Hello Humans! So you’re back for another book review – you must have excellent taste. Today I’m reviewing feminist science fiction with Laura Lam and Elizabeth May’s Seven Devils. This book first hit my radar at Gollanczfest last October and I’m so glad I managed to snag a digital review copy so I could tell you my thoughts.
When Eris faked her death, she thought she had left her old life as the heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Novantaen Resistance, an organization opposed to the empire’s voracious expansion, throws her right back into the fray.
Eris has been assigned a new mission: to infiltrate a spaceship ferrying deadly cargo and return the intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But her partner for the mission, mechanic and hotshot pilot Cloelia, bears an old grudge against Eris, making an already difficult infiltration even more complicated.
When they find the ship, they discover more than they bargained for: three fugitives with firsthand knowledge of the corrupt empire’s inner workings.
Together, these women possess the knowledge and capabilities to bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new heir to the empire plans to disrupt a peace summit with the only remaining alien empire, ensuring the empire’s continued expansion. If they can find a way to stop him, they will save the galaxy. If they can’t, millions may die.
This book joins the ranks of various other ‘unlikely squads in space’ books that we’ve seen emerge over the last few years. I’m not averse to books with squads in space but I’ve read some that I just haven’t enjoyed lately and, having been a little disappointed by Laura Lam’s Goldilocks, I was nervous going into this book – was I going to be presented with blah feminist science fiction that expected me to love it because of that label?
I’m glad to say that this book is pretty intersectional as far as feminist fiction goes – I’d even go so far as to say that, for me, it gave me what I was looking for in ‘ladies being revolutionaries in space’ terms. I think Goldilocks might appeal to many readers looking to read a very human experience whereas this book edges more into the unfamiliar side of science fiction (which I think may be the side on which I am more comfortable residing…is it because it’s closer to fantasy? Probably).
The book opens with Eris and Clo but other characters soon join the cast (and we get POV chapters from almost all of them). I enjoyed Eris and Clo’s dynamic and I liked the way the book was told through a mixture of action in the ‘present’ as well as flashbacks. I’m always here for a book that gradually reveals the motivations of a character and this book does it well. I do think that some chapters fall a little short, feeling like they are written from two perspectives rather than the one, which can make things feel unnecessarily jumbled. As with most books with a large cast of characters, I think the second book will likely be stronger just because it will have to do fewer introductions. I have to say I think my favourite characters were Clo and Ariadne – though there wasn’t a character I didn’t like – which is very unusual for me.
We have WLW representation as well which I thought was well done, you definitely get the sense that the authors wanted to write romantic scenes with a focus on consent and I actually thought it worked very well (having read examples where it felt clunky). That romance is a nice breather in a book that has quite a lot of difficult and dark segments.
There is a lot to keep track of in this book – and I will say that I had a hard time finishing this. I don’t know if it was the difficulty of reading it in Ebook format – not being able to see how much was left – or just the complexity of the plot but it took a while. Typically I can read a book of this size in a day – maybe two if I’m particularly busy. And…ok it did only take me three days but it was a concerted effort to get to the end. I think the pacing is just a little off at times and it makes certain segments drag. It also – due in part to the aforementioned introductions – takes a while to get to the meat of the plot which can add to that sense of a book taking longer than it ‘should’.
That being said, once I finished this book my overwhelming impression was that I had enjoyed it. I liked the characters, I liked the plot, I liked the romance – I liked pretty much everything. As far as ‘space squads’ go this is probably the best one I’ve read. I think it might be one to re-read in the future now I have a better idea of who and what is important to the story? So I’ll pop it on my ‘to reread’ list and probably get to it in three years!
Overall I’d say if you enjoy YA science fiction I think you’ll enjoy this book – it’s probably also a good crossover book if you like both YA and Adult, it’s somewhere in the middle. It has some solid ideas and I think it’s intersectional enough that it can wear the ‘feminist’ label proudly.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.
Seven Devils is out August 6th!
What say you? Will you be reading this? Let me know in the comments below!