Book Review: The Diabolic, by S. J. Kincaid

This book was recommended to me by a friend in the writing world when I told her what else I’d been reading and happened to mention my random foray into science fiction. She thought this would be a great fit as while The Diabolic is set in space, it’s more of a suspense thriller than anything else. Thanks DawnRay for the suggestion, it was certainly an entertaining read.

The Story

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a creature made to serve as a bodyguard for Sidonia, a galactic senator’s daughter. The two grow up together and have become close. Part of Nemesis’s creation process made her completely loyal to Sidonia to the point that Nemesis expects to give up her life to protect Sidonia.

Nemesis is given that chance when Sidonia’s father angers the Emperor by acting against the decree of the Galactic Court with his interest in science. As punishment, Sidonia is summoned to the court, a vast city-like space station called the Chrysanthemum. To protect Sidonia, Nemesis is altered to appear like Sidonia and is sent in her place.

It is there at the Chrysanthemum that Nemesis discovers not only that there is more to the ruling class of the galaxy, but more to herself as well.

My Review

This story has a super cool premise where the main character is not quite human but is forced to fit into a human world. She literally sees the world from an alien perspective knowing she’s different from everyone around her and therefore shouldn’t expect to be treated the same.

So, by forcing her to pretend she’s a human is quite possibly the most difficult thing that could be asked of her – a brilliant plotting choice. Everything from that moment forward encompasses that struggle of how to act “normal” when you feel so out of place, and that someone else’s life depends on how well you succeed.

Clearly, it doesn’t go well. Nemesis makes huge critical errors that put her in the spotlight in more ways than one. She not only draws the attention of those she’s trying to hide from, but she draws their hatred as well. It’s the opposite of what she was originally sent to do.

For a character who is supposed to be emotionless, this is an emotionally driven story which makes it all the more engaging. The settings created within the story are places that I would love to visit if they were real, including vast gardens with opulent salt baths and domes that reveal black endless space.

While it’s an exciting book, there are elements that as a writer I felt could be stronger. The settings were really cool but there were plenty of scenes where once the setting was established, there was no further mention of the character interacting with the space. There was also plenty of what we call “filter words” where instead of just showing the reader what was being seen or felt, it’s dumbed down by first saying “I looked,” or “I felt,” or “I tasted.” It’s a little thing, but it reminds the reader that they are in fact reading.

My recommendations

Yes, this is technically a YA adventure thriller. However, it’s hugely violent and there are some pretty graphic descriptions of people literally being torn apart. With the main character being a professional killing machine, this isn’t unexpected, but it’s enough that I feel it appropriate to warn off younger readers and leave this one to the older teens.

Within all of this is a pretty turbulent romantic subplot that never steps into anything more than a kiss, but there is plenty of teenage angst wrapped up all around this, so if you really can’t stand that, you’ve been warned.

As for language and swearing, I have the hardest time remembering specifics, especially when I listen to the story as an audiobook. Nothing shocked me, but I want to say there might have been some PG-13 swearing.

I give The Diabolic a 3.5/5 for having some fascinating worldbuilding and characters but also having way more political drama than I was expecting.


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