Cover Image: Deal with the Devil

Deal with the Devil

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Member Reviews

I've had this ARC for awhile and started it several times but simply could not get into the story. It starts off with a strong opening scene but then just kinda settles for a bit into a generic dystopian action with generic action figures for characters. But then around the 50% mark it shifts and the story suddenly becomes really, really good and the characters fill out and it ends great.

This is set in Atlanta in some future time after a series of solar flares have decimated the world and it has become a bit of a messy mess. A shady big corporation seems to have displaced the government, the people seem to be divided into the massively rich who work for or with the shady corp and everybody else. A lot of the everybody else's seem to be hard scrabble scavengers, predators or just people eking through an existence. It also is a place where super soldiers are made, genes are modified, cloning happens, people are chipped etc.

We meet two groups of people. One group is Nina and her crew, Maya and Dani. We learn from the first chapter that Nina is skilled fighter, enhanced with super reflexes, super intelligence -- she is just an all around bad ass who is one of those special types who has been enhanced by shady corp. So are Dani and Maya, both have special uber-human skills. They are ride or die for each other and apparently do good in their little corner of the community they live in and look out for its inhabitants.

The second group is Knox and his crew -- Rafe, Con, & Gray-- Super Soldiers for the shady corp who have been implanted with a special device that controls their enhancement. But they've gone rogue and are AWOL and their implants need to be maintenanced on the regular. If they aren't, then they degrade and cause the men to die a slow, agonizing painful death. And the only person who can do it is another of their crew who has been kidnapped. The price of her return? Knox and his crew have to lure Nina to a specific place at a specific time. They make her an offer she can't refuse and offer to be her bodyguard/escort detail.

This is a great plot set up and has a lot of promise. There is built in deception, hence a good romantic conflict and since we are dealing with two groups who are super loyal to each other and also super bad ass and super suspicious and all of them can kill with the flex of a pec, then we are sitting on a very volatile situation all around.

Like I said, the first half was flat to me. It was all action and set up and snarky banter and reminders about how everybody is super bad ass and super hot. But they were all character arche-types, imo, not actual people. I had a hard time sinking into the story because there wasn't a great character hook for me to glom onto and not a lot of emotional real estate for me to take up residence. Hence I wasn't invested in either group, really.

Then they get on the road and spend time with each other and here is when I felt the authors finally began to let the story take shape. At about 50% the two teams meld together for a bit of fun derring-do and Knox and Nina -- who had been sniffing around each other implicitly -- hop on the train to bone town - explicitly.

And then the shoe drops and things really get exciting. Finally, here was the character and emotion that was missing in the first half. And it was enhanced by a fantastic reveal scene, added to all the action and super bad-assery we've been thrummed over the head with. Great payoff and it is only a little past the middle of the book.

The rest of the book is no slouch and does not back off. Now that we finally broke the seal on emotion and character, we get it in spades. I loved this entire back half.

So slow start but damn what a bang up second half and ending.
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When I read this description I had to read this book and that was just because I'm a librarian. The story and characters are fun, and the idea is definitely original. On my rating scale, 3 stars is good, or I liked it. I really did like this popcorn of a book, perfect to take your mind off of everything that is happening in the real world.
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Set in the future, Nina and her friends serve as community librarians lending out books while fighting for their lives against Techcorps. ARC from NetGalley.
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When Kit Rocha first announced they were writing a Mercenary Librarians series, I was beyond excited. Mercenary.Librarians. COME TO MAMA. Deal with the Devil is the first book in the series, and it definitely left me wanting more.

Garrett Knox is captain of the Silver Devils, an elite squad of super soldiers. He joined up to change the world and do some good, but he quickly realized TechCorps, the agency in charge of their genetic modifications (and basically the world), just wanted elite assassins. They finally have enough and he and his team have gone AWOL, but without regular maintenance, their genetic modifications will deteriorate and slowly kill them all - a kill switch embedded by TechCorps to keep them in line. The problem? The scientist they need to fix their implants has been kidnapped, and the only way she'll be returned is if Knox delivers Nina, an information broker, in exchange.

Nina is skeptical of Knox's offer to lead her to the fabled hidden Library of Congress, but she it's an opportunity she can't pass up. She and her sisters-of-the-heart a strong and capable, so they agree, but keep their guard up. She's surprised at the chemistry they have, but she knows falling into bed with someone she doesn't trust is a bad idea. The more time the two teams spend together, the harder it is to keep a wall between them.  

I absolutely loved the sheer amount of Girl Power in this novel. Nina, Dani and Maya were wonderfully written. They were kickass, but also relatable. Knox and his Silver Devils were also very well done. I like that they paid attention to the strengths the ladies brought and didn't try to take over or make decisions for them. There was a good amount of mutual respect on both sides that really brought this novel together.

Parts were a bit predictable [spoiler]Ava's return, and the revelation at the end about Mace in particular[/spoiler], and there were times the story moved rather slow, but I easily fell
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Mercenary librarians in a post apocalyptic world, yes please!  And with lots of romance!  Can’t wait for the next one.
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This is the first book in a new series for the authors. It is a post apocalyptic action romance with "enhanced" characters. The setting is in the Atlanta area in the near future with Tech companies controlling the country. There are a trio of genetically modified women who work as mercenary librarian/archivists. The story is told from multiple points of view, but was easy to follow and is not a cliff hanger. The majority of the story is of Nina, a warrior with a conscience wanting to improve her world, and Captain Knox who wants to save what remains of his team. Both have escaped the control of the Tech companies and are wanted. The world building is well done and there is a great cast of characters with varied issues and enhancements. All of the characters show growth throughout the story. There are "Tech memos" at the start of each chapter and initially I found them distracting as they use alpha numerics for characters rather than names. Taking notes and using the authors clues the characters can be identified and these notes add a great deal of back story and information.
The start of the book is dramatic and grabs your interest, but then hits a slow area. Fortunately, it picks up and provides lots of action and angst. I like strong female characters and these are some of the best, and the male characters respect and admire these women which is even better. I also enjoy the bantering among the troops.
I received an ARC from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others. I am also looking forward to the next book.
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I had seen some nice reviews of this novel and as the cover also attracted me, I was very curious to delve into the story of this first volume.

Nina, Maya and Dani do their best to help people in this world left to itself. It is not easy. So when Knox, a super-soldier, shows up with the possibility of subsisting a little longer, she can’t refuse to go with him. But then, our hero has an idea in mind, and he has to trade the beautiful and tough Nina to get the hacker he needs to survive. Yet Knox didn’t expect to fall under the young woman’s spell. But he also knows that telling her the truth could change Nina’s opinion of him.

It was a very nice novel, although it’s true that the feelings between the characters can be a little annoying after a while, because it’s very present. But once in the story, I thought it was very nice to follow and I was also curious to see how things would end.

A nice first volume and I’m curious to read the rest now!
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I wanted to like this way more than I did! Very heavy on the romance (seriously, it feels like the main focus of the plot and there are multiple explicit sex scenes), very light on any even librarian-adjacent anything. Really not what I expected and just not my cup of tea. I'm sure it'd appeal much more to sexy urban fantasy/action readers, but all the "mercenary librarian" promo feels like it's missed the mark.
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With this promising start to the series, Kit Rocha has created a great book. 
In a post-apocalyptic world, the power of the strongest prevails and some people will do anything to win. In a story between the search for knowledge, loyalty, betrayal and unexpected twists and turns, the romantic elements successfully round off the story.
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This book blew me away. Kit Rocha writes one hell of an ensemble cast, and Deal with the Devil just highlights that amazing skill. We have two teams of really deadly misfits in their respective found families. One are super soldiers intent on their freedom. One are librarian types who are pretty damn super, too. Not to mention this romance is prime sunshine one + grumpy one, except the sunshine one can whoop anyone's ass who threatens her people.

If you like dystopian worlds, badass characters with heart, road trips, sex in thunderstorms, found families, and some seriously sexy good times, you'll want to grab this book.
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An exciting new series for urban fantasy fans. A recommended purchase for collections where the genre is popular.
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I am not sure where to start with this book.  The story has some really cray cray science fiction happening in the next 100 yrs and some really great action scenes but for some reason there wasn’t that all consuming I love this book and must finish now aspect. Don’t get me wrong it was a good read but when you call it the Mercenary Librarian series and you  don't get any of the librarian part of this book until the very end is part of my issue with the book.  However,  loved the multiple POV’s which just added so much more depth to the story and characters. I will be reading the next book in this series just to find out more about these characters and that crazy ending.  

I was provided with an electronic ARC through NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Unfortunately I decided to DNF this book at the 60% mark. I definitely think this was a case of it's me not the book. There was nothing in particular that I dislike, but I found myself completely detached from the story and never reaching to pick it up. I didn't connect to the character, the world, or the plot. And I felt like the romance portions were really underdeveloped.
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Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha
Grade: B

Content Warning: It’s important to note that the speculative history the book is based on is very very plausible, some already happening in our world, things like energy wars, crumbling infrastructure, and inept government officials cutting off essential resources and services so they can continue grabbing at more power. There’s also mentions and descriptions of torture in the book. Take stock of your mental and emotional bandwidth before diving in if any of these subjects would stress you out. 

If you love librarians, badasses, competence porn, post-apocalyptic road trips, hot sex, and can suspend some disbelief on some heavier issues (like race and trauma), then you’ll really enjoy Deal with the Devil. This is the first book in the Mercenary Librarians series, and it takes place in a different corner of the same world established in the Beyond series. The world as we know it has been gone for decades, ruined by wars fought over energy, rotting in decaying infrastructure, and finally offed by an unexpected solar flare, known as the Flares. All levels of government in what had been the United States splintered and seem to have dissolved into nothing. At least, that’s true for many cities and towns, including Atlanta. 

Atlanta is also where Nina, Maya, and Dani run a community centre/library for their neighbourhood. They’ve been trying to wrangle enough money to purchase much-needed resources so people don’t freeze to death during winter, plus a whole host of other things they need to serve their community effectively as a library, resource hub, and shelter. TechCorps has become the defacto law and law enforcement in Atlanta, but they’re more interested in expanding their power than in upkeep of infrastructure and seeing to the needs of communities. 

Knox, Rafe, Conall, and Gray, otherwise known as the Silver Devils, have been TechCorps bully boys for years, and have now cut themselves loose, with one problem. The implants TechCorps gave them to make them supersoldiers will degrade without constant maintenance. Left alone long enough, they will die. The biohacker they rely on to keep them alive has been kidnapped by a mysterious person, whose only demand in exchange for returning the only person they know who can save them is to deliver Nina to them. Complicating matters: Knox saw first hand that Nina is a motherfucking tank and is liable to bust out of any trunk they might try to tuck her in and proceed to beat them with it. 

Worried for their biohacker and themselves, the Silver Devils ultimately resolve and succeed in tricking Nina and Co. to go on a wild goose chase with them in search for a fabled cache of books and knowledge preserved from pre-Flare days. Finding this cache means more books for the girls’ community as well as a bucket load of cash to help them achieve their goals. Thus they put the pedal to the metal on their highway to hell.

Readers who are familiar with the Beyond series will recognize that Mercenary Librarians is set in the same speculative future of America, but in another corner where things have developed slightly differently. It’s a lot of fun to see how another place developed after the same axis shifting event, but not necessary at all to have a blast with this book. The places Nina, Knox, and company travel through are ghost towns, or smaller settlements that still use the name of the town or city from before the Flares hit, like Atlanta has. It quickly becomes clear much of the old systemic power structures that led to this post-apocalyptic landscape, most notably capitalism and sexism, persist still. 

However, it seems racism and homophobia have been eradicated. There was no explanation of any kind given as to what led to racism and homophobia evaporating where capitalism and sexism didn’t. As much as I appreciated an adventure in a world where race apparently defines nothing and people’s sexual orientation only matters as much as who they’d find attractive, this set-up makes no sense to me. Racism is in an inextricable part of capitalism, and homophobia is firmly entrenched in much of the world’s social fabric, ever since European countries’ gender binary was imposed on everywhere they could colonize. 

Throughout history, and even now during the global pandemic, we see how marginalized communities face even more overt discrimination and even violence during times of great strife and unrest. For racism and homophobia to seemingly have collapsed in on themselves during an apocalypse with only wisps of their shadows lurking about in less than a century is the kind of impossible that jars me out of the story. There isn’t enough in the book to explain how the world came to be shaped as it was in this regard, and I hope that this is explored more deeply in the rest of this series.

Other bits of world building also confused me, such as production and manufacturing infrastructure. It sounded like thieving was a huge part of the economy, though people found work where they could. In a haunting scene where Knox found a pair of pretty but impractical sandals for little girls in a warehouse, he thinks about how it’s a relic from a softer time that didn’t have to worry about rusty nails. Yet later in the book, Maya thinks about how she used to have access to the latest fashions as a cosetted pet of TechCorps. Does Atlanta have manufacturing ability at all? If they do, who controls it? How are desires manufactured among the rich? Are there advertisements? If there are, who makes these advertisements, and who do they answer to? As small as these discrepancies are, they made it difficult for me to see and understand how this spot in the world functions. 

Details of world building aside, there is so much I love about this book. Its fierce emotional intelligence meant all the characters were messy, fallible people instead of plot paddles. Relationships of all kinds, friendship, family, romantic, are all fleshed out with loving detail that makes clear these connections are all equally valuable. I was able to appreciate the angst of the hard conversations they had to have, because the honesty of the story had earned every drop of heartache it wanted to squeeze from me. 

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

“No,” he repeated firmly. “You don’t get to make this call. Not this time, and not like this.” 

Genuine hurt tightened Knox’s eyes. “So you don’t trust me to put my squad first anymore?”

The truth was even more damning, and it would hurt far worse. “There is no squad, Knox, and you’re not our captain. Not anymore. We left, remember? The Silver Devils are gone.”

“I have to be your captain,” Knox ground out. “I have to get you out. You’re not out until you can walk away free and clear.”

“Well, I didn’t agree to that. Pretty sure Rafe and Con didn’t, either.” Gray clasped Knox’s shoulder until the other man looked at him. “I’ll still follow you - as your friend. But not if you’re making bad calls. And this is a bad call.”


The heavier conversations happen later in the book, largely after the Dark Moment, but even here, the characters struggle, they support one another, and they work through their problems and improve. 

The pace of the book was excellent. When Nina counted back the days and realized only eleven had passed, I also felt the rush of realizing so much had happened in so little time. Time is also different for Nina compared to Knox. After their falling out, Nina got more time to focus on decompressing and processing what happened. Knox had more time to grapple with his guilt and priorities, but had to bend the lion’s share of his energy and thoughts to surviving and ensuring the Silver Devil’s also survived. 

To me, the two major themes are the question of how much agency is possible when you’re desperately living under an unjust system, and how hope is both an action and spirit to be nurtured. Throughout the book, the merry band of death defying reapers are constantly dealing with people trying to kill them for one reason or the other. As I sat in Nina and Knox’s heads, I saw how they cope with killing people. Knox largely drowns in guilt and frustration when he’s not compartmentalizing or lust-pining after Nina. Nina often declares to herself that, “They made their choice,” when they chose to hurt others or target her and her people. 

It’s not clear whether the book was agreeing that once someone crosses a line, they must be killed, or if ambivalence is how Nina and the main cast cope when they kill people. Desperation is the breeding ground of monsters, and it feels simplistic to declare raiders and muggers ‘made their choice’ when Nina is standing right next to the Silver Devils, who used to actively uphold communities’ poverty and exploitation. They knew perfectly well that’s what they were doing when they did it, but did it anyway. Yet I got to know them, their stories, and came to root for them. It brings up the question of justice as punishment vs justice as reparations. It’s a very complex question with a lot to unpack, and I hope the rest of the series fleshes out the complexity of choice, responsibility, accountability, and reparations under the duress of desperation. 

How hope was explored in the book simultaneously filled me with glee and made me weep. Nina, blessed with immense capabilities and support, lives her best life as archivist, community organizer, and part time superhero. If there are bad guys that need dealing with, she’s comfortable dealing with them. If there are fishy situations with potential rewards, she’s comfortable taking a risk, because she’s well aware that in most situations, she and her girls are easily the scariest shark in the tank. Nina is able to be hopeful for the future because she has such a wealth of ability, she’s able to make the majority of her wants a reality. Rarely are her values in conflict with her safety and survival. The Dark Moment shakes her faith in people and in hope, because it was one of the few times in her life when her abilities weren’t enough to prevent something bad from happening, and the first time when her trust was betrayed in such a thorough and intimate way. 

Nina’s competence combined with her values means that the people around her are often inspired by her, their capacity to hope nurtured. When she’s told this, instead of feeling obliged to be everyone’s manic pixie dream girl, she demands that they nurture her hope, too. She asks them to step up and show her good things are possible by helping her make them happen. This is probably my favourite part of the book. Hope isn’t a blind faith that we ought to spew out relentlessly, but a part of our souls that needs to be nurtured by ourselves and our people. Everyone needs support. Nina recognized when she did and asked for the help she needed to both achieve what she wants and replenish herself. This is such an important thing to internalize, especially for women!!! Our emotional muscles need fuel, and it’s wrong to expect us to carry everyone’s distress and prop up their motivations as a matter of course. 

(My second favourite is the very fact that three bad ass women banded together to serve their community by providing a library. Obviously.)

Despite my confusion regarding some of the worldbuilding, the characters and their relationships are developed beautifully, and the entire story thrummed with the sort of vitality that you can only get from a post-apocalyptic road trip with suped-up BAMFs. I can’t rave enough about the emotional literacy this book is built on, which I find incredibly catnippy. Deal with the Devil is a strong start to a series, and I’m very excited to see how the rest of the series unfolds. 

Oh, and

What??? You were hearing it in your head too!!!
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Sadly this book wasn't for me. I just couldn't connect with it. I love Kit Rocha and read their other books and series but this story wasn't meant for me. Perhaps I'll try it at a later time.
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This novel is outside my usual reading zone, but I was hooked from the first time I heard Mercenary Librarians.  The actual book completely lived up to the hype.  I am all in for this team saving the world.
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Wow, this book surprised the hell out of me! I went into it hoping to find it enjoyable, but didn't expect to absolutely love it as much as I did! I was instantly gripped from the first chapter.

The found families in this were fantastic, so if that's your jam then you won't be disappointed. I adored Nina and her gang of kickass women mercenaries, as well as Knox and his band of super soldiers called the Silver Devils. And holy crap, the sexual tension! Watching Nina and Knox dance around each other was captivating, and then when that tension finally exploded.... *fans self* I was also really intrigued by some interactions with the side characters, and found myself craving more and more time with all of them. I wanted to know all their backstories and thoughts and...gosh, I loved this world.

I will say that I can see people being disappointed if they focus on the librarian part of the series title (called Mercenary Librarians), because I honestly wouldn't even think Nina and her friends were librarians if it wasn't part of the series title. This book focused on them being mercenaries, with books being very rarely mentioned. I'm hoping that it might come into play more in book 2, especially with a scene that happened at the end, but just know going in that this is more a sexy and action-packed read about mercenaries in a dystopian world than it is a group of librarians surrounded by books.

While I'm sad that book 2 doesn't come out until August 2021, I am SO excited for who that book focuses on. Their chemistry in this book was only hinted at, but I was constantly hoping they'd interact more, and am thrilled that they're getting their own book! And now I'm off to look up Kit Rocha's backlist, because I've found myself a new must-read author duo!

***A big thank you to Netgalley and Tor Books for providing me with an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review!***
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My review was published at All About Romance on July 29, 2020. Here is the link:

I cross-published the review on my personal Goodreads page as well:
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Deal with the Devil is an exciting first installment in the Mercenary Librarians series, set in a post-apocalyptic time on earth where genetic engineering of super soldiers is the norm and daily life is a struggle against oppression. Into this chaos, three strong women - Nina, Maya and Dani -see their jobs as information brokers as indispensable to the community they live in. After all, knowledge is power. Into their domain comes Knox and his team of super soldiers, whose existence is threatened by implants that are slowly degrading. They want to team up with Nina and her crew to uncover a secret records vault, but what they neglect to tell them is that there is someone else pulling the strings.

If you're a fan of Kit Rocha's Beyond series (and I am), you'll recognize some nods to the series but this is a wholly new world, well developed and equally intriguing. Found family is key, with both the women and men having solid friendships within their groups and the willingness to risk all for each other for survival. The men and women are equals here, deadly and dangerous if crossed and it's only a matter of time before Knox's deception is revealed. I loved everything about the story and the romance that develops between Knox and Nina is icing on the cake. Action, danger, suspense, sex, friendship - it's all here in a page turning read. I can't wait to read the next in the series!

Review has been uploaded to Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
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I don't remember the last time I read a post apocalyptic novel, especially an adult one. I'm glad I decided to pick this up because this book was so much fun!

There's not a lot of world-building but I really liked what I saw of it. There's a giant tech corporation which physically alters and trains soldiers and geniuses. All of the main characters had special abilities that also came with some severe drawbacks. Aside from that, every character had a distinct personalty which led to a lot of hilarious snarky banter and heartfelt conversations. The whole story was also brimming with sexual tension and had a few very explicit sex scenes.

I will definitely be reading the sequel because I grew to love the characters and the writing. I would recommend this to anyone in the mood for a fun action-packed adventure!
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