Title: The Diabolic (2016)
Author: S. J. Kincaid
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Extent: 416 pages
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.
When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.
The Diabolic is the story of Nemesis, an artificial creature created specifically to the person she is chemically bonded with. Her entire life is devoted to Sidonia, a senator’s daughter, and when she has to impersonate Sidonia as the Emperor’s hostage to protect her, she does so completely willingly, even knowing that she might be walking straight into her death.
There is a lot of action and violence in this book. Nemesis is a brutal character, driven by her single purpose of protecting Sidonia. She is quick to eliminate any potential threats that might come Sidonia’s way and lay down her life for Sidonia no matter the costs. Sidonia, for her part, is a sweet, kind person, always wanting more for Nemesis and believing that Nemesis is capable of feeling love.
“I had no soul and very little heart, but what heart there was belonged to her.”
The Diabolic for me was much more of a plot-driven book rather than anything else. For all the characters that we were introduced to, I never felt really attached to them and wasn’t emotionally impacted when something bad happened to them. This isn’t necessarily such a bad thing, because to make up for that, the plot was compelling enough to keep me going. The pacing is generally good, though I did feel like the first half was more gripping and tension-inducing than the second half.
For me, though, it was the world-building that was the most interesting. The story is set far, far into the future (we’re speaking probably thousands of years), and everything is quite… different. Humans are free to change their looks however they want, save for certain signature elements of their appearances. Science and learning are technically banned. Plenty of humanoid are created for sole purposes: Servitors (maids), Exalted (sacrifices), etc. It is gruesome and occasionally uncomfortable.
“It’s a terrifying thing, to realize your own decisions will shape your destiny.”
There is some romance, yes, and it did serve as a driver for drama, but I didn’t mind (or care for) it so much. The internal conflict was mostly centred around Nemesis questioning herself and her nature and purpose in life. Diabolics are meant to be ruthless and emotionless, so what are these things that she’s feeling? Is she capable of more? Is she human in her own special way? For the most part, I think these themes were explored pretty well — not as well as I’d have liked, but adequate.
My biggest complaint is probably the ending: it was much, much too abrupt, and when I reached that last page, it just felt incomplete. I wouldn’t mind a continuation since I felt there were more things to be explored, but this is meant to be a stand-alone and I suppose it could work that way. Overall quite an enjoyable, action-packed book, though I wouldn’t say it’s 100% a must-read.
REAL RATING: 3.5 stars.