Kit Rocha’s pragmatic, chaotic optimists have gotten me through the last few years. I’m going to need a bunch of you to buy Deal With the Devil and The Devil You Know, or request that your library buy them, so that I get more of these post-apocalyptic do-gooding murder ladies and sourdough making supersoldier daddies to help me hold onto hope amid the rising tide of authoritarianism, the crumbling wall between church and state, and the increased concentration of wealth into a few hands. I find myself attracted to books where the characters must struggle for the right to make their own choices and determine their own futures, and the protagonists survive and thrive. I’ve reread Martha Well’s Murderbot Diaries, and Kit Rocha’s books on a constant loop because they articulate my anxieties and then give me the inspiration to keep fighting. If I were a trope, I would be the grumpy one and this book would be the sunshine one.
The Mercenary Librarians do more than make sure their community gets books, education, entertainment, and a safe place to go during times of need and extreme weather. They also save children being trafficked, give people alternatives to being ground under the heel of corporations, and will sit on you until you choose hope over despair. TechCorps and the other corporate entities that control the East Coast in the post-apocalypse want to make themselves the only choice for survival. A desperate, dependent populace is more likely to allow TechCorps to modify them to best suit TechCorps needs. The Mercenary Librarians are working to provide options, to give people the freedom to make choices and be human beings, not malleable, replaceable resources.
Deal With the Devil established the outline of this found family. Like a sexy superpowered Brady Bunch, Nina and Knox’s blended family can do more good together than they could alone. Nina is the heart of the group, the love that binds everyone together. Knox and the Silver Devils have taken to domesticity like a duck who can kill you 10 ways takes to water. One of the great joys of reading Kit Rocha is that the books build on one another. Though the focus may shift to other characters, the world, the family, and the community are integral to the story. Characters adopted into the family in this book will continue to grow and develop through subsequent books.
Maya doesn’t have the physical abilities of the others, but she holds her own among the murder ladies and supersoldiers. Her enhanced brain means she remembers everything she hears, reads, learns, experiences. Sensory overload is a danger for her, but she’s learned to live life and take care of herself. Grey is dying. As the Silver Devils sniper, he is used to keeping a distance and watching the action. Grey wants to use the time he has remaining with Maya and making sure she is safer when he is no longer there to protect her. Grey’s impending death acts as a catalyst for two very careful people to take chances. The romance is slow, careful, and sweet. There are no big betrayals, only a recalibration of expectations.
The Devil You Know is not as adventure heavy as Deal With the Devil. It feels like the turning point though. Maya has thought of herself as a refugee, fighting to make a bright corner in an overlooked part of Atlanta. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that bigger changes need to happen and the Mercenary Librarians will be at the heart of it.