Review: Deal with the Devil

https://bookshop.org/a/4814/9781250209368

So…I haven’t been much in the blogging mood. I know I’m not the only one that this quarantine is sitting heavily on. I haven’t been doing a ton of reading, either, for the same reason. BUT – I did reach for a book yesterday, one of the many in my stacks, hoping to find something I could enjoy for a little while. What I got instead was a book that kept me up until a little after 1am.

So, straight up – Kit Rocha’s books are not something in my typical reading list. I am NOT a romance fan. Period. The last romance I read, under duress from a co-worker, was one of the Honey Badger Shifter books by Shelly Laurenston. I will admit to highly enjoying that series, because there was very little actual canoodling and more snark and humor. But I couldn’t turn this one down – MERCENARY LIBRARIANS, PEOPLE.

This is definitely a dystopian read. It takes place in 2086, when everything has changed. There were the Flares, which did damage – severe, but recoverable. However, immediately following those came another threat – and the infrastructure of the U.S. was so weak, that much of civilization as we know it just…collapsed. This particular story takes place around the area of what used to be known as Atlanta, GA – a place where biotech and medical companies took over and basically own all essential services. Food, water, safety – they control it all, and they use hacked soldiers to do it.

Nina is an information broker – she steals the information, and gets paid for doing so. She’s also what passes for a librarian during a time when books have essentially all been destroyed. An ignorant populace is a controllable populace, and so every effort has been made to ferret out and get rid of anything related to books. She does her best, along with her team, to help those around her with the knowledge that she gains – even knowing she risks all their lives doing so. When she’s presented an opportunity to track down one of the fabled Rogue Libraries of Congress – a treasure trove of documents and books, hidden since the Flares – she’s thrown in with a group of AWOL “supersoldiers” with a hidden agenda. Let the games begin.

This is a fast-moving book. Once things kick in – and it doesn’t take long – it just *hauls*. There were a few times I looked up at the clock and thought, “Hm. I should go to bed.”. But I just couldn’t drag myself away from the book. At one point, it was about 11:15pm – the next time I looked up, as I was turning the last page, it was almost 1:30am. Which honestly was great for me, because again – having a hard time finding something that really captured my attention and let me think about something else for a while.

The setting, as I mentioned, the good USofA – though in a vastly different time and with very different circumstances. Having said that – there were times when I read something and recognized it as a possible future from where we are now. Frightening and instructive, all in one. Rocha did a great job really allowing the reader to get a feel for both the changes and the similarities, both in the city and out of it, which truly helped to feel more immersed when dealing with a time so far ahead of our own.

However, in all of that speed, Rocha did not neglect the characters. Nina and Knox – the leaders of their teams. One honest and idealistic, one convinced there’s nothing good left. These are our main characters, both struggling with demons they try to hide from their teams – and from each other. Both are fleshed out more and more as the book goes on, as well as the people around them. I was thankful by the end that this is a series, as I’m anxious to learn more about them all, and while Knox and Nina were central here, it didn’t feel like any of them got shortchanged.

Ok, so the story. Yep – there’s romancey bits. Yes, there’s sex. But honestly (and thankfully for me), none of it felt gratuitous or over the top. I wasn’t reading pages upon pages upon pages of mooning or innuendo or descriptions of body bits doing things with other body bits. Remember – I’m *not* a romance reader. In fact, when I mentioned to a co-worker that I had gotten this arc, I thought she was going to die laughing – she IS a romance reader and knows my tendency to shy away. I think to some degree, the action and adventure toned down the romance some? And the focus wasn’t the romance itself, but the story in which there happened to *be* some romance. If that makes sense? Anyway, there were unexpected twists, there is *definitely* more past to be revealed, and I’m pretty sure there’s a secret person doing hidden deeds in the background and possibly coordinating from a bigger picture than anyone knows? SO MANY POSSIBILITIES! Short version? The sequel will be an insta-buy next year when it’s released.

I’m really glad I focused on the “mercenary librarians” part and NOT the “romance”, because this was a fun, quick, entertaining read that really let me step out of my own brain for a while and enjoy someone else’s. And really – isn’t that what reading is all about? Living – and learning – vicariously, as we journey with someone else?

One last thing – I’m just going to throw this here as a small…clue…to the story. No spoilers, but it’ll make sense after you read the book. Which, by the way, is due out July 28th of this year – so add it to your TBR lists, peeps!

Thank you to Tor for the arc. And if you click on the link under the cover at the top to pre-order, it will take you to bookshop.org – a great way to support indie bookstores everywhere!