Mad Max meets Guardians of the Galaxy, and make it queer.
Title: Seven Devils
Author: Laura Lam, Elizabeth May (UK author)
Genre: Adult science fiction
Themes: Rebellion, feminism, found family
First publication: DAW (US), Gollancz (UK)
(4th of August 2020)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)
What I liked: Development and depth
What I didn’t like: That I have to wait for an untitled sequel, god damn it.
What is this? Seven Devils is an adult (the authors have described it as a crossover so I might be bold to say it’s a new adult) science fiction co-written by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May. The story follows a group of women who join the rebellion and want to see the downfall of the Empire, each for their own reasons. Each of these women has particular skills that could set the Empire afire and they have to find a way to stop the future heir to the throne.
Why did I request this galley? Do we have to go over it again? Look at that cover! Yet again, I was pulled in by this detailed cover designed Dan Dos Santos. Then I read the tagline which said: “FEMINIST SPACE OPERA”. And I have to be honest, I clicked that request button before reading the actual summary. Oops. But in reading the summary after pushing it, I was really interested in finding out what would happen to the galaxy and who these women were.
Trigger warnings: This book features triggering events around graphic themes such as violence and abuse. There’s talk of misogyny, racism and transphobia. The authors (according to Laura Lam) have deliberately avoided on-page sexual violence. Laura writes: “Our goal is to portray the reality of living under such an oppressive regime honestly but not gratuitously.”
“Yes, beautiful things were always underestimated.”
My review: It will be hard for me to keep this review coherent because this was a wild emotional ride and my thoughts are all over the place. But let me start at the beginning. In starting this book I was immediately pulled in by the characters. The book starts with Eris, who fakes her death and joins the rebellion. She’s sent on a mission with Clo, a mechanic/pilot who holds a grudge for something that happened in the past. Immediately, I was met with sarcasm, hatred and questions about what would happen to these women. (And I have to be honest, I first thought this would be a typical enemies to lovers but it isn’t and I was very happy the authors didn’t take that direction. And I love enemies to lovers, so that’s saying something.)
The book immediately pulls you into action which I think is a great way to grab the attention of readers. And this book is honestly action packed and incredibly tense at points. This is a book that I could not put down.
What kept me reading was the deep and rich cultural setting of this universe. This universe features people who own special powers, soldiers who are monitored and controlled by an AI, children who are made (not born) and trained to feel nothing. There’s is A LOT going on and each chapter takes you further into the depths of this system. And although I haven’t read many science fictions yet, I find this universe extremely creative. The culture has a lot of depth, having history that goes back centuries, with beliefs that are influenced by the Empire’s leaders and their racism and misogyny. At the start I was overwhelmed with information but it was still very coherent to read through and I like how the book doesn’t stop with that. Throughout the whole book you receive details from the culture and political system and each time it adds more character. Throughout each chapter, you learn something new.
“You were trapped too”, Clo said gently. “We just had different cages, that’s all.”
Which brings me to the format of the book, which was such a smart choice towards character development. The chapters in this book are told through the perspective of five main characters and they also regularly jump in the past. Some chapters are told from the present day and the others from one, three years ago. In this way, we discover what drives all of the characters. Each of them has conflicts and things that happened to them that have brought them to the rebellion, wishing the downfall of the empire. And each story has so many little details that bring out so much emotion. The present day also holds a lot of hints towards their history and personality and sometimes it’s so subtle that I found myself actually enjoying exploring the book more.
Each chapter had a way of holding my attention because by each end I would switch to another character and be left wondering about the previous one. But after that switch the current character would also make me question things and the circle kept growing. And in this way, I was… Yeah, I was really enchanted.
“Strategy is as much a weapon as a blade. Let the men use brute force.”
Then we come to the point of the promise of this book: a feminist space opera. It features women that can be soft but they will also break you into pieces if you would hurt the ones they care for. They have a variety of backgrounds going from a soldier to a courtesan and each of them accepts each other. They each made bad choices or have a personality flaw that are realistic (for example someone that holds a grudge or someone that judges based on their DNA). These women are written with so much care and personality, that they come off as true feminists. They band together to save the universe but they also handle their own struggles. This is one of the best found families I have read this year and I’m not exaggerating.
As for the space opera part, I immensely enjoyed the melodramatics in this story. This book has a way of taking you on a happy wholesome trip, with suddenly overtaking you by bringing you realism and human behavior. The fact that this all happens in space is overwhelming and dramatic. Having read three scifi books this year, I might have to dig in more to the genre because I’m starting to suspect a favorite here.
To add, I appreciated the representation this book offers. It brings disabilities, queer romances, different backgrounds, and transgenders together in an action packed story full of characterization. Nothing feels like a token. The LGBTQ+ representation was also made part of characters instead of making it a story device to “include diversity”.
I don’t think I could talk about it more without coming over to the fangirl side. This book took me on a wild rollercoaster and from 50% on action packed reveals started punching you in the gut. After finishing this I feel very wordless. This was a special book and I’m rooting for these women to actually destroy the Empire and earn what they deserve. Which is everything, by the way. These women. Deserve. The. World. Now I shall wait in the dark abyss of untitled sequels who have an unknown publishing date to be overwhelmed again, thank you very much.
Seven Devils is set to release 4th of August 2020, published by DAW. You can preorder on Apple Books, Indiebound, Hive, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Waterstones, Foyles or your local book store.