The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost.
Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is.
Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities.
The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years…
If they live that long.
Long ago I read the first book in the Beyond series by Kit Rocha. I enjoyed the heck out of it, loving the subversions, the world, the characters. But for some reason – probably because I was getting burnt out on erotica and sex-heavy books – I didn’t read any further. I kept meaning to go back, but I haven’t yet. I will soon, because Deal with the Devil reminded me how of the awesome worlds that await me in Kit Rocha’s books.
This series takes place in the same world as the authors’ Beyond and Gideon’s Riders series. And from my vague recollection, the world is pretty similar – what with the Flares and all – but there’s only one real stand-out callback to the O’Kane’s. And I grinned when I read it.
All that being said, you do not have to read either of those series to enjoy this one. It fully stands on its own, immersing you in the world easily and completely. I love post-apocalyptic worlds. They’re like chocolate oranges to me. Irresistible, and I can’t get enough. The world has suffered from the “Flares.” These sun-flares took out the satellites, burned communications, destroyed what was left of long-abandoned infrastructure. The government had been corrupt for so long, leaving everything to crumble when they couldn’t hold up to the stress of the flares.
Into the void left by a fully-functioning government step the TechCorps. Recently merged technology and medical companies with all the latest and greatest. Generously they supplied solar power, water, food, medicine. Generously, they insinuate themselves into every aspect of lives until they had control. Now they sit, with an iron grip, on their domain.
Not everyone conforms to their rules, however. And so, in steps the Protectorate. Enhanced soldiers to protect the TechCorps interests.
This is why I like post-apocalyptic. They offer me hope, in a world that scares me more and more each day, where I can easily see us trudging, being dragged kicking and screaming as we are, along the roads that lead to these possibilities. Hope that we can survive, that we can be better, and that we can still persevere. And that’s why I stick to romance fueled post-apocalyptic stories. Because I desperately need all the hope I can get.
Nina, Dani, and Maya deliver that hope in spades. Nina’s got a persistent optimism; not naivete, just bone-deep belief that she can make things better. Even if it’s just for a small corner of the world, she’s going to do it. I loved her. She’s so incredibly real, and I understand her on a fundamental level. I can’t do all the amazing warrior stuff she can, but that optimism and hope is something that the world hasn’t quite beaten out of me yet, either.
Captain Garrett Knox, one of the aforementioned Protectorate super-soldiers has been recently separated from his position with the TechCorps. When an irresistible job comes up, to get Nina to a set of coordinates, Knox has no choice but to accept. This is an incredibly delicate position to write in. For some, Knox may cross too many lines. And I admit there was at least one time that I thought he should have told her before anything else happened. But, I also get why he did what he did. He was in an impossible situation, a situation (mostly) created by others that he couldn’t avoid. There were not an infinite number of paths forward. Knox chose the best he could.
Knox reminded me a bit of a storyline in (the reimagined) Battlestar Galactica. At one point the remnants of humanity – all 49,000 of them – settle on a barren planet running from the Cylons. Cylons are AI that became self-aware and rose up against humanity. They’re now humanoid and robotic. Alive, in a very real way. When they show up with the intent to take over, humans have a choice. Resist, fight, or try to survive.
Not all of those options were available to everyone. So when the Cylons put together a human police force, some humans joined with the goal of helping from the inside. What they didn’t realize was that even though they had some power, they never had enough to truly help humanity. They were derided because they appeared to actually be helping the enemy. In fact, a number of them were executed for treason. Bad choices for good reasons.
Knox joined with the intent to help. He tried to do the best he could with the worst possible choices offered him. And he did make a difference. Maybe not enough of one for himself, or for many others, but more than enough to land him on the TechCorp’s terminate list. At that point, his paths forward narrow considerably.
But when Knox meets Nina he begins to suspect that even he can’t sink so low as to turn her over to whomever wants her. He begins to admire and respect her will, her tenacity, and her ever-growing optimism. The casual build of their regard for each other works. I love seeing them find each other.
I also, desperately, loved the casual inclusive voice. Garrett had two dads. Conlan is bisexual (well, some sort of LGBT – I’m sure we’ll learn more as the series progresses). This is all normal. Nothing weird or even exploitative about it. It stated as simply as people talk about their mom and dad, or being interested in the opposite sex. Sometimes in books (and movies) it seems that being gay is included for fetishtic reasons. Or to satisfy some sort of voyeurism. I love that it is not used that way here. The fact that gay people exist, doing the normal things that hetero people do, is so refreshing. It’s beautiful and pushes home the point of how much we need representation in our media.
On top of that, you’ve got a plot that kept me engrossed and guessing. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
When I read that Deal with the Devil is “Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers in the vein of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series…” my expectations were, understandably, high. So high. Because Ilona Andrews is my all-time favorite author. Lucky for me, Deal with the Devil delivers. Deal with the Devil is one hell of a ride, brimming with action, burning sexual tension, in an insanely intriguing post-apocalyptic world, that will keep you turning pages until the very end. I canNOT wait to read more in this world and with these fantastic characters.