Seven Devils is a slow starter that grows into itself. The first half of the book is all introduction and exposition, but the second half is clever with twists both expected and unexpected – the ending especially. It’s worth persevering to enjoy the strength and character development at the end.
The book is set in an intergalactic empire ruled by a dictator who ensures his power by implanting chips in the heads of his citizens and sending commands to them via an AI, the Oracle or the One. He ensures that everyone is implanted by sterilising his citizens and growing new ones in vats. However, despite his efforts, a band of rebels – the Novantae – persist, fighting against his rule and seeking to liberate as many people as possible. Amongst them are Clo and Eris – deadly enemies forced to collaborate on their deadliest mission yet. Success could have huge implications for the Novantae – failure would mean certain death. Along the way, they pick up some unexpected stragglers – and this unexpected group must put their trust in each other to prevent the emperor and his son, Damocles, ensuring the end of the Novantae – and possibly the entire galaxy.
Eris was a brilliant, complex character, full of guilt and secrets. The more I learnt about her, the more I liked her. She got the most screentime because she had the most interesting backstory and role to play – in many ways, this would have worked with just her, Clo, and perhaps Rhea as point-of-view characters. Eris was a strong, ruthless character, but also very human in a way that none of the others seemed to appreciate.
Cloelia, or Clo, was one of the last people to have been born naturally rather than grown. She was an impulsive, rash character, prone to angry outbursts, but also fiercely loyal. She’s the sort of character I’d definitely want on my side – but I didn’t enjoy being in her head as much as I enjoyed being in Eris’s. She held too much of a grudge and regularly failed to see the bigger picture past a cloud of red mist.
Nyx, Rhea, and Ariadne made an interesting band of women. Nyx was much like Eris, except unlike Eris she’d spent a long time under the Oracle’s programming and had to grapple with that. Her sections were interesting, but not distinct enough from Eris’s to be entirely necessary. Rhea, the ex-favoured pleasure consort of Damocles, was a far more intriguing character – more could probably have been done with her than was achieved here, and I hope she plays a bigger role in the sequels. Ariadne, the Oracle’s engineer and a child genius, started strongly but became increasingly irritating. I appreciated that Lam and May never played down the trauma that her upbringing would have left on her and the impact it had – the depiction of post-traumatic stress disorder was excellent – but it wasn’t fun to read about, and her sections felt rather repetitive. She worked better as a side character than when she had her own point-of-view.
Overall, this made an interesting addition to the Star Wars-esque genre of science fiction focused on evil dictators and plucky bands of rebels. If that’s your cup of tea, stick with this – the payoff it worth it at the end.
Published by Orion
Hardcover: 6 August 2020