Last week I got my grubby hands on an advanced reading copy (ARC) of S.J. Kincaid’s latest novel, The Diabolic. I’m not sure why Kincaid sent it to me, but I’m glad she did! She didn’t ask me to write a review, but I’m going to anyway. It’ll be extremely biased because 1) I love her work and 2) my God this book rocked! (It rocked so hard that I just used two exclamation points in one paragraph. I’m pretty sure I’ve written whole books that don’t have many more exclamation points than that.)
Anyway, our heroine in The Diabolic, Nemesis, is an artificially created being, trained for one thing only: to kill. She is imprinted on Sidonia, the heir to the galactic Senate. This means Nemesis is programmed to do anything to protect Sidonia, to kill anyone who threatens her or, if necessary, to die for her. There’s no escape from her programming–her duties will end only with her death. Nor does she want to escape–her programming causes her to love Sidonia. But when the Emperor summons Sidonia to serve as a hostage, Nemesis can only protect her by impersonating her. Thus Nemesis is forced to enter a web of galactic intrigue that she’s woefully unprepared for.
The Emperor and Galactic Senate depicted in The Diabolic are clearly based on ancient Rome, right down to their updated version of sun worship. It’s a fascinating take on the future of humanity, if a depressing one. I’ve always hoped humans would go down the rational path depicted in Star Trek, leaving our old biases and religious prejudice behind on the earth. Sadly though, I found the government in The Diabolic perfectly believable.
Nemesis is a fascinating character. She’s stronger, faster, and smarter than any human. She assesses everyone but Sidonia as a threat, calculating multiple ways to kill anyone who crosses her path, and, in fact, killing at least one person who only appears to be a tangential threat to Sidonia. I love the fact that Kincaid carried her concept through to its logical conclusion and fearlessly depicted a somewhat morally ambiguous heroine. It shows the high regard in which she holds her readers.
As I was reading, I frequently found myself comparing The Diabolic to Graceling by Kristin Cashore. If you’ve ever heard me rave about Graceling, you know what a compliment that is. Nemesis, like Katsa, is supremely gifted at killing. They are both forced to navigate political systems that neither is remotely prepared for. And ultimately, both Nemesis and Katsa find meaning in their lives by protecting another.
The pacing in The Diabolic is crackling fast. I would have read it in a day, but I had a school visit and forced myself to put the book aside and go to bed at eleven. The next day, I carried The Diabolic along on my school visit, hoping (fruitlessly) I’d have time to sneak in a few more pages. I finished it that evening.
The Diabolic will be available on 11/1. But I’ll help you get a copy early! I’m giving away my signed ARC to one lucky winner. It pains me to do this, because Kincaid wrote such a nice inscription to me in the ARC. But I’m going to buy a hardcover when it comes out, and don’t have space on my shelves for both. Why am I buying a hardcover when I already have an ARC? Because I want to read more Kincaid books! And the royalties on an ARC are a big fat zero. But if you’d like to read it ahead of time, all you have to do is sign up for my mailing list via the Rafflecopter below. I’ll mail the ARC to any U.S. address. (Sorry, international readers. I love you, but I’m too cheap to spring for international postage.) Happy reading!