The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid
Version: ARC Paperback
Rating: 3 stars
Release Date: November 1st 2016
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.
I really wanted to like this book, and at the same time I couldn't. The plot of Diabolic felt too compressed in this standalone, and would have done better in a series.
Diabolics are genetically engineered humans who are created to protect the person they are assigned to, at all costs. Nemesis is a Diabolic assigned to the shunned Impyrean family - the daughter Sidonia. For her father's heresy against the Emperor, Sidonia is summoned to the court, the Chrysanthemum, which will most likely end in her death. Nemesis is chosen to replace her and survive the deadly Grandiloquy and court politics, and struggle with unfamiliar feelings that come with interacting with the Emperor's nephew, Tyrus.
Honestly, the idea is cool. I would have loved to see this executed over the course of several novels. In a standalone, though, I was put off my lack of proper pacing. I could not tell when events were happening - whether it was in a few days or a few months. It went from Nemesis training to enter the Chrysanthemum as Sidonia, to her in court, to her eventually trying to quell a revolution on Lumina. People die, romance happens, and there's no grasp of time in Diabolic that it feels like everything is happening so quickly.
The novel did not hold my interest consistently and even proved predictable at times. It's obvious who dies, who falls in love. Actually, the death in this book was rampant and poorly explained at times. Characters come and go and the slightest mention makes me wonder if I've read about them previously in the book. However, one character's death felt extremely unnecessary and only left more unanswered questions.
The romance in this book is supposed to be a love triangle, but it was pretty obvious what the endgame relationship was going to be. It did not even seem to be like a love triangle, but more of a familial relationship, because said character's feelings never even came to full fruition.
But there were aspects of Diabolic that I liked. The plot of a space Helionic race that preferred stagnation to scientific advancement was interesting (if only it was expanded on!). Their lore and lifestyle was something I enjoyed reading. Tyrus and Nemesis's interactions, while occasionally angsty, were adorable. And, seeing Nemesis realize her humanity over the course of her stay was something to cool to read. From a Diabolic standpoint, humanity is so strange, and the observations were fascinating.
People spoke so reverently of affection. For me, it seemed a torment. I couldn't believe people enjoyed these feelings. How could someone relish this excruciating need to secure claim on another human?
Diabolic could have been a much better book, if it was perhaps in a series. In a standalone, I'm left feeling incomplete by the ending, for so many things were left unexplained, with so many open-ended questions. The Helionic lore and several characters were my favorite parts, but this did not completely support the uneven pacing and the rushed need to kill of characters.
I may actually be the black sheep on this one.