Seven Devils – Laura Lam & Elizabeth May

“Eris got the call from her commander while she was killing a man.

The Tholosian Empire rules the galaxy with an iron fist. New planets are wiped clean of any species so the Empire can claim the resources. Citizens are brainwashed by an embedded chip in the brain, and constant reinforcement of obedience. And the ruling Archon? He creates hundreds of tank-grown ‘offspring’, who are raised to fight and kill. On coming of age, they are pitted against each other, with only the strongest being declared heir.

Eris is one of the few who manages to escape, and turns her skills over to the Novantean rebellion. But when she’s sent on a mission with Clo, a pilot and engineer with a deep grudge against Eris, the last thing they expect to find with the mysterious cargo they’ve been sent to investigate is three more women hoping to also escape the clutches of the Empire. A soldier, a courtesan, and a child computer genius who’s hand is in far too many of the Empire’s controls.

Disparate but desperate, these five women may just have the combined skills to stop the destruction of the galaxy.

With shades of Star Wars, there’s a lot of fun to be had with this rag-tag group of resistance fighters. The cause seems overwhelmingly hopeless, but as we learn more about the Empire and Archon, the more necessary it is.

Chapters alternate viewpoint from each of the five characters. There’s both merit and flaw in this approach: we get to see all of the women’s inner thoughts, but it can dip the pace. I struggled initially to differential between Eris and Nox, both being soldiers and fighters. I’m not sure the approach particularly strengthened my fondness for any of them – to be honest, it came over as ‘telling not showing’. Ariadne is brilliant but has imposter syndrome – great, but maybe that should have come through her actions rather than outright stepping into her thoughts and so many “I must prove I’m useful!” comments?

Interspersing the action-packed mission, we have flashbacks from all five women, and while other reviewers have complained a little about these, I’m almost of the view that these were the better parts. Finding out what had driven each to risk death or worse for their freedom was a highlight for me, and the revelation of so many secrets along the way was great. I did wonder if the ‘big’ mystery was done a disservice by being revealed from the start, pretty much, with only the other characters getting the big reveal later.

Overall, this wasn’t as flawless as I would have liked, but despite my vague complaints it was a lot of fun. The world building is great, the writing excellent – no ‘tells’ that I spotted with the dual authorship – and the characters work together well even if I never quite managed to love any of them. I was invested more in the ‘overthrow a despicable Empire’ rather than any individual, and I wonder if maybe a single focus would have helped.

Still, worth the read, despite my nitpicking! I’m launching pretty much straight into the second half of the duology, keen to see how they get out of a bit of a huge predicament…!

Seven Devils book coverNetGalley backlog: 448 pages / 57 chapters
First published: 2020
Series: Seven Devils book 1 (of 2)
Read from 16th July – 1st August 2022

My rating: 7/10

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