I received this book for free from Edelweiss, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
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.
I have to say, for a book with such a simple premise, it sure went pear shaped quickly and continued to do so without fully righting itself. We open on a small, biologically engineered girl named Nemesis. Though, what form of monster picked that name for a small girl, I will never know. Were this a Robin Hobb book, I would consider that quite an ill omen, especially considering what form the end of the book takes. Did they just throw a bunch of adjectives in a pool and pull one out? All Diabolics seem to be named according to this awful set of rules.
I had no way to warn them away from me. Even if I had, they would not have listened. Their ringleader had declared me only a girl- and so that was what they saw now. That was their fatal mistake.
Honestly, okay, that’s a pretty good line. Nemesis was raised to basically straight murder people and be a ice cold lackey for whoever purchased her. The ultimate in hired muscle for any aspiring mob boss, or, in this case, space nobility. The thing about the space nobility though, is they’re straight classist, and have a whole hierarchical system that involves the cosmos blessing people. They believe that engineered people, such as Nemesis herself, do not have a soul or posses the capacity for soul like machinations such as feelings. That’s only part of their space thoughts. The other part is, that despite using outdated space ships that like to rip the fabric of space time asunder when they ultimately break down and malfunction, their society is a religious one, and scientific and historical pursuits are frowned upon.
At this point, you wonder how they haven’t imploded upon themselves into one massive black hole, how they had gotten that far in the first place. At one point you learn that they’re still building ships and rebuilding ships so someone must have a rudimentary knowledge of mechanical systems. Especially considering that they have a special space ship race every so often in honor of the placement of their suns. Clearly, mechanical and GENETIC science is okay, but for some reason no one is allowed to fix their warp cores or repair their larger, long distance travel crafts. Like, what is that even? Why is some science okay and other science absolutely the opposite of okay. God forbid you look at a book, so how do people in this age even learn about this stuff? Clearly they don’t have universities anymore. I don’t know if this was just something overlooked by the author, but it’s a pretty glaring plot hole.
Speaking of not having universities! That happens to be what Nemesis’s owner’s family wants to do. They want to get all that good book learning into people so that everything doesn’t implode upon itself and the galactic empire doesn’t turn into a bunch of backwater space people.
Ugh, I got ahead of myself. Nemesis is bought to be the fiercely loyal protector of a flights of fancy girl named Sidonia, which, overall is not much better of a name. Anyway, they spend lots of time together and it’s great and Sidonia develops feelings for Nemesis that go much farther beyond friends. Sidonia, at one point in the book, clearly wants to be in a “Harold, they’re lesbians,” relationship with Nemesis, though Nemesis is mostly straight and always oblivious. I felt that plot point added nothing. Mostly it just left a bad taste in my mouth. Honestly, was it because Sidonia couldn’t have possibly have had friendly feelings and done the same things for Nemesis? I don’t know. It seems like she could have. I love my friends enough for that. I don’t have to be -in- love with them to try and want better for them, to worry about their safety, to inconvenience myself on their behalf. At some point, Diabolics are outlawed, but Sidonia convinces her family to keep Nemesis. And so they do, because that would have been a super short book if they hadn’t.
Okay, so Sidonia’s father is found trying to get the good book learning into the masses and the Emperor, he doesn’t like that one bit. He demands that they send Sidonia as a hostage. Nope, the family isn’t into that. Sidonia could be killed just by showing up there. They hatch a plot to instead send Nemesis in Sidonia’s stead. There’s complicated things that go into this. Nemesis has to learn etiquette and get cosmetically altered to be more like a real person and less like what you turn into at the end of Fable II. Then then dispatch this creature who’s been consistently told she can’t have feelings and isn’t real to try and fake nobility.
That’s where things get really weird. Not only do we have to deal with the deception plot with Nemesis pretending to be Sidonia, we then have to deal with the Emperor moving against those who want the book learning. We then also have to deal with a thousand other little plots, because the author decided to make it needlessly complicated and watched too many Game of Thrones episodes and tried to emulate them. People’s motives stopped making sense. Things started happening just for shock value. There was no lovingly crafted plot or treachery. Nothing made sense anymore. Everyone was lying. Everyone was awful. Nemesis did not go full Carrie on them like she should have.
No, no. She fell in love and had feelings. The source of her love is the so-called mad prince, Tyrus, whom we originally meet as he nonchalantly shoots someone in the chest. He also pretends to rape people and all manner of gross things. He’s honestly the grossest. Finding out that most of what he is was carefully crafted lies so that he wouldn’t be murdered didn’t actually help his image in my eyes. He asks Nemesis to marry him, and also asks her to be his ally and everything seems like it should go smoothly until that point, but that’s where, as said above, things get needlessly complicated.
Overall, I wanted more from the book. Nemesis’s feelings didn’t have to be so catastrophically screwed with more than once. They didn’t have to have blasé mentions of transgender disapproval and rape. The intrigue could have been more intriguing. I shouldn’t be questioning the characters or their motives when the book wraps up. Therefore, my rating is just lukewarm, much like Nemesis’s, “Eh, okay, I guess I’ll marry you,” ending.