The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK Children’s
Publication date: 01 November 2016
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
There are times when a book comes into your life that you think you won’t like, but you somehow end up loving. That book for me was The Diabolic. It has so many elements that I usually dislike: an overpowered heroine, a cocky-on-the-outside-but-soft-and-squishy-on-the-inside hero, the ‘this could all be resolved if we actually sat down and talked about our feelings’ romantic subplot. However, everything came together really well and just works.
Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator’s daughter, Sidonia. There’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.
She must become her.
Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have – humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire…*
The world that Kincaid creates is astonishing. It’s not the kind of gritty sci-fi dystopian world that we are so well acquainted with these days — it is a very different kind of dystopia. The upper classes live on fantastically opulent spacecraft and rule from among the stars. Lesser humans are planet-bound and rely upon the nobility for literally everything — they can never be self-sufficient and therefore can never rebel against the ruling classes.
The best bit for me was the religion and the halt on scientific progress. Study of the sciences is completely banned. So how did they get these ships and the space-faring technology that allows them to rule from above? They’re using the technology left behind by their ancestors — technology that they don’t know how to repair or replicate. These factors come together to create an empire on the brink of collapse and a commentary and warning on certain segments of our own society.
Although the world is interesting and well-written, this novel would have sunk without Nemesis. When the novel opens, we are introduced to the Diabolic, genetically engineered bodyguards that protect only the highest of the nobility. Nemesis is a Diabolic who has been bonded to Sidona, the daughter of a galactic senator. The plot revolves around Nemesis taking Sidonia’s place as a hostage at the emperor’s court. Nemesis is the key that holds the book together. The book is told in first person, so we get her inner thoughts as she struggles to suppress everything she has been created to do. She isn’t the Terminator, running around completely stone-faced and killing everyone in sight. Nor is she hiding a fluffy conscience underneath her hard exterior. She’s a character who struggles with the humanity she was always told she never had. As Sidonia’s double, she is finally treated as an equal rather than an object. She sees the treatment of other genetically manipulated beings under the aristocracy’s control and wants to change things for the better. Nemesis could easily have been a one-dimensional character, but Kincaid makes her so much more.
There is so much more to discover in The Diabolic. From romance, to political back handedness, to betrayal, this book is a fun, fast-paced read that hooked me from the beginning. It is a ridiculous roller coaster of a book that hides a surprising level of humanity and social commentary. It’s an easy story to fall into for anyone looking to begin reading science fiction, but will still please established readers of the genre.