The Diabolic - S.J. Kincaid

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

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.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

Space opera is probably the best way to describe The Diabolic, a dramatic and deliciously twisted narrative full of political intrigue, backstabbing royalty, and an empire crumbling due to stagnant leadership. And when I say 'twisted' I don't just mean in terms of the strange traditions that exist within the royal courts, but also that there are so many twists and turns within the overall narrative, it is nearly impossible to know who is good or who is bad until the final few pages of the novel.

Kincaid's writing is sharp and well-paced, seamlessly weaving together numerous subplots and planting seeds of foreshadowing throughout. The world building is excellent as well. There are ancient starships, space fortresses, and the marvellous Chrysanthemum, the jewel of the empire, a stronghold set among a system of six stars which make the fortress nearly impossible to attack. Various families have starships that dock around the main superstructure to create an almost flower-like structure. The ships themselves are massive and contain many wonders in and of themselves. The Domitrians, the ruling family, have impressively designed spaces including cave-like rooms made out of massive amethysts, and others have rooms so large the ceiling cannot actually be seen.

What I was really impressed with in this book, however, was the strong characterization. Each individual is rendered with great complexity and a full range of emotions and motivations. Nemesis, though artificially created and originally designed to be without emotion, grows in leaps and bounds throughout the trials she faces within the novel. As she encounters danger and faces down death, she becomes a force to be reckoned with. The mad successor to the throne, Tyrus, is also an impressively nuanced character, unlikely to be forgotten in the end. As his story and Nemesis's begin to come together, the narrative moves swiftly to a heart-stopping finish.

Fans of sci-fi, space opera, and kick-ass heroines will enjoy this book. I can't wait for it to come into the world in November!


(NOTE: This review is from a bound manuscript - Out Nov. 2016)


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