by Kit Rocha
Series: Mercenary Librarians #2
Also in this series: Deal with the Devil
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: August 31, 2021
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
The Mercenary Librarians and the Silver Devils are back in The Devil You Know, the next installment of USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Kit Rocha’s post-apocalyptic Action/Romance, with hints of Orphan Black and the Avengers
Maya has had a price on her head from the day she escaped the TechCorps. Genetically engineered for genius and trained for revolution, there’s only one thing she can’t do—forget.
Gray has finally broken free of the Protectorate, but he can’t escape the time bomb in his head. His body is rejecting his modifications, and his months are numbered.
When Maya’s team uncovers an operation trading in genetically enhanced children, she’ll do anything to stop them. Even risk falling back into the hands of the TechCorps.
And Gray has found a purpose for his final days: keeping Maya safe.
Content warnings: View Spoiler »violence (including gun violence and death), torture (on-page and in memories), PTSD, grief, kidnapping (of children), medical experimentation (in the past), death of a close friend (in the past) « Hide Spoiler
I’m a longtime Kit Rocha reader, so of course I was beyond excited to see the next book in the Mercenary Librarians series. I went in expecting lots of found family goodness, steamy scenes and maybe a little murder-by-fork. And, oh boy, did I ever love this book! As a warning, this is the second in the series, so there will be spoilers for the first book.
It’s basically super soldier Brady Bunch in Five Points these days. Knox and the rest of the Silver Devils have settled in well with Nina, Maya and Dani, enough that they’re deep in construction of a new living space for them, complete with a med clinic. Everything seems almost idyllic, until an unexpected mission outcome leads to two unwelcome surprises. The first? Gray’s rejecting his implant, and his diagnosis is terminal. Even worse, there’s evidence that Tobias Richter, the head of Executive Security, believes that the Silver Devils are alive. Since Richter is the person who personally killed her patron and then tried to force Maya to reveal her secrets, the crew is understandably worried about drawing attention to the fact that Maya is alive as well. And then there’s the chemistry between Maya and Gray whenever they’re near each other… But with Gray’s death looming over them all, is it worth the risk to Maya’s heart to fall for him?
“Uh, have you met me? I mock evil clones to their faces and stab bad guys with forks. I don’t do serious.”
Maya was one of my favorite characters in the first book, so it’s no surprise that I absolutely loved her. Maya’s a data courier, genetically enhanced to have perfect recall of anything she’s heard, seen or read. All her life she’s been carefully sheltered and spoiled – at least, until her patron was killed and Nina rescued her – and told that too much experiences or knowledge will hasten her brain’s eventual failure. She gets overwhelmed sometimes by too much auditory or sensory input. But these things aren’t viewed as a burden or a hindrance by her friends, she’s just her, and like the rest of the motley crew, she’s accepted for who she is and on her own terms. But she still feels like an afterthought. Sure, her memory allows her to basically memorize repair manuals, meaning she’s the go-to person for fixing everything that breaks, from A/Cs to ovens, and her thirst for knowledge means that she’s constantly looking for new ways to streamline their bootleg library (now including 2030s container gardening DIY books!), but she’s not a BAMF like everyone else. Maya is surrounded by super soldiers, while she calls herself a glorified filing cabinet for the secrets too dangerous to put down on paper. Of course Nina and Dani – and the Silver Devils – have trained Maya to not be helpless, but compared to their feats of super soldier strength, she’s basically powerless. It’s Gray who recognizes that her abilities may have a tactical advantage, and who unlocks the door to her growing beyond the cage that was built around her, the one she thought existed for “her own good.”
“Gray had sacrificed so much for the right to decide how he lived his life.
He had the right to decide how he died, too.”
Gray was the orphan kid who wasn’t good enough to get picked up by any of the folks stopping by the orphanage to find apprentices, until finally his only option was joining up with TechCorps. That feeling dogs his steps, still, even after he’s proved himself repeatedly with the Silver Devils, and it extends to his hesitation to start a relationship with Maya. The pining level is absolutely sky high, but it’s adorable to watch the two of them navigate their attraction, especially Maya. She works herself up into the awkward crush stage, which always dissipates when she’s around Gray, because being herself with him is natural for her. And if that isn’t the best thing in the world, I don’t know what is.
“Knox surveyed them all, looking happy enough to burst. So did Nina, for that matter. Just a proud mom and dad overseeing their misfit band of rogue supersoldiers, fugitive criminals, evil clones, and one random [redacted].”
This would not be a Kit Rocha book, and I would not love it so much, if not for the focus on found family. Whether it’s pulling off another heist or just gathering around the dinner table, they’re one big family now, and that means dealing with occasional stabbings and supersoldier moods. They accept each other for what they are, broken messes and all, and the amount of love and caring they each give to the others is so sweet. Despite this being a dystopian book about a corporation who considers starving the city a reasonable form of control, this book is ultimately hopeful. Maya muses that TechCorps thinks that being compassionate is the enemy of “progress” when everything in her life in Five Points has show her the opposite. There’s also a lot about justice, about how to make real change when the world is so broken. For instance, Birgitte, Maya’s boss, is someone I found hard to empathize with to begin with (I mean, dragging an 8-year-old into a rebellion where you’re almost certainly going to die in a horrible way will do that) but the epigraphs in this book softened me a little to her. Intentions aren’t everything, but she was trying to fix things from within a broken system. And that’s basically what Maya and her family are doing every day, on a smaller scale.
“I’ll keep your secrets. You keep mine.”
Besides Birgitte, it was wonderful to have a POV chapter from Ava’s POV. Ava, the “psychotic evil genius clone,” who refers to her kidnapping of a woman in the previous book “inconveniencing” her. Her sense of morality is all shades of grey, but she’ll move heaven and earth to not disappoint Nina. What can I say, I’m trash for the morality chain trope. There’s also opportunities to catch up with Nina and Knox, to explore how the events of this book affect their relationship and that with their teams. As for new characters, without being too spoilery, I also want more Savitri and Adam!
“Rescuing people, faking their deaths, taking them in, and convincing them to help her build community resources. Real dastardly criminal shit.”
The action takes a while to get rolling; there’s a lot of buildup not just in the romance but in the rest of the plot. But that’s how many of the new and extremely interesting characters (and places) were introduced, so that didn’t bother me. Plus, the payoff (minor spoiler: View Spoiler »Ava and Nina kicking butt together!!! « Hide Spoiler) was well worth it. The shape of what will happen in the last (sob) book of the trilogy is taking shape, and it looks amazing.
“You don’t know how many forks I’m packing.”
His reply came in a whisper. “I always assume that answer is enough to get the job done.”
Overall, I absolutely adored this book and I’m already champing at the bit for the next book, which I’m guessing will be Dani and Rafe based on the setup. Definitely one of my top-ten books of the year!