The Diabolic – By S.J. Kincaid

The DiabolicRating:

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Synopsis2A 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.

My reviewSet against an intergalactic background, this dystopian fantasy was just pure adrenaline rush!!! To be honest, I haven’t read too many fantasies set in space, so I don’t know how this novel measures up to some of the others in its genre, but just speaking as someone who was a bit bored with dystopian fiction, this was just what I needed to get back into the genre again. It had all the elements one would be familiar with, right from political coups, murderous monarchies, forbidden love, a whole lot of “post-apocalyptic” mess and a ruling elite family that thrives on renouncing past history to hold onto power. But there was something so fresh and fluid about the storytelling, that all the sheen of exciting descriptions – of the world, the humanoids, the spaceships, technology – doesn’t take your attention away from what forms the crux of the book – Just how transcendental are the lines between love, loyalty and servitude? In the beginning, I was a bit worried that Nemesis will get boring as the book progresses, for being (literally!) robotic. But, I just fell in love with how the author, S.J. Kincaid, managed to strike the balance between her being an “invention” to her actually having the capacity to develop humane feelings. It never felt ridiculous because Kincaid sets up the details and groundwork pretty well. The Diabolic’s entire “construction” is based on loyalty to one person.

Nemesis and Sidonia’s relationship was beautiful and as Sidonia keeps trying to convince Nemesis, just because she was “designed” to feel loyal to her, it doesn’t mean that “forced” love isn’t real. This is something Nemesis struggles with throughout the book, whether she can really submit herself to another person’s cause and beliefs, especially after circumstances end up bringing her and Tyrus Domitrian (the corrupt Emperor’s nephew) together as they team up and try to bring down the Domitrian clan. I was surprised that the love story didn’t bother me at all in this book though it did take up a significant part of the story. Maybe because it was written in a way that wasn’t distracting and actually felt very integral to the objectives of the main story – whether it is revenge, political power-play or just survival. It just felt natural that there had to be a Nemesis and Tyrus partnership.

I absolutely loved the female characters in this book, not just Nemesis and Sidonia but a whole lot of others. In fact, it is probably the women more than the men who not just wielded actual power, but also knew how to manipulate and use it for their version of the “greater good”.  I also liked how clear the class demarcations were vis-à-vis the planet and space dwellers. I was just so happy and .. impressed with how neat everything was – the world-building , history, tech-stuff, sci-fi, politics and power-hungry families. Was it perfect? Well, maybe not. But it was as neat as one can expect from a standalone fantasy. I was satisfied with – this is a bit of a shocker – not just the love story but also the love triangle (yup, there is one, a very unusual one).

I was a bit taken aback with the sort-of-happy ending which came after some very twisted maneuvers and shocking revelations. I would have probably preferred a darker ending which would have fit in perfectly with the rest of the book. Nevertheless, it was a really good way to end the book. Kincaid finishes it off in a way which leaves you with a slight doubt about what exactly happened and who is telling the truth. That just about sums up what a lot of the book was about – finding a way to keep your love alive amidst a whole lot of backstabbing.

Cargo (The Reservation Trilogy, #1) – By Jen Castleberry

9781942111061 Rating:

Buy link: Cargo (The Reservation Trilogy Book 1)

*Note: I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review*

Synopsis (From Goodreads):

The earth has been reduced to a singular continent, governed by extra-terrestrials, collapsed by nuclear weapons residue and wracked with radiation sickness. Only one viable territory remains, and access there is restricted by a mysterious selection process. Everyone hopes to be chosen for transport. Everyone but Cass. 

Seventeen year old Cassidy Hartinger has spent the past eleven years living in a government-maintained bunker. She should be thrilled when a handsome transporter arrives to take her to the Reservation. So why does she feel like he’s dragging her, kicking and screaming, straight into the anti-paradise?

Faced with gun-wielding survivalists and elemental catastrophes, will Cass make it more than two steps out of the bunker? Will her journey to peace and safety in the Reservation turn out to be the most perilous thing she’s encountered so far?

Fast-paced action and a tumultuous teenage romance will keep readers begging for more installments of The Reservation Trilogy!

My Review

I was curious to see how a post-apocalyptic dystopian trilogy would work as novellas. Is it enough to establish the characters and also describe the “world” in the story? Well, first let me talk about the world building. There are references to E.Ts and hybrid beings but we never really meet or read anything that is not “human”. It is more on the lines of a war-torn city courtesy periodic bombing and air-raids. So you have damaged buildings and roads, the commoners pretty much left abandoned and forced to take handouts from the church and the “Reservation”, which is the only prosperous place left. Cassidy was whisked away from her parents and sent to live in a bunker under a church with other children and teenagers. There are no crazy mutated monsters in this book. Everything is as “real” as you would expect in any current city razed down because of war. For a change, you have a teen protagonist who is thrilled to get away from her family (bickering parents, no opportunity to make friends, house arrest et al) and put into a bunker full of kids in her age group. So for the next ten years, she makes two best friends – Nars and Adrienne – a family of her choosing. She longs to be back with them, she thinks about them in practically every other page. So, I felt it was a bit overdone, but maybe, somewhere it was necessary too. To drive home the point. Since this is a short book, it is harder to spend much time on “showing” rather than just “telling”. So we are told a lot about her missing Adrienne and Nars. She is so used to sharing a bunk bed with Adrienne that the hardest adjustment she has to make is the idea of sleeping alone. She misses her terribly and I liked how that was described. I mean, it is kind of rare nowadays to see “physical affection” described between friends without sexual connotations.

Since I am now quite familiar with some of the popular tropes used in dystopian fiction, I did get a feeling of been-there-done-that with some of the character dynamics and plot points. Teen female protagonist forced to leave the familiarity of her home? Check. Friendzoning your male bestie who has a crush on you? Check. Creepy and elite officials you want to punch but cannot. Check. Crushing on the guy who is irritatingly secretive about everything? Check. I quite liked Nathan though. There was something sensible and mature about the way he handled Cassidy. I usually warm up and sympathize with the “friend-crush” (Nars) in books because they are always ditched by the girl who ends up with the better looking and the originally intended “hero” of the book. But surprisingly, though I liked Nars, I didn’t care much about his feelings towards Cassidy. Maybe it is because when he had to make a crucial decision, his self-preservation kicked in, and not “selfless love”.

I finished the book with a feeling that there were more unanswered questions than answers which will be addressed in the future books. But I would have loved it if there was more of a window to get a glimpse of it in the first book itself. I feel like it would have given the proceedings more verve, especially during their journey through the desert. I thought this was one of those books which seems a bit generic as a standalone but will feel more rounded in context of a completed series. So, if you are looking to start a new dystopian trilogy with a short, brisk first instalment, this does make for a nice, quick read.

Gambit (The Prodigy Chronicles #1)

9781942111061 Rating:

Author : C.L. Denault
Published by : REUTS Publications
Publication date : March 31st 2015
Genres : Dystopia, Young Adult

Note : I received an e-copy of this book from xpressobooktours in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):

In Earth’s battle-ridden future, humans have evolved. Those with extraordinary skills rise to power and fame. Those without live in poverty.

Sixteen-year-old Willow Kent believed she was normal. But when a genetically-advanced military officer shows up in her village and questions her identity, long-buried secrets begin to emerge. With remarkable skills and a shocking genetic code the Core and its enemies will do anything to obtain, Willow suddenly finds the freedom she craves slipping through her fingers. Greed, corruption, and genetic tampering threaten every aspect of her existence as she’s thrust, unwilling, into the sophisticated culture of the elite Core city. To ensure peace, she must leave the past behind, marry a man she’s never met, and submit to the authority of a relentless officer with a hidden agenda of his own.

Her life has become a dangerous game. How much will she sacrifice in order to win?

My Review:

The book has a lot of elements you would expect and be familiar with from a classically modern-day dystopian novel. But the first few pages gave me a queasy sense of deja vu with its all-too-familiar introduction of a girl in her teens living with the simpler folks from the outer villages who are governed and at the mercy of scraps from the oppressive main city. However, the story took off amazingly well and set itself apart due to the author’s deft handling of all the revelations about Willow’s identity and the murky politics of the Core city. We are never given all the information completely and yet enough to keep us inquisitive and interested. I quite liked reading Willow’s peaceful, normal life with her siblings and parents in their family-owned pub and her friendship-with-romantic-potential relationship with Tem. And then there is the school in a slightly decrepit building that she attends where she also gets a bit of defence training from her instructor Kane. The stable life that she knows turns on its head when Reece, an officer from the Core pays a visit to their pub. She is forced to leave everything that she has grown up with and move into an uncertain future.

The world-building is pretty cool, I totally dug the idea of the Core city run by powerful councils and families who own the major power and medical industries. Some of the futuristic initiatives by the Core such as an almost-complete reliance on solar energy and tree conservation (by entirely doing away with paper) gave me a vibe of a utopian-tomorrow for a fleeting moment. I loved the whole concept of the Surge, which takes place when kids turn sixteen and may or may not result in them developing a “skill” (translation: superpower). The first half of the book is pure adrenaline rush, very entertaining and everything that a first book of a dystopian-fantasy series should be like. I loved the power-play between Reece and Willow. I liked how Willow was written; she was angry, conflicted, rebellious, and almost felt cheated that she has no control over the rest of her life. I thought the way she reacted was raw, natural and just the way I would expect a sixteen year old to react when told that she has to leave behind her family and country ways and take on another identity.

So what didn’t I like? Well, pretty much most of the second-half of the book. It turns Willow-Reece centric and let’s just say, it is something I couldn’t wrap my head around. Why? Well, the author does too good of a job establishing Reece as a cold-blooded, abusive, murderous and manipulative guy, so it is difficult to see past that later on in the book. I honestly found him nothing less than loathsome. Is he a layered, interesting character? Yes, definitely. And that’s what made all the Reece-Willow (and Reece-X/Y/Z) confrontations so chillingly effective in the first half of the book. But their equation starts changing after the story shifts to the Core city and that’s when I felt both the pace and narrative of the book drops. We meet new characters, but they are just not allowed more breathing room. Some of them are in a position of power and actually seem nice and capable of empathy, so I couldn’t understand how they seemed undisturbed by some of the violent goings-on. There are a lot of “Willow settling in and getting used to her new surrounding” pages, and while it is nice and also a bit amusing to see her staring and questioning about all the new gadgets and stuff, it gets a bit boring after sometime. I started missing some of the characters from earlier part of the book. And as I said, there was way too much of Reece-Willow, and to be honest, it turned into more of a Dystopian-Romance. The romance bit troubled me, because Reece does too many things in the beginning of the book which is hard to forgive and brush over, so the attempt to humanize him in the second half of the book and Willow softening towards him didn’t sit well with me. Nor did his blow-hot-blow-cold, physically and emotionally aggressive behaviour towards Willow.

At over 550 pages in paperback, it is a long book but there is enough meat in the first half to go through the entire book easily. Gambit ends on a promising note, with the significance behind the title revealed and Willow trying to ascertain herself in the position of being able to make more choices. It is clear that there is a lot more to the series in terms of Core politics and Willow’s destiny. I always find it a bit irksome when the romance ends up taking away the focus from other (and, in my opinion, stronger) aspects of the story. But keeping that aside, it is a pretty decent series-opener.

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Gambit : Paperback
Gambit : Kindle