Review: ‘Seven Devils’ (‘Seven Devils’, #1) by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

She looked out at the stars and planned her next game.
Queens kill king.

Rating:

4.5/5 paper planes

What’s This Book About?

Genre: Science-fiction (space opera)
Publication: 6 Aug 2020
Pages: 448 (e-book)

Synopsis: Eris thought she had left her old life as the Heir to the galaxy’s most ruthless empire behind. But her recruitment by the Resistance throws her right back into the fray.

Eris has been assigned a new mission: infiltrate a spaceship and return intelligence gathered to the Resistance. But Cloelia, her partner for the mission, bears an old grudge against Eris, complicating an already difficult infiltration.

Onboard the infiltrated ship, they discover three fugitives with critical knowledge of the empire’s inner workings.

Together, these women could bring the empire to its knees. But the clock is ticking: the new imperial heir plans to disrupt a crucial peace summit. If they can stop him, they will save the galaxy. If not…millions may die.

Content warnings: drugs, toxic relationships; violence (against women, gun/knife/physical violence, off-page sexual), moderate gore; emotional child abuse; death, murder and body disposal; kidnapping; injuries (inc. dismemberment), brain hacking and neurosurgery; explosions; arson

What I Thought:

If you enjoyed ‘Six of Crows’ or ‘Star Wars’, you’ll probably like this one too! ‘Seven Devils’ boasts an epic interstellar journey of resistance and undercover ops against the totalitarian Tholosian Empire, over which stands the watchful gaze of the Oracle (also known as One), an AI program that brainwashes and surveils the regions under Tholosian rule. There are also distinct, diverse characters, including BIPOC, disabled, trans, queer, neurodivergent characters, which is both important to their characterisation (for example, attention is paid to how Cloelia’s prosthetic leg affects her daily life) but it is not all they are. (Note: the racism/xenophobia in this book is not based on skin colour, but rather a fear of alien superpowered abilities.) ‘Seven Devils’ also has an irresistible found-family dynamic with excellent banter!

‘Don’t make me regret this,’ Clo grumbled.
‘Don’t be an asshole,’ Eris sang back.
‘Assholes are warm and sensitive,’ Clo returned.

found family stitch gif

The gang’s personalities are all so different and make for some truly hilarious exchanges.

‘[I]f that thing is dangerous,’ Clo [asked], ‘what would happen to us?’
‘Oh, who knows?’ Ariadne gave a dismissive wave of a gloved hand. ‘But some substances can make you really sick from organ and bone marrow damage. Or you might start hemorrhaging. Or you can become incapacitated and eventually die. It’s like a surprise! Only the surprise is your death and how quickly it happens.’
‘I shouldn’t have asked.’

It was a bit of a rocky start with this one – a flood of place and people names, a few info-dumps that were interesting but still info-dumps, and plot-wise, a relatively slow beginning. During introspective passages, some lines felt a little overdramatic but once the stakes shot up, these lines fit much better. Once ‘Seven Devils’ gets going, it really digs its claws into you and keeps you hooked. The last quarter in particular was a slew of rocketing plot twists and high octane scene flow.

The world-building is quite intricate, built up through flashbacks and *ahem* the aforementioned info-dumps, and everyone’s backstories are similarly layered in complexity. (Even the antagonist develops too – at least from our original concept of them – and I anticipate we may get some more of their backstory in the sequel.) Flashbacks take place as whole chapters, which I think is smart as it’s a lot less confusing than having random backstory passages in the middle of a stressful present-day scene, but it does make the plot seem like it’s slower than it actually is.

Their backstories built character depth, especially for Eris/Discordia. Eris used to be Princess Discordia, (also known as General Discordia), Heir to a brutal Empire that demands its potential rulers to kill all but one of their siblings (the Spare) in order to earn their place as successor. Eris/Discordia was my favourite, utterly fascinating and compelling in her character arc. She’s particularly interesting because most of her character arc has already taken place before this book, in the years leading up to her faking her death and defecting to the Resistance.

Change the damn Empire, Discordia. Make it yours. Make it better.
While there was a sweet sapphic romance blossoming between two other characters (Cloelia and Rhea), the bond I was most invested in was the sibling love between Eris/Discordia and her gentle brother Xander, so different to her other brother Damocles, the present-day Heir. The crumbs of Xander’s story, scattered throughout Eris’ flashbacks, built up his bond with her until I grieved him too, despite Xander never appearing in the present-day. I actually wept real tears.
Discordia wanted Xander to live. She wanted him to live more than she wanted to rule an empire.

i'm fine crying gif

By virtue of having characters with wildly different backgrounds, ‘Seven Devils’ could address several themes quite well. For example, through Eris/Discordia and another character, Ariadne, the difference between toxic love (from their parents) and healthy love is illustrated.

Even if her father cared about her in his own way, it was destructive. Toxic… It was Xander who had truly cared for her. His affection had not come with pain.
It also portrays the dangers of nationalism, institutionalised violence and heteronormative, binary thinking.
This is what the Empire did: forced you to become complicit in the dehumanization of others… Nationalism cultivated prejudice. Everyone here was fighting against their own upbringing.
The Oracle forces people into neat little boxes because One only understands order. But humans are messy. We are not binary; we don’t exist in ones and zeroes. This or that.

I have some remaining questions, like how Eris first came to the resistance, why Discordia and Damocles are blonde versus their 49 other brunette siblings, but I trust these will be addressed in the sequel. The final line was absolutely amazing. Gave me literal chills. I am SO excited for the next book!

Thank you to NetGalley and Gollancz for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Thank you for reading! Is this book on your TBR or have you already read it – and what did you think? Let me know below!

6 thoughts on “Review: ‘Seven Devils’ (‘Seven Devils’, #1) by Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

    1. Thank you!! Hahahah strategic inclusion of ‘Six of Crows’ and ‘Star Wars’ in my first sentence 😂 it was indeed good and if you read it I hope you’ll enjoy it! I don’t think it’s on NetGalley UK anymore as I think it got archived on the pub date (6 Aug), but maybe it’s different for your country’s NetGalley server!

      Liked by 1 person

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