Friday 15 September 2017

The Diabolic (The Diabolic #1), S. Kincaid

Everyone believed that Diabolics were fearless, but in my earliest years, all I knew was fear
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

* * * * 
4 / 5

For some reason, perhaps I'd previously read a bad review, I wasn't expecting much when I opened The Diabolic. I was completely wrong. This book was amazing and it took my breath away. The Diabolic is brutal and clever and full of conspiracies, power plays, and revolution. It's such an inventive world, so rich in characters and politics, with the character of Nemesis at the fore. 
"Our ancestors sought knowledge, but we, their descendants, glorify ignorance"

Humans are scattered across the galaxy. The rich and powerful, known as the Grandiloquy, rule the known universe and the poor are planet-bound and referred to as the Excess. This is a brutal cutthroat sort of world, with the mutinous poor growing angry with their tyrannical rule, the Emperor, whose mother murdered all of his siblings in order to remove all opposing claims to the throne.  The Emperor has expressly forbidden all scientific enquiry - including learning maintenance of the massive starships the Grandiloquy use to travel - upon pain of death. Nemesis dan Impyrean doesn't give a damn about any of this. Her only concern, the reason she was made and trained and tortured and treated as a wild animal, is the protection of Sidonia von Impyrean, the Heir of the Impyrean family.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a sort of brutal, emotionless augmented "human", who emotionally imprinted upon Sidonia at a young age. Nemesis loves Sidonia, who cares for her despite her mother's urgings that she behave as behooves a lady of her standing. When the Emperor orders that all Diabolics be destroyed, Sidonia hides her; when Sidonia's father commits an act of treason by collecting scientific information, the Emperor demands Sidonia's presence in court as a hostage. Nemesis undergoes appearance altering surgery to resemble a human and takes etiquette lessons in order to impersonate Sidonia at court - she must appear to feel what she cannot feel, to act in contrast to her indoctrination, and pretend to be that which she is not - human. 

"We are all of us but stardust shaped into conscious being"

I loved Nemesis, particularly at the start of the novel. She was unfeeling (except for her feelings towards Sidonia), methodical, dangerous, and she was believable. When she arrives at court, she focuses around fitting in and befriends a lower ranking member of court; I can't really say much about what happens here, because that would be to deprive you of reading it yourself, but the direction the book takes is interesting. Nemesis later encounters Tyrus Domitrian, heir to the throne and mad as two particularly mad planks. I loved Tyrus and Nemesis and I loved Tyrus&Nemesis's political partnership.

Which brings me to what I did not love. It was only really two things - the romance, and a particular plot choice involving Sidonia. With the latter, I don't think Kincaid made a daring enough choice and it really didn't have the emotional impact that it could have done. I really wanted to feel Nemesis' rage, I wanted to believe her fury. But I just .... didn't. Then there's the romance. Nemesis is on this sort of emotional journey, discovering how much closer to human she is than she ever thought she could be and, at first, I loved it. Then we got hit with the whole "(romantic) love is what makes us human" and "man, he's so hot, what is this lust that I am feeling?". Not only was I not too on board with the implications - that sexual and romantic love is the pinnacle of what it is to be human - but it was just so damn cliche. Nemesis was such a great character and there was so much raw emotion to work with - rage, vengeance, desire for justice, her burgeoning belief in revolution, in change - that love was just such a boring focal point for such an interesting character.

Overall, however, I loved The Diabolic. I thought the writing was beautiful, the plot well-paced, the environment at court, at the Chrysanthemum, was so well-communicated and atmospheric, the world-building both intriguing and realistic, that I was willing to let my frustration at the romance go. 

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