Audiobook Review: Seven Devils by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of Seven Devils
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (August 4, 2020)
Length: 17 hrs and 9 mins
Narrator: Christina Traister
Seven Devils is the first book of a planned space opera duology by authors Laura Lam and Elizabeth May in their first collaboration. Set in a galaxy controlled by the oppressive Tholosian Empire, the book follows a group of seven plucky Novantaen Resistance members who will never stop fighting to free the billions of people living under the Empire’s iron rule.
First, we have Eris. Former heir to the Tholosian throne, she knows better than anyone why the resistance is so important. It took a lot to break free of her old life, which included having to fake her own death, but it took even more for those in her new life to finally trust her. Next up is Clo, a mechanic who had also defected from the Empire, whose sometimes-friend, sometimes-rival relationship with Eris often causes friction whenever they go on missions together. Then there’s Nyx, a career soldier and former royal guard who has lost count of how many people she’s killed. Tired of being used as a weapon, Nyx now dedicates her efforts to stopping the Oracle, the artificial mind behind the Empire. She also looks out for Ariadne, the youngest member of the group. A gifted engineer, Ariadne was originally created by the enemy, but has secretly been helping the resistance for years. Also, we have Rhea, a courtesan with a heart of gold. She is extremely sensitive to the emotions of others, making her a great confidante but also quick to adapt to changing situations. And finally, we have Kyla, the resistant commander calling the shots, as well as Cato, hotshot pilot, rounding out the team.
On their latest mission, the team is called upon to intercept a Tholosian ship carrying mysterious cargo, and to gather any intelligence to return to the Resistance. But once they infiltrate the ship, they find more than they bargained for.
Seven Devils was so much fun! But it is also a very difficult novel to review. First off, I think this is a fantastic sci-fi adventure tale about a strong group of women who come together and support each other to fight for a common cause. Their backgrounds are interesting and diverse, their relationships meaningful and complex. The story is highly energetic, with barely any lulls at all. I was also impressed with the writing, and to Lam and May’s credit, their styles meshed incredibly well and I could hardly tell where one author’s voice ends and the other’s begins. That’s seriously impressive, considering it’s their first team-up.
However, dig a little deeper below the surface, and you might find some things that are less harmonious. The biggest challenge for me personally was the structure of the novel, which has a present timeline that is frequently interrupted by flashbacks to the individual characters’ lives as the cast list gradually expands. In the end, what we get are five main perspectives, and interspersed among them are these mostly brief time jumps to the past, focusing on important moments in the characters’ lives, many of which have direct relevance as to what is occurring in the present. I often see this format utilized for TV shows as a way for writers to develop individual characters, especially when dealing with a large ensemble cast. But while this may work well for the screen, it comes across as less coherent on the page, and in the case of Seven Devils, it caused some POV and timeline confusion.
It also might have been a tad too long. Granted, each time we got a flashback, it was a way to flesh out that particular character, which also helped explain her motivations and decision-making. Still, while the narrative was doing this for half a dozen characters or more, the present timeline was going nowhere fast. As much as I hate to admit it, with a first half that was mostly bogged down with backstory-telling, the book took a long time to build, and the take-off was rough and uneven. The world-building was also detailed to the point of too much bloat. Considering what we have here is essentially your classic Empire vs. Resistance narrative (not exactly original), the length probably could have been pared down by a lot and the novel would have been better for it.
And yet, despite the turbulent pacing and its technical flaws, Seven Devils featured a thoroughly engaging and entertaining storyline, and I believe that, in the end, is what will determine the book’s success with readers. I love adventurous space operas, found family plotlines, stories about people working together, helping each other, saving each other, and loving each other. Laura Lam and Elizabeth May have delivered the first half of a promising duology that encompasses all this and so much more, and ultimately, a few hiccups here and there are a small price to pay for so much fun.
Audiobook Comments: This was definitely a missed opportunity for multiple narrators, which would have created a more immersive audio experience. That being said, Christina Traister did a great job with the many voices, capturing each character perfectly, from hotheaded Clo to kind and gentle Rhea.