same post-apocalypse future as Kit Rocha’s self published Beyond series, but on the other side of the former United States – in and around Atlanta. You don’t need to know anything about any of their previous books, but fans of the writing duo will recognize a few Easter eggs.
Deal With The Devil is a post apocalyptic road trip adventure with clones, super soldiers, enhanced brains, found family, banter, murderous women, and a side of romance. This is not a thriller where you are trying to guess who is the bad guy or where the twist will come. The bad guy is very explicitly the corporations that created the clones and turned desperate people into super soldiers and tools. The end isn’t even in question – the super soldiers and librarians will team up. The fun is how they get there.
Nina is a clone trained for battle, and she can fight. Her true strength as a bad-ass is not her fighting ability, but her community building ability. She has hope. She values kindness and compassion above survival or comfort. We see her fight occasionally in the book, but it is her heart and idealism that deals the fatal blow to Knox and his team of super soldiers. When Knox challenges her that the world is a brutal and hard place she says:
I’m going to keep trying. Even if it changes nothing.
The conflict is not as much about when and in how many ways Knox will betray Nina. The conflict is centered around how do we survive when survival is hard. Do we try to build a better world where survival is easier for more people, or do we circle the wagons and make sure only the people we care about are protected.
We wouldn’t be proper archivists if we spent all our time digging up the past. People didn’t stop creating after the Flares.” She dropped the last piece of wood on the pile. “We didn’t stop living. That’s an important thing to remember, I think.”
Nina is miles ahead of Knox emotionally. The biggest emotional arc is Knox letting go of the soldier Tech Corp created and becoming the person he wants to be.
Deal With the Devil sets the groundwork for the bigger fights to come in the series. The fights to come in the series are a proxy for what we face in the here and now. This may not be a romance, but Kit Rocha comes from Romancelandia and they have infused this book with hope. We are currently faced with an increasingly difficult survival and an uncertain future. What can we do to make the world better when we aren’t enhanced by genetic manipulation or implants to fight for a better world? Nina’s super powers aren’t what make her a force of change, it’s her choices. She preserves and she builds. She redistributes resources. She offers knowledge freely. She is a librarian.
We all have the power to put good out into the world.
Deal With the Devil is out July 28th. The Devil You Know, which I am already jonesing for, is out April 20, 2021.
Semi-spoilery thoughts – I think a lot of non-romance readers think the point of the sex scenes is titillation, something to go into the spank bank. When Nina and Knox do have sex, it isn’t the gymnastics that are the point, its the emotional vulnerability and trust. Knox has been so survival focused that it isn’t until he crosses that absolute line he set for himself that he is able to let go of who he thought he was. Choosing to be physically and emotionally vulnerable while having sex forces Knox and Nina into crises about who they choose to be in this world.