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She’s Diabolical

Although it’s set in the far future, S.J. Kincaid’s The Diabolic touches on familiar and timely themes.

She’s Diabolical

BOOK REPORT for The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

Cover Story: Pretty Deadly
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Swoonworthy Scale: 6
Talky Talk: Future Politics
Bonus Factor: Hiding in Plain Sight
Anti-Bonus Factor: Death
Relationship Status: Pledge Allegiance

Trigger Warning: The Diabolic features a scene of attempted rape—a character is drugged with the intent of taking advantage of her. It doesn’t get farther than the drugging, but it could be triggering for some readers.

Cover Story: Pretty Deadly

Although the image on this cover doesn’t really give anything away about the plot within, it’s a great representation of the main character, and intriguing to the eye. But I’m pretty sure that unless those knives are made of some fancy space age material (i.e., super light weight), that butterfly’s not made for flying.

The Deal:

Nemesis is a Diabolic—a not-quite person created for the sole purpose of protecting the human she’s bonded with, even if that protection means killing others or dying herself. She’s been bonded with Sidonia, the daughter of a senator of the Empire, since she was young, and life has been pretty relaxed. But Sidonia’s father has been making waves in the senate, pushing for more education and study of science and technology in a galaxy that has forgotten what those terms mean.

When the Emperor demands Sidonia as a political hostage to undermine her father’s influence, Nemesis must face the most challenging task of her life: impersonate Sidonia and fool everyone into thinking that she’s actually human.

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

Nemesis isn’t like other girls. For one, she’s not exactly a girl, although her DNA is based on a human’s. She was bred and groomed to be a weapon, and that sort of upbringing can cause a person to be cold and unfeeling. But Nemesis has benefitted from a decade of living with Sidonia, who is lovely and personable; although Nemesis literally can’t cry—her “creators”  removed her tear ducts—and is more likely to punch you in the face than hug you, she’s not without her softer side. Nemesis struggles with her identity throughout The Diabolic, but I liked her from the very start. She might kill me if I looked at Sidonia the wrong way, but I’d be willing to take that chance.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

While pretending to be Sidonia, Nemesis practically stumbles into a situation with an unusual guy who is also more than first impressions belie. Nemesis struggles with her whole internal “I am an unfeeling non-human” issue while getting closer to said guy, but he helps her realize that there’s more to her than even she believed.

I have to knock the rating down a notch or two, however, because of the frustrations I experienced while reading about their relationship. It gets a little tropey at points—Nemesis not believing she’s “worthy,” the guy acting like a “savior” for a girl who’s a stone-cold badass otherwise, people coming in between them and eroding their trust. Whether or not it works out in the end, I won’t spoil, but I was pretty satisfied overall.

Talky Talk: Future Politics

The Diabolic is set in humanity’s far future. Humans have taken to the stars and other planets, and the technology that they use is seriously impressive. But somewhere along the way, the desire to understand the workings of said technology have been replaced with a fanatical religious devotion to the Cosmos, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education has been forbidden. (They rely on machines to repair other machines, and if they break? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) S.J. Kincaid has created a universe that’s believable, if a little terrifying, and hits a little too close to our current political climate for comfort. That said, The Diabolic is a great read that reminds me, in a good way, of other science fiction/science fantasy books/movies/TV shows that I love.

Bonus Factor: Hiding in Plain Sight

The idea of someone masquerading as someone else isn’t new, but I enjoyed the way Kincaid wove an old idea into such a futuristic tale. It’s entertaining to read about Nemesis’ struggles to be Sidonia, and it makes her all that much more human, even while we’re being told that she’s “not.”

Anti-Bonus Factor: Death

You don’t read a book about a girl who was bred to be a weapon and expect it to be all sunshine and roses, now do you.

Casting Call:

A younger Liya Kebede as Nemesis

Relationship Status: Pledge Allegiance

I might not be part of the galactic elite, but I’m with you, Book. I'm rubbish at political machinations, but I can write and edit press releases like a boss!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster (via the Texas Book Festival), but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Diabolic is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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