Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha
Urban fantasy romance released by Tor Books on July 28, 2020
Knox is the bitter, battle-weary captain of the Silver Devils. His squad of supersoldiers went AWOL to avoid slaughtering innocents, and now he’s fighting to survive.
They’re on a deadly collision course, and the passion that flares between them only makes it more dangerous. They could burn down the world, destroying each other in the process…
Or they could do the impossible: team up.
This is a wonderful start to what I hope will be a great series. The book deals with several issues that might be uncomfortable for some readers, and the authors have provided content warnings on their site for those issues. Generally, this is an intense book. It is set in a dystopian future on Earth where society has collapsed and is run by dangerous entities with a firm hold on everything, including technology, medical research, and information of any kind. The main characters in this series are broken down into two teams. On the mercenary side, there’s Knox and his team, who are hiding out from the big bad entity because they refuse to follow orders to kill innocent people anymore. There’s a slight hitch with that plan, which is why they end up collaborating with the mercenary librarians (which the authors described as Murder Ladies in one tweet). Nina is the leader of the mercenary librarians, and their mission is to help all the normal people trying to survive in this dystopian world. Nina is a problem solver; if you put her in a hard situation, she will figure a way out of it without sacrificing the people she holds dear and get what she originally wanted. Part of this is preparation, but the rest is thinking on her feet and thinking outside the box. Knox is a planner, and he is less used to thinking outside the box. This is the cause for a lot of the conflict between Nina and Knox, along with secrets neither of them is aware of at the beginning of the book.
Nina is interested in information, but not just to hoard it like a dragon. She wants it because moving it around gets her money, and because she can use that money to set up systems to help people in her city get better food and education and healthcare. That’s why she agrees to work with Knox, because he offers her information she cannot say no to. But despite all her bad previous experiences, she still believes that people are good, that they aren’t always trying to get one over on you and that they can be trusted (within reasonable bounds of logic and commonsense). This is what gets her in trouble with Knox. But it is not entirely his fault, because he also doesn’t have all the puzzle pieces. Whenever the group gets into a tough situation, it is often Nina who figures out how to get out of it. This is true even at the very end of the book. Nina has been trained from a young age to solve problems, and her talent is her unwillingness to sacrifice those she considers as being part of her family/team. She is also deadly. I think Nina does most of the rescuing in this book, with the other members of the teams carrying out her plans. This was satisfying to read, because often, even the most kick butt women end up being rescued by the guy who is the love interest. That being said, Nina is not a lone wolf kind of a hero, because she relies a great deal on her team–Dani and Maya.
Knox joined the private army when he was young, after a traumatic event. But he has always tried his best to help resolve situations without defaulting to violence. This is not to say that he is a bad soldier, just that he is not okay with mass slaughter (which seems like a good thing). But going on the run is not that simple for Knox and company. He has to trick Nina and her team into working with him and his team. He is not super happy with this plan, but as far as he can figure, it is what he has to do to keep his team alive. As he gets to know Nina and her team, he and his team grow more uncomfortable with the trickery. I enjoyed watching Knox’s understanding of the world shift, and his relationship with his team change over the length of the book. Throughout the book, Knox is someone who deeply feels his responsibility to those around him, particularly those in his team. He is willing to sacrifice himself, his happiness, for those he cares for.
The world is also very intricately built. This allows for things to happen that the main characters aren’t aware of, or don’t fully understand. The actual villain is not a specific character, but rather the dangerous entities in control of the military and medical research. Also, it is not so much that Nina and Knox’s conflict is potentially world ending. Rather, they are both incredibly unhappy without each other, despite Knox’s trickery, and they can accomplish so much more when they work together.
I’m looking forward to the next book and seriously contemplating putting this on my re-read pile, despite the violence level. Go, read this book!
You can buy a copy here.