Review: Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha (2020)

Mercenary Librarians, Book #1

Heat Factor: They’re both modified humans, so they can only have super-strength sex with each other. And they do.

Character Chemistry: The fact that you could kill me without breaking a sweat is pretty hot, but I don’t trust you at all…….Dang it, I’m starting to genuinely like you. 

Plot: (Dystopian futuristic landscape) Cross, double-cross, rescue (Loads of fighting)

Overall: Adventure boner for sure.

Where I have landed with this book is: it’s really fun. The cast is fun, with personalities meshing and clashing. The banter is fun. The adventure and badassery is fun. I am 1000% down with two brilliant and lethal teams coming together to do cool, stupendously violent things. The body count that piles up as these seven get down to business is…wow. It’s all wow. 

And it’s well thought out. Any question of “why would this happen this way?” seems to have been considered and addressed, so even if you don’t like what the characters are doing, you probably understand why they are doing it. 

I picked up this ARC because I’ve been wanting to read Kit Rocha (a pen name for an author team), and also the name of this series is Mercenary Librarians, which is perfect. A team of badass librarian-archivists is everything I never knew I wanted. I stayed for the action. There are also many, many feelings in this book, which I felt was more emotion than I’m accustomed to in fantasy. Sometimes I felt this interrupted the flow (Nina sadly recalling her dead sisters initially felt shoehorned in, for example), but as the story progressed and things pulled together, all that emotion was well executed and added lovely depth.

The trio of mercenary librarians includes Nina (our heroine), Dani (the assassin), and Maya (the repository). They become involved with the Silver Devils, a squad of AWOL super soldiers, because Nina is wanted for a trade with a baddie who holds a hostage the squad wants back. The squad includes Garrett Knox (our hero), Gray (the sniper), Rafe (the charm and muscle), and Conall (the hacker). The Silver Devils trick the mercenary librarians into going on a mission so they can make the hostage exchange, but the time it takes to get to the exchange point makes all of the Silver Devils have pangs of conscience because they all make such a darn good team

Ah, the deception plot. My old nemesis, how I actively dislike thee. Because of course Knox realizes that he doesn’t want to trade Nina, but the damage has been done! I have realized that I will need to write an addendum to my rant about deception plots, because one thing about this plotline that is even more enraging than its existence in the first place is when one protagonist comes to have that extremely difficult confession conversation, and the other protagonist is all, “Shh, talking is bad. Let’s just have lots of sex.” So of course the first protagonist, who doesn’t want to have the conversation in the first place, gets distracted, and then the secret is out in the worst way, and I just want to punch everyone in the throat. 

As I said above, everyone’s feelings make sense in this book. But Nina cut people off from speaking a lot (not only Knox when he went to confess), and by the time they’re all having to deal with the final showdown, I wanted to yell at her that, yeah, her feelings are a whole valid thing, but so are other people’s, and steamrolling them because you don’t want to listen is, um, not great leadership. 

Also, the worthiness/forgiveness dynamic created by the redemption portion of the deception plot usually becomes an extremely tough sell for me, and this was no exception. Is the wronged protagonist truly forgiving/understanding and thinking of the lying protagonist as an equal partner (and does the lying protagonist understand that)? Or does it feel like the lying protagonist is in a space of perpetual grovel/thankfulness for being taken back?

In other news, there’s a good bit of subplot going on for the other members of the team, which is really fun if you like the dynamic of the team, but which also could have been pared down in favor of the later books in the series. Even without it, there’s enough crumb dropping to give us the lay of the land for the future relationships we’d like to see fleshed out in future books. As it stands, there are already two potential relationships that have a reasonably solid foundation, so I don’t know if 1) in future books, if these relationships are pursued, how they will have dramatic growth and 2) not reading book one in the series will work for understanding the relationships. But I’m ready to be wowed, because the foundations for those romances (should they come to be) are delicious.

TL;DR – The dynamic of the two teams with the deception laced into their relationship made the story fun, but it made the romantic relationship of the protagonists less fun. That said, Nina and Knox are pretty cute together, at least until the deception is revealed. The worldbuilding and the badass fight scenes are great. This is probably going to be a really fun series to follow.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

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