Genres: science fiction
Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator's daughter, Sidonia. The girl who has grown up by her side and who is as much as sister as a master. 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...
There are times when I am certain that there must be something very off with my reading-enjoyment-o-meter, and this is one of those times. This book has a proliferation of positive and glowing reviews from my friends, yet I find myself out of those ranks. The story of Nemesis, genetically engineered to be a living, undefeatable weapon, who is placed as a wolf among intergalactic sheep should have been exhilarating. Instead I found myself mostly bored.
There is a sterility to this story that I found kept me at an emotional remove throughout. I’m not sure if that sterility was intentional or not. On the one hand, I think it is as Nemesis was created and “bred” to lack emotion and caring for anything other than her bonded protected, Sidonia. Nemesis’ feelings for Sidonia are vast, capable, and complex; her love for the girl is deep. Her caring for anything else is minimal to non-existent. This is fine, but it did keep me at the remove mentioned above. And so, I found myself not ever connecting or feeling truly pulled into the world.
The world-building itself did not make much sense to me. It is far enough into the future that humanity has spread amongst galaxies, so obviously the technology is very advanced. However, some centuries have gone by since a supernova took with it the planets that stored all of humanity’s information on science and technology. The Helionic religion declared this an act of the Living Cosmos imposing its will and outlawed any attempts to rebuild that knowledge. Ever since, humans have been relying on the machines that maintain the technology that existed at the time of the supernova. Things are, of course, slowly falling apart with time. If that seems like it makes perfect sense to you then happily you won’t have the problems I did.
Plot-wise I can’t say that the book felt like it particularly dragged, but there was a definite rhythm of predictability. I felt as if the entire story was moving through the motions of big thing happens, then little bit of downtime while the MC regroups and forms a new plan, then big thing happens again until the end. I guess when you examine it, many (most?) stories are told in this way, but I feel like I shouldn’t be able to notice it. And each big thing is clearly intended to be very shocking but I never found myself unable to guess what was coming next. With any fantasy or science fiction story that largely relies on politics for the plot I want those politics to be complex and intense. But everything in this story felt rote and dry to me. Nemesis isn’t supposed to be very good at deciphering human emotions, but most of the characters in this book were transparent even when trying to be subtle.
Another thing that irked is that Nemesis isn’t “human” and yet she so successfully pulls off the charade even after continuous slips up. She also acts in outlandish ways that no person of her character’s social standing could get away with. The society is a sort of pseudo-Roman throwback with an empire, emperor, and senate. Mores are strict and Nemesis, posing as a senator’s heir, has guidelines and social norms to adhere to. These are often thrown to the wind with little to no consequence. That said, I did very much enjoy Nemesis as a character and the examination of her humanity (or lack thereof).
Disappointingly, I found the romance to be overwrought and cliched. The love interest doesn’t become a part of Nemesis’ life until about the half-way point of the story. From there, it is very quickly moving and not more than superficial. I was happy for Nemesis that she discovers there is more to herself, a capacity to have feelings for people other than Sidionia. But we don’t ever really get to know the love interest on more than a surface level. He is supposed to be a master at political manipulation, yet he’s very transparent, even to Nemesis. It just didn’t add for me.
Finally, this book displayed one of my very least favorite tropes: View Spoiler »resurrecting the dead. If you’re going to kill a character, please really, truly kill them. Magical survivals and resurrections are a cop out. Yes, even if you go on to actually kill the character later on as happens in this book. « Hide Spoiler If you’re going to commit, commit from the first.
All said, I was less than impressed with The Diabolic. There’s nothing particularly offensive here, but it is reliant on overused science fiction tropes without adding enough of unique interest. The saving grace for me was Nemesis herself and her endearing path to self realization and actualization. But I am very much the black sheep on this one so if the premise interests you give it a try. I wish you better luck than I had.