“Nina had broken the cardinal rule, and now she had to kill someone.”
With an opening sentence like that, I’m sure you can see why I went full grabby hands to get this novel. Then they added mercenary librarians as the series name, and like destiny, this book was mine.
I am going to start off by lamenting how *romance* some parts of the book were. I know, I know. It says elements of romance in the blurb. But perhaps my elements are defined differently. I was expecting some kissing, some enemies to lovers tension, normal romance level shit that happens in sci-fi and fantasy. But this is ROMANCE people. Like some very steamy scenes that are very, er, graphic. Think a lot of very blunt anatomical language.
Which––if that’s your jam: AWESOME! It’s just not my kind of spicy tea. And in all fairness, these scenes are maybe a dozen or so pages out of a book clocking in at well over 300, soooooo… it was easily skimmed.
Now. For the good stuff. Murder and mayhem and secrets oh my!
“We’re gonna do absolutely impossible, totally illegal, questionably sane science? I’m pumped.”
What happens when you get corrupt corporations meddling with technology? Some insane shit, that’s what. There’s genetically modified humans, biologically enhanced super soldiers, and a disparity from climate change that almost feels inevitable.
Between each chapter we get the technical notes of these little human experiments, and it doesn’t take long to figure out they’re for several of our characters. But which ones? It’s not as obvious as it might seem, and these little blurbs give us dimension and depth in significant ways. Namely, simply because an experiment holds on paper, doesn’t mean the complexity of human nature will play out in expected ways. And this gives our cast of characters such a delicious edge of humanity and realness.
“Haunt me forever, see if I care. I’m not embarking on a dark path of vengeance and death because you skipped cardio.”
Sassy, sharp, and full of violent delights. That’s what my little murder baby Dani is made of. I get that Nina is the main character, but Dani is my GIRL! I mean, don’t get me wrong. Nina is legit and Maya is adorable, especially with her stabby creative use of utensils. (I know, you’re totally wondering about the utensils and I did that on purpose. Sorry not sorry.) I love how violent these three women are, and yet, how friendly and loving, giving and protective they are. Say no to cardboard cutout characters, because here, there are none.
But adorable mercenaries don’t stop with the three women. Oh no. The AWOL soldiers they team up with are just as big, bad, and gooey on the inside. It may be hard to picture a giant cinnamon roll dude who also shoots and stabs and generally fucks shit up, but Rafe manages to be exactly that. And like the women, the entire team has their quirks and personality traits that define them, shape them, and generally make them impossible to hate. Even if their morals are ambiguous at best. I mean, if morals are your hangup, maybe avoid this one.
“He had a sinking feeling that mysterious Nina and scowling Maya and even homicidally inclined Dani were something far worse than attractive. There was a chance they were also highly likable.”
For those who prefer their morality firmly in the grey and their heroines full stabby stab stab, Deal With The Devil is enjoyable on many levels. There’s mystery, and intrigue, and corruption, and secrets, and betrayal. A full bag of all my favorite literary tricks. So I had a brilliant time reading this story. The end opens the door for more, and while the sex scenes aren’t my favorite, I’ll actually read more. That should tell you how awesome the rest of it was for me: a very violently delightful good time.
Thank you Bookish First and Tor Books for sending me a copy of this book!