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Book review: In the Devil’s Nebula by Anna Hackett

The time and place

See the title. Lots of action happens on planet Lucifa, the Assassin’s Guild base, but there’s also some on a cowboy western planet and in space. As for time, unspecified, but in our far future.

The suspension of disbelief

Space travel exists. Long ago, people fled Earth after nuclear war, scattering its treasures and museum pieces everywhere. Those are now valuable. There are several humanoid races around, perhaps all descended from us. People live on both low and high-tech worlds.

The summary

Someone’s stolen a rash of artifacts before the Phoenix brothers, treasure hunters extraordinaire, have been able to get to them. Somebody wants their attention. They track the thief to the Devil’s Nebula, where they find an assassin named Ria Dante who wants their help stealing the Lincoln Derringer so she may buy her freedom from her Guild with it. Zayn Phoenix, an ex-Strike Wing pilot, is flabbergasted to realize Ria looks just like Viktoria Anders, his late commanding officer who he still has nightmares about. Something fishy is going on here. The brothers agree to help Ria out to stick it to the Assassin’s Guild. On their hunt for the derringer, Zayn and Ria fall in love, only to discover dangerous secrets that could destroy Ria’s life and their relationship.

My squees

Fighter pilot and assassin? Yes please. These two go toe to toe with each other physically, have lots of fun together and are well-suited for their adventures. He’s got a need for speed, and she enjoys adventure thrills. He does muck things up a few times, but it is understandable. They respect the heck out of each other and their caring becomes selfless: Ria wants to protect Zayn from the punishment for her good deeds.

Zayn has gun issues. They get him into trouble, which I appreciate. His reasons would turn me off guns, of course. Although he deals with it in one instance, he isn’t miraculously cured after that. At least, he doesn’t say so.

This book is longer than At Star’s End, which I remember I feeling was a bit short. In the Devil’s Nebula gives us a little more time with the characters so the love story feels organic. The action-adventure keeps the story moving along at a fast clip, though.

The secondary cast is varied and vivid. Eos and Dathan return, Nik continues his bizarre game with Darc, and we meet a crazy teenager who’s an explosives prodigy.

My grumbles

Zayn plunges into a nightmare pretty early in the story, but keeps his PTSD a secret from his brothers. It’s a bit surprising since they seem so close.

There’s a character at the end who spills all the details of a complicated operation to enemies. He does this with very little threat or prompting. Why does he tell all of this to people he knows are hostile? I would have preferred our heroes to put the pieces together, perhaps researching/hacking a console at the site.

This is the third Phoenix Adventures book in a row I’ve read where the female protagonist does not have (by birth or by grooming) a certain kind of body hair and the male considers this sexy. That kind of squicks me out with its consistency.

Read if you

  • Enjoy action-adventure plots
  • Have a soft spot for wounded warriors
  • Like your love scenes picante

Skip if you

  • Want a slow, deliberate love story
  • Avoid swear words
  • Think people without hair that a bikini would cover are a giant turn-off


I’m a member of Anna’s Launch Team. I purchased this book on my own.

With what Zayn’s been through, I’d assume he needs a psychologist. Although he can face the events on Lucifa with some closure now, I doubt the horrifying scenes he remembers will just fade away. Ria also has plenty left to process at the end of the story, and I hope we see those ideas explored in their appearances in further books. I do recommend you read At Star’s End to get a bit more on Zayn, but it’s not necessary.

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Resources: Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Kobo

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