Seven Mercies: TikTok Made Me Buy It (book 2 of 2) by Elizabeth May & Laura Lam (book review).

‘Seven Mercies’ is the sequel to last year’s ‘Seven Devils’ and the concluding part of this duology. It continues the action-packed, entertaining, fast-paced story of a group of seven rebels who have now taken on the nickname the Seven Devils, based on the empire’s mythology.

After various adventures and debacles in the first volume, the Seven Devils and their rebel allies are now wanted by not only the emperor but by the entire Tholosian Empire. This is mainly due to the fact that the citizens of this interstellar empire are controlled by AI implants in their brains that constantly pump propaganda into their minds to ensure loyalty and harshly punish any who stray from party lines.

The Devils embark on yet more highly dangerous missions to infiltrate imperial properties, steal supplies, free prisoners and strike back at their oppressors. The newly founded peace treaty with the Evolian Empire offers the chance of more allies, but also more opportunities for peril. Writers Elizabeth May and Laura Lam have once again pulled together a whole host of ideas and ingredients to create an adventurous tale of friendship, dark pasts, suspicion and redemption.

The backgrounds to all of the Seven Devils was obviously set in the first volume and, although it wasn’t too long ago that I read it, the problem I found this time around was that I found it difficult to sort out all of the characters in my mind. Chapters alternate between the viewpoints of the various rebels, giving a rounded view of the plot as it developed but leaving it less anchored for any length of time. Gradually, as further flashbacks fill in their backstories, they began to solidify once more into a group of individuals with complex backgrounds.

The empire-spanning AI known as Oracle continues to increase its grip on the populace, improving ways to control individuals and influence populations. The brutal but incompetent new emperor Damocles tries to solidify his rule, not realising that he is being usurped by his own AI. Damocles has been fairly one-dimensional across both volumes, the epitome of cruelty, narcissism and evil, but his interactions with his sister-turned-rebel Eris slowly add some depth to his character this time.

Some of the Seven Devils this time need to infiltrate an imperial prison to rescue incarcerated rebels. Others must fly into the heart of the Evoli Empire to investigate rumours that may help free all of the empires subjects of bondage to the AI. Between, them they need to save the galaxy or possibly galaxies. There appeared to be some confusion again this time over the definition of quadrants and galaxies, with the inclusion of an asteroid belt that blocks off half a galaxy.

As a whole, this is not a book that concentrates on technology or explanations of how things work. It’s more about the relationships between the rebels, their friendships, interpersonal issues and their own dark pasts. They struggle to overcome the guilt over things they’ve done and people they’ve lost, they weigh up the cost of actions that are for the greater good and they constantly strive to do better.

In the end, it’s a satisfying conclusion, a realistic denouement and an emotionally fraught journey. It’s not entirely my kind of space opera, but for many it will be a welcome change from the standard tropes of the genre.

Gareth D Jones

February 2022

(pub: Gollancz, 2022. 423 page hardback. Price: £20.00 (UK only). ISBN: 978-1-473-2.3496-3)

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