The Diabolic – S.J. Kincaid

About the Book

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.

416 pages (hardcover)
Published on November 1, 2016
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Adults
Author’s website
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This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Somehow I found myself on the reviewer list for a bunch of YA books. That’s not a bad thing, and I’m actually really enjoying the change in pace, but it has surprised me because that’s not something I’ve really expected. However, it’s nice to read something different.

One of the common themes in these books is the question of humanity. Just what does it take to make someone human? It’s a question that we start asking in various ways at a very young age, and I think we keep asking it into adulthood. It never really goes away. And this question has been attacked in different ways in all of the YA books I’ve read so far, this one being no exception.

The Diabolic is set in a far future universe where an empire spans a galaxy, and the emperor is at the center of it all pulling the strings. The two young women who really set the book on its course are among the royal class…kind of. Sidonia is the daughter of a nobleman. The emperor finds out her father is in league with a rebellion, and he requests Sidonia to be sent to his palace as a glorified hostage to ensure his good behavior.

Enter Nemesis, our protagonist throughout the novel. She’s a Diabolic, a created being with super strength, no fear, and her only sense of loyalty was planted by a lab, and it is to Sidonia and only Sidonia. She’s a cold-blooded killer, and it’s decided to that to save Sidonia, she will alter her appearance and take her place at the emperor’s court.

So here we have it. Sidonia stays safely at home, protected and obscure, and Nemesis has to basically undergo a crash course on how to be human. And things happen. Nemesis has a hard time rationalizing human behavior, she has a hard time fitting in. She makes mistakes and stands out in unexpected ways, especially to fellow diabolicals, who know something is off about her, but they can’t place what it is.

She tries hard, but the emperor and his family are rather mad and they do some pretty brutal things. The story is rather compelling, and this far-future empire galaxy is really compelling, but I had a hard time believing all the details. For example, science is shunned, and so is learning, but they attend a ball in zero-g and I have a very, very hard time believing that this shunned science isn’t understood and explored at least enough to make that possible, or space flight, or anything else. There is a huge wave of deaths and absolutely no retaliation. People who had disappeared very conveniently reappear. The ending is far too tidy and not a little bit predictable.

So yes, this book has issues, but at its core it’s a story about one girl who was raised to believe she’s less than human, and ends up finding her humanity through a series of unfortunate, uncomfortable events. Are there issues? Yes. But the writing is well done, and the perspective of Nemesis was impressive. Her struggle to rationalize what was drilled into her, verses how she can be is quite well done, and that’s really the heart of the book. Basically I can sum this up as, the heart of the book was very well done. The details, the periphery was a bit messy, but the story of Nemesis and her becoming was very, very well done.

The characters are young adults, but some of the themes are adult – there are allegations of sexual abuse, murder, some torture and the like. It’s never gratuitous, but it could trigger some people so be aware of that. I think this makes a good crossover book, and will likely appeal to older teens and adults alike.

The Diabolic was an interesting premise. It’s well written, and set in a far future world that obviously had some thought put into it. There is a ton of tension, and characters you can root for. Yes, there are issues, but the core of the story is solid, and compelling. This is a book that is worth checking out.


3/5 stars


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