Author: S.J. Kincaid
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Published: November 2016
For People Who Liked: The Hunger Games, The Lunar Chronicles, Throne of Glass, Bone Season, Divergent, Star Wars, Stardust, Jupiter Ascending, Vampire Academy
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
This is a spoiler-free review!
As I’m sure many of us are, I’ve been reluctant in the past few years to read dystopians, considering how much closer to home they’re getting every day. I can’t go anywhere without hearing someone reference 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale. But one thing dystopians clearly do very well when done right, is demonstrate just how corrupt modern society really is. And I think, whether intentional or not, that’s what this novel is doing.
By all accounts, The Diabolic is your pretty typical YA dystopian novel. It’s as brutal and damning toward superficial capitalism as The Hunger Games and as faction-divided as Divergent. Yet it’s doing so many other things. This particular dystopian is set in space, where genetically altered human beings are created to protect their upper class charges. Nemesis is one such diabolic who is charged to protect the senator’s daughter, Sidonia. When the family is disgraced, she’s sent in Sidonia’s place to live within the Emperor’s faction. All forms of human knowledge and exploration has fallen away to appease vapid upper class amusements and keep the lower classes in their place. All forms of science, technological advancement, and literature have been banned. I think had I read this prior to Trump’s America, I would’ve thought this is a cool spin on the dystopian genre. Having read it right as Trump denounced environmentalism and climate change, this suddenly feels very real. I don’t know what Kincaid plans for future additions to the series, but I feel she could really use her world as a mouthpiece for this generation’s worldly struggles. I truly think she could do some amazing, on point things with it. And I’m interested to see more!
In terms of the character developments, I had a ton of fun seeing Nemesis grow into herself and figure out who she is without her charge. But before she gets there, there is so much Throne of Glass style murder sprees, which were fabulous. This novel is everything I wanted Celaena Sardothian to be. She’s gritty and unabashed in her job as an assassin. It’s what she was raised to do, so she goes and does it, because that’s all she knows. There’s no whining and being lulled into security against all her training… She’s just wary and take no prisoners and I loved it. She’s got a foil/love interest in Tyrus, the Emperor’s nephew, who is written as this crazed madman and he reads very vividly like Finn Wittrock in American Horror Story: Freak Show. The whole way through the story, you don’t know if he’s good or bad; you’re just along for the ride and that’s a lot of fun too. He’s in the midst of this complicated political intrigue and his family is full of cut throat, genocidal megalomaniacs. It’s a nice, solid balance of Star Wars, Stardust, Lunar Chronicles, and Jupiter Ascending. Everyone’s corrupt and fighting for power… in space!
I will say the one thing I find disappointing about The Diabolic is how Nemesis’ relationship with Sidonia was played out. If there’s one trope I’m sick of, it’s the eternally devoted female protector to the weak, fragile best friend. They can be lesbians. That’s totally okay. It’s 2017. If there’s anything teen readers can handle, it’s lesbian romances in their sci-fi fantasy. Just go there. It’s time.
So I would say, if you’re still into dystopias in this day and age, and you can stomach some blood and guts, absolutely give this a go. It’s a fast paced space romp with political intrigue and genetically engineered assassins!