Book Review: Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Romance
Series: Book 1 of Mercenary Librarians
Publisher: Tor Books (July 28, 2020)
Length: 336 pages
Author Information: Website
Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha is a dystopian adventure with strong undercurrents of sexual tensions, featuring the clash of two mercenary squads forced to form an alliance amidst hidden agendas and secrets until an unexpected spark between their team leaders ultimately leads to a reckoning. It is the year 2086 and the country has become a crumbling wasteland following a catastrophic event called the Flares that wiped out the power grid. In the ruins of what’s left of Atlanta, Nina heads the Librarians, who are actually a group of information brokers. Her teammates, Maya and Dani, have become her new family ever since Nina lost her own clone sisters following a harrowing escape from the lab that created her. They now run their operation out of a secret underground bunker, using both their combat skills and access to data to help those in need.
Enter Captain Garrett Knox and the Silver Devils. The former soldier and his gang of fellow exiles from the Protectorate-owned TechCorps isn’t exactly the kind of people who typically show up looking for Nina’s services, but they need her help regardless. Knox along with his friends have gone rogue from the company that created and maintained the experimental implants used to grant them superhuman abilities, and now they are in desperate need of a biochem hacker to stabilize their tech and keep them alive. The problem is that the hacker, Luna, has been kidnapped. Knox approaches Nina with a offer he knows she can’t refuse: she’ll help the Silver Devils retrieve the information they need to get out of their predicament, and in exchange, she’ll receive access to the archives of the fabled lost Library of Congress servers. However, in reality, Knox is actually setting the bait for the perfect trap. He does need Nina’s help, but not for the reasons he’s led her to believe.
Confession: this was my first book by the authors, so it’s probably on me for not doing a little more research into the genres they write before jumping headfirst into this one while taking everything in the publisher’s description at face value. Kit Rocha is actually the pen name for a writing duo who also writes paranormal romance under the moniker of Moira Rogers. Romance is thus a huge component of Deal with the Devil as well, with some R-rated erotica thrown in for good measure. Not a big deal—that is, unless you were expecting a straight-up dystopian adventure and instead became bogged down with relationship drama, which was especially predominant in the book’s first half.
This, I think, is what I struggled with the most. In general, I am not against romance in my books, but I do like to be prepared for it. Again, while it’s not really this novel’s fault that I felt blindsided, I do wish there had been more indication of it in its blurb or cover to help readers decide if they want to read it rather than be surprised—be it positively or negatively—while partway through. My own personal experience was a bit mixed. I didn’t mind the romance, but did often find myself frustrated by the lack of movement in the actual story while Nina and Knox mostly stood around drooling like a couple of hungry dogs over each other’s hot curves, abs, and asses. I mean, I know I’m not the ideal audience for this kind of stuff, but if you’re going to force your characters to fall in love in less than two weeks, the least you can do is maybe not put so much focus on objectification and physical lust. When it comes to romance in stories, I make it no secret that I prefer slow-burn as opposed to whirlwind, so the almost cringe-worthy lack of emotional connection here admittedly made this one less than ideal.
But on to the actual story. Boy was I disappointed at first to discover the complete misnomer of the series title. Let’s just say the whole “librarian” aspect of it doesn’t play much of a role at all, but thankfully, the idea of a group of underground information brokers is almost as intriguing. I enjoyed the world-building. Although nothing is really explained in great detail, the authors have nevertheless created an immersive setting using familiar themes and descriptions that worked. Also, as I said before, the plot might have dragged at first, but that’s definitely not the case in the second half of the novel. Sure, the action we got was pretty routine, but considering how close I was to outright boredom at the beginning of the book, at this point even standard-fare thrills were more than welcome.
Bottom line, I might have enjoyed this novel more had I been properly prepared for how much romance was going to dominate the story, and I might even cheered if there had been more of an emotional connection between Nina and Knox. However, the writing mainly focused on sexual attraction and how much they both wanted to jump each other’s bones, and the result was a lack of chemistry and shallow (albeit fun) characters.
Still, overall Deal with the Devil was an entertaining, light fluffy book to while away a few hours. No doubt it will appeal to the authors’ target readers or fans of romance/erotica with a speculative fiction twist. If I ever feel up for another book like this, I might consider picking up more of their work or checking out the sequel, but I’ll definitely have to be in the right mood.