In the Devil’s Nebula by Anna Hackett


Published: Self-published in July 2014
Format reviewed: E-book (mobi)
Series: The Phoenix Adventures #2
Genres: Science fiction, space opera, romance
Source: Author’s website
Reading Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016, #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks, The 2016 Sci-fi Experience
Available: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~ Smashwords

Two years ago, on a deadly mission to the lawless Devil’s Nebula, Commander Zayn Phoenix’s life imploded. Now the former Strike Wing pilot fills his days with dangerous adventures alongside his treasure hunter brothers.

But his nights are another story: haunted by nightmares of one unforgivable act.

Until an assassin lures him into a hunt. A hunt for her freedom from the Assassin’s Guild. A hunt for a derringer used in an ancient and infamous assassination of old Earth president, Abraham Lincoln.

Zayn is compelled to join the perilous adventure with Ria Dante that will take them straight into the heart of the Devil’s Nebula, but not for money, fame or treasure.

He joins because Ria has the face of the woman he left for dead in the Nebula years before.

When the Book Gannet saw my potential reading list for the 2016 Sci-fi Experience, they suggested I pick up some Anna Hackett to balance out the Big Serious Sci-fi. Since they’ve never steered me wrong, I went over to the author’s website where I picked up In the Devil’s Nebula as part of a free book bundle. I’m glad I did.

In the Devil’s Nebula was fast-paced fun. Actually, I was a bit surprised at just how fast-paced. I went into it expecting it to be mostly focused on the romance but found myself in the middle of an action adventure instead. The plot manages to combine space opera with heist story with romance and even tosses in a little Western just for fun. It’s a lot to jam into such a small space but the style is very cinematic and it hangs together well.

Naturally, the characters come with baggage. Back when Zayn was in the military, he was forced to mercy kill a team mate he was attracted to–a team mate who looks eerily like Ria. Despite this, Zayn isn’t much of a brooder and I liked that about him. He prefers to channel his grief into action, as the pilot for his treasure-hunting brothers. He also has a talent for conducting heists… when a certain someone doesn’t get there before him.

Ria is a member of the Assassins Guild who wants out. Of course, no one retires from the Assassins Guild, so she’s been forced to get a little creative with her retirement plan. But she needs help. I liked Ria’s boldness. She gets the attention of Zayn and his brothers by pre-emptively stealing the treasure they’re hunting. Yet while she’s bold, she’s not generally reckless and is more than capable of physically keeping up with Zayn no matter what sort of trouble they find themselves in. The sexual tension between these two is strong, though some of the early romantic moments could have been held for a beat longer.

However, it was the secondary characters that really stole the show. BEll is the onboard computer for the Phoenix Brothers’ ship. I liked that she had such a distinct personality and spoke in a very sassy, casual way. Then there was Lastite Lala, a teenager with a talent for explosives. Despite her young age and total lack of fear, Lala is capable of looking after herself and does a great job of keeping the protagonists on their toes.

In the Devil’s Nebula made for some light, action-packed reading. I thoroughly enjoyed it and will be snagging the rest of the series for later.