Cover image for The Diabolic / S.J. Kincaid.
The Diabolic / S.J. Kincaid.
First Simon & Schuster BFYR paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2017.

Physical Description:
407 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
Includes a sneak peak at The Empress.
Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator's daughter, Sidonia. The girl who has grown up by her side and who is as much as sister as a master. There's no one Nemesis wouldn't kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Now one of the galaxy's most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she's been told she doesn't have -- humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia, and the entire Empire.


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1 Bob Harkins Branch KIN Paperback Teen Collection

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"The perfect kind of high-pressure adventure."
A New York Times bestseller!

Red Queen meets The Hunger Games in this epic novel about what happens when a senator's daughter is summoned to the galactic court as a hostage, but she's really the galaxy's most dangerous weapon in disguise.

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.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a far future with space travel and a ruling class living mostly on orbital stations, engineered human servants called Diabolics are trained to be the best protection money can buy. Diabolics also have their brains manipulated, so they only care about the person they have been hired to protect. When the emperor outlaws Diabolics, Nemesis doesn't count on her liege, Sidonia von Impyrean, persuading her parents to hide Nemesis, rather than destroying her as ordered. More surprises come when the emperor orders Sidonia to attend him at court, intending to keep her hostage against her father's political maneuvering. Nemesis travels to the imperial court, the Chrysanthemum, in Sidonia's place, where she has to contend with sleazy politicians, attempted assaults, murder, and a mad prince. Fans of over-the-top futuristic fare like Jupiter Ascending will love the set pieces and glamour of the court, but Kincaid's (Insignia) flashy story falls short in other areas, including fairly flat villains and a romantic plot that plays out predictably. Ages 14-up. Agent: Holly Root, Waxman Leavell Literary. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

McLemore's second novel is such a lush, surprising fable, you half expect birds to fly out of its pages. But magic realism is more than special effects. "When the Moon Was Ours" is about identity - the love story of Miel, a girl whose wrist sprouts roses, and Sam, a transgender boy who paints moons and sets the canvases in trees. McLemore uses the supernatural to remind us that the body's need to speak its truth is primal and profound, and that the connection between two people is no more anyone's business than why the dish ran away with the spoon. Sam lives as a boy, inspired by his Pakistani grandmother's stories about the bacha posh custom, in which girls are raised as males to protect sisters - and he fears he will be expected revert to his "correct" gender one day. Miel's fantastical history sparks its own trauma. Still, she cares for him in a label-obliterating way: "It was his body. It was his to name. And he was under this roof of gold and darkness with a girl who would learn to call him whatever he named himself." In an author's note, McLemore talks about her transgender husband, and you realize the novel is a love letter. There's a reason Miel is so moved by Sam's lunar paintings in trees: He's hanging the moon. STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO By A. S. King 295 pp. Dutton, $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) A 16-year-old girl named Sara hands her art teacher a blank piece of paper and says, "I've lost the will to participate." It's a funny, deadpan moment - but she means it. Sara spends much of King's ninth novel skipping school and wandering around Philadelphia in an existential funk. She rides buses, tails a homeless artist she believes is living an "original" life and considers changing her name to Umbrella. In a beautifully matter-of-fact use of the supernatural that brings Haruki Murakami to mind, Sara also meets herself at the ages of 10, 23 and 40, and circles closer to some stark truths about her family. "Still Life With Tornado" is a moving, unapologetically strange, skillfully constructed novel about how sometimes the most broken home on the block is the one where the parents are still pretending their marriage works. (Spike Jonze should buy the movie rights immediately.) King's insights about parenting, denial and abuse are so raw and true, grown-ups may want to avert their eyes. But she is a witty, humane writer. Sara at 40 is the most well adjusted, so a happy ending always floats just ahead of our heroine, like a firefly. Read this book, whatever your age. You may find it's the exact shape and size of the hole in your heart. SCYTHE By Neal Shusterman 433 pp. Simon & Schuster, $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) Shusterman, who has written 36 books and won a National Book Award, writes prose with the sort of spring in its step that says: "Stand back. I know what I'm doing." "Scythe" is about a utopia just beginning to unravel. It's the deep future. A cloud computer known as the Thunderhead controls virtually all of mankind's affairs. Scientists have triumphed over disease and even death, and an elite league of reapers has been commissioned to kill to slow population growth. (What could go wrong?) Two teenagers, Citra and Rowan, are drafted as apprentices. Citra learns at the knee of a humane woman named Scythe Curie; Rowan tries not to sell his soul to a renegade psychopath who engineers mass reapings. Only one apprentice can become a scythe, so they're forced to compete horrifically, even as they contend with the capital-F feelings that teenagers in peril always have for one another. Shusterman shuffles his most intriguing character offstage too early, and the novel's dark humor sometimes makes it hard to lose yourself in the romance and peril. Still, "Scythe" is full of sly plot twists and absorbing set pieces. The novel is the first in a planned series, but one emerging theme has a nice sting to it: Maybe we should give computers the keys to what's left of the kingdom, because human beings can't be trusted. A SHADOW BRIGHT AND BURNING By Jessica Cluess 407 pp. Random House, $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) As secret talents go, Henrietta Howell's is a showstopper: When she gets furious, she bursts into flames. During the course of Cluess's gripping, graceful debut novel, Henrietta will have much to get fiery about. There's the classist, sexist paternalism of early-Victorian-era London; the gall of certain handsome young sorcerer types; and the fact that even though she can't control her powers and has chosen to name her wand Porridge, everyone seems convinced that she alone can defeat the horrifying beings known as the Ancients. Cluess can create an unnerving monster, like R'hlem the Skinless Man, and write a crackling battle scene. But she also swims deep in the thoughts of her heroine, who's simultaneously defiant and unsure of herself. Is it clear that Cluess adores the Harry Potter series and "Jane Eyre"? Yes. So do you. So does everyone. What matters is that her voice is her own. Her missteps are small and few - a slightly chaotic sequence, a sudden left turn concerning one of Henrietta's suitors. "A Shadow Bright and Burning" delivers on the promise of its title. This is a novel that gives off light and heat. LABYRINTH LOST By Zoraida Córdova 324 pp. Sourcebooks Fire. $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) Alex Mortiz dreads her coming-of-age party because all her relatives are going to be there, including the dead ones. "Labyrinth Lost," which inaugurates Córdova's new fantasy series, is a richly Latin American, giddily exciting novel about a Brooklyn girl navigating two terrifying dominions: a Dante-esque land of shape-shifters called Los Lagos, and adolescence. Alex promises to be a transcendent witch, or bruja, but she believes her magic is tainted and responsible for her father's disappearance. At her party, she renounces her powers with a disastrous spell, whereupon her family vanishes, and she must travel, via portal, to Los Lagos on a rescue mission. Córdova mixes nicely observed details ("Crazy Uncle Julio brought a lonely pink balloon, and it's already started to sag in the corner") with action-movie choreography. And she gives Alex two entirely different love interests: a cocky male mercenary, Nova, and a daring, devoted female friend, Rishi. It's a welcome bit of geometry at a time when bisexual readers are hungering for representation. "Labyrinth Lost" introduces a daunting amount of mythology, and readers may get overwhelmed. There's a line that nails the feeling exactly: "I'm dizzy, but I don't want to leave." THE DIABOLIC By S. J. Kincaid 407 pp. Simon & Schuster, $17.99. (Young adult; ages 14 and up) You start loving Kincaid's second science fiction novel on Page 2 when you learn that its protagonist is named Nemesis, and you love it even more when Nemesis gets a genetically modified dog called Deadly. Nemesis is not "relatable" in the Hollywood sense, which is to say she is not kooky and conflicted. She's a ruthless, predatory lab creation engineered to protect a senator's daughter, Sidonia. The senator outrages the emperor by refusing to kowtow to his backward religion. The emperor strikes back by summoning Sidonia to the royal space station, where he intends to hold her hostage, or worse. The senator's wife decides that Nemesis will impersonate Sidonia instead: "The emperor wishes me to send my innocent little lamb to the slaughter. No. I'll send him my anaconda." Watching Nemesis cut a violent swath through the vile, duplicitous aristocracy is a joy; watching her gradually become "real" and "human," less so. (We don't want Nemesis to be touchy-feely any more than we want the Velveteen Rabbit to be a killing machine.) But the tension is nearly always high, the characters memorable, and the bond between Nemesis and Sidonia genuinely moving. "Diabolic," itself a genetic experiment blending "I, Claudius" and "The Terminator," appeals to both our better and more devious angels. JEFF GILES'S debut Y.A. novel, "The Edge of Everything," will be published in January.

Horn Book Review

Nemesis is a Diabolic: a lab-grown humanoid designed to act as bodyguard to Sidonia, a young member of the elite theocracy. When Sidonia is summoned to the Imperial Court by the corrupt Emperor, Nemesis is disguised and sent in her stead. Kincaid's space opera, full of twists and double-crosses, is a page-turner that should engage fans of dystopian fiction and romance. (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Diabolic 1 SIDONIA had made a dangerous mistake. She was carving a statue out of a great stone slab. There was something mesmerizing about the swiping and flashing of her laser blade, bright against the dark window overlooking the starscape. She never aimed the blade where I expected, but somehow she always produced an image in the stone that my own imagination could never have conjured. Today it was a star gone supernova, a scene from Helionic history depicted vividly in rock. Yet one swipe of her blade had extracted too large a chunk from the base of the sculpture. I saw it at once and jumped to my feet, alarm prickling through me. The structure was no longer stable. At any moment, that entire statue was going to come crashing down. Donia knelt to study the visual effect she'd created. Oblivious to the danger. I approached quietly. I didn't want to warn her--it might startle her into jerking or jumping, and cutting herself with the laser. Better to rectify the situation myself. My steps drew me across the room. Just as I reached her, the first creak sounded, fragments of dust raining down from above her as the statue tilted forward. I seized Donia and whipped her out of the way. A great crashing exploded in our ears, dust choking the stale air of the art chamber. I wrested the laser blade from Donia's hand and switched it off. She pulled free, rubbing at her eyes. "Oh no! I didn't see that coming." Dismay slackened her face as she looked over the wreckage. "I've ruined it, haven't I?" "Forget the statue," I said. "Are you hurt?" She glumly waved off my question. "I can't believe I did that. It was going so well. . . ." With one slippered foot, she kicked at a chunk of broken stone, then sighed and glanced at me. "Did I say thanks? I didn't. Thanks, Nemesis." Her thanks did not interest me. It was her safety that mattered. I was her Diabolic. Only people craved praise. Diabolics weren't people. We looked like people, to be sure. We had the DNA of people, but we were something else: creatures fashioned to be utterly ruthless and totally loyal to a single individual. We would gladly kill for that person, and only for them. That's why the elite imperial families eagerly snatched us up to serve as lifelong bodyguards for themselves and their children, and to be the bane of their enemies. But lately, it seemed, Diabolics were doing their jobs far too well. Donia often tapped into the Senate feed to watch her father at work. In recent weeks, the Imperial Senate had begun debating the "Diabolic Menace." Senators discussed Diabolics gone rogue, killing enemies of their masters over small slights, even murdering family members of the child they were assigned to protect to advance that child's interests. We were proving more of a threat to some families than an asset. I knew the Senate must have come to a decision about us, because this morning, the Matriarch had delivered a missive to her daughter--one directly from the Emperor. Donia had taken a single look at it and then thrown herself into carving. I'd lived with her for nearly eight years. We'd virtually grown up side by side. She only grew silent and distracted like this when worried about me. "What was in the missive, Donia?" She fingered a slab of the broken statue. "Nemesis . . . they banned Diabolics. Retroactively." Retroactively. That meant current Diabolics. Like me. "So the Emperor expects you to dispose of me." Donia shook her head. "I won't do it, Nemesis." Of course she wouldn't. And then she'd be punished for it. An edge crept into my voice. "If you can't bring yourself to be rid of me, then I'll take the matter into my own hands." "I said I won't do it, Nemesis, and neither will you!" Her eyes flashed. She raised her chin. "I'll find another way." Sidonia had always been meek and shy, but it was a deceptive appearance. I'd long ago learned there was an undercurrent of steel within her. Her father, Senator von Impyrean, proved a help. He nursed a powerful animosity toward the Emperor, Randevald von Domitrian. When Sidonia pleaded for my life, a glimmer of defiance stole into the Senator's eyes. "The Emperor demands her death, does he? Well, rest easy, my darling. You needn't lose your Diabolic. I'll tell the Emperor the death has been carried out, and that will be the end of the matter." The Senator was mistaken. Like most of the powerful, the Impyreans preferred to live in isolation and socialize only in virtual spaces. The nearest Excess--those free humans scattered on planets--were systems away from Senator von Impyrean and his family. He wielded his authority over the Excess from a strategic remove. The family fortress orbited an uninhabited gas giant ringed by lifeless moons. So we were all startled weeks later when a starship arrived out of the depths of space--unannounced, unheralded. It had been dispatched by the Emperor under the pretext of "inspecting" the body of the Diabolic, but it was no mere inspector onboard. It was an Inquisitor. Senator von Impyrean had underestimated the Emperor's hostility toward the Impyrean family. My existence gave the Emperor an excuse to put one of his own agents in the Impyrean fortress. Inquisitors were a special breed of vicar, trained to confront the worst heathens and enforce the edicts of the Helionic religion, often with violence. The Inquisitor's very arrival should have terrified the Senator into obedience, but Sidonia's father still circumvented the will of the Emperor. The Inquisitor had come to see a body, so a body he was shown. It simply wasn't mine. One of the Impyreans' Servitors had been suffering from solar sickness. Like Diabolics, Servitors had been genetically engineered for service. Unlike us, they didn't need the capacity to make decisions, so they hadn't been engineered to have it. The Senator took me to the ailing Servitor's bedside and gave me the dagger. "Do what you do best, Diabolic." I was grateful he'd sent Sidonia to her chambers. I wouldn't want her to see this. I sank the dagger under the Servitor's rib cage. She didn't flinch, didn't try to flee. She gazed at me through blank, empty eyes, and then a moment later she was dead. Only then was the Inquisitor allowed to dock with the fortress. He made a cursory inspection of the body, pausing over it merely to note, "How odd. She appears . . . freshly dead." The Senator stood bristling at his shoulder. "The Diabolic has been dying of solar sickness for several weeks now. We'd just decided to end her suffering when you arrived in the system." "Contrary to what your missive said," the Inquisitor stated, swinging on him. "You claimed the death had already been carried out. Now that I see her, I wonder at her size. She's rather small for a Diabolic." "Now you question the body, too?" roared the Senator. "I tell you, she was wasting away for weeks." I watched the Inquisitor from the corner. I wore a new Servitor's gown, my size and musculature hidden beneath voluminous folds. If he saw through the ruse, then I would kill him. I hoped it wouldn't come to that. Concealing an Inquisitor's death might prove . . . complicated. "Perhaps if your family was more respectful of the Living Cosmos," the Inquisitor remarked, "your household would have been spared a ghastly affliction like solar sickness." The Senator ripped in an angry breath to reply, but at that moment the Matriarch darted forward from where she'd been lurking in the doorway. She seized her husband's arm, forestalling him. "How right you are, Inquisitor! We are immensely grateful for your insight." Her smile was gracious, for the Matriarch didn't share her husband's eagerness to defy the Emperor. She'd felt imperial wrath firsthand at a young age. Her own family had displeased the Emperor, and her mother had paid the price. Now she appeared electric with anxiety, her body quivering with eagerness to placate their guest. "I'd be ever so pleased if you'd observe our services tonight, Inquisitor. Perhaps you can note what we are doing wrong." Her tone dripped with sweetness, the sort that sounded odd in her usual acrid voice. "I would be glad to do so, Grandeé von Impyrean," replied the Inquisitor, now gracious. He reached out to draw her knuckles to his cheek. She pulled away. "I'll go make the arrangements with our Servitors. I'll take this one now. You--come." She jerked her head for me to accompany her. I didn't want to leave the Inquisitor. I wanted to watch his every movement, observe his every expression, but the Matriarch had left me no choice but to follow her as a Servitor would. Our steps brought us out of the chamber, far from the Inquisitor's sight. The Matriarch picked up her pace, and I did as well. We wound together down the corridor toward the Senator's chambers. "Madness," she muttered. "It's madness to take this risk right now! You should be lying dead before that Inquisitor, not walking here at my side!" I cast her a long, considering look. I'd gladly die for Donia, but if it came to my life or the Matriarch's, I'd put myself first. "Do you intend to tell the Inquisitor what I am?" Even as I spoke, I visualized the blow I'd use to kill her. A single strike to the back of the head. . . . No need to risk her screaming. Donia might emerge from her chambers if she heard anything. I'd hate to murder her mother in front of her. The Matriarch had the survival instinct her husband and daughter lacked. Even my mild tone sent terror skittering across her face. The next moment it vanished so swiftly that I wondered whether I'd imagined it. "Of course not. The truth would condemn us all now." So she would live. My muscles relaxed. "If you're here," she said darkly, "then you'll make yourself useful to us. You'll help me conceal my husband's work before that Inquisitor inspects his chambers." That I could do. We plunged into the Senator's study, where the Matriarch hiked up her gown and shuffled through the debris strewn about the room--blasphemous database fragments that would instantly condemn this entire family if the Inquisitor laid eyes on them. "Quickly now," she said, gesturing for me to start swiping them up. "I'll take them to the incinerator--" "Don't." Her voice was bitter. "My husband will simply use their destruction as an excuse to acquire more. We simply need to clear these from sight for now." She twisted her fingers in a crack in the wall, and the floor slid open to reveal a hidden compartment. Then she settled in the Senator's chair, fanning herself with her hand as I heaved armful after armful of shattered fragments of what looked like computer debris and data chips into the compartment. The Senator passed days in here, repairing whatever he could salvage, uploading information into his personal database. He avidly read the materials and often discussed them with Sidonia. Those scientific theories, those technological blueprints. All blasphemous. All insults against the Living Cosmos. I stashed the Senator's personal computer in with the debris, and then the Matriarch crossed to the wall again and twisted her finger in the nook. The floor slid closed. I heaved the Senator's desk over so it covered the hidden compartment. I straightened again to find the Matriarch watching me narrowly. "You would have killed me back in the hallway." Her glittering eyes challenged me to deny it. I didn't. "You know what I am, madam." "Oh yes, I do." Her lips twisted. "Monster. I know what goes on behind those cold, soulless eyes of yours. This is exactly why Diabolics have been banned--they protect one and pose a threat to all others. You must never forget that Sidonia needs me. I'm her mother." "And you must never forget that I'm her Diabolic. She needs me more." "You cannot possibly fathom what a mother means to a child." No. I couldn't. I'd never had one. All I knew was that Sidonia was safer with me than with anyone else in this universe. Even her own kin. The Matriach loosed an unpleasant laugh. "Ah, but why even debate you on this? You could no more understand family than a dog could compose poetry. No, what matters is, you and I share a cause. Sidonia is kindhearted and naive. Outside this fortress, in the wider Empire . . . perhaps a creature like you will be the very thing my daughter requires to survive. But you will never--never--speak to anyone of what we've done today." "Never." "And if anyone seems ready to find out we've spared our Diabolic, then you will take care of the problem." The very thought sent a sizzling, protective anger through me. "Without hesitation." "Even if taking care of it"--her eyes were sharp and birdlike--"starts with yourself." I didn't condescend to answer. Of course I would die for Sidonia. She was my entire universe. I loved nothing but her and valued nothing but her existence. Without her, there was no reason for me to exist. Death would be a mercy compared to that. Excerpted from The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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