The Diabolic

S J Kincaid

The Diabolic
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The Diabolic

S J Kincaid

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 inside her that is true and pure - more so than that of most humans she encounters. Amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life - and the empire.


Welcome, Readings customers, to my science fiction book of the year. The exquisitely crafted world of The Diabolic literally revolves around the Chrysanthemum, a completely artificial climate and gravity controlled floating city inhabited by a largely malevolent ruling super-elite. Idle and spiteful, they control the surrounding galaxy through punitive laws, rigid social hierarchy, veiled threats and a compulsory religion that abhors science and the pursuit of knowledge. It’s a dangerous place to be, and many of the galaxy’s more powerful inhabitants order ‘Diabolics’: genetically engineered humanoid killing machines designed to bond with one person and protect their life at any cost.

Enter Nemesis, our heroine and narrator. A Diabolic created to protect Sidonia, the sweet-natured daughter of a powerful senator, Nemesis grows up alongside her charge, certain of her purpose and her feelings. What she does not yet know is that the senator has put his daughter’s life in danger by reading and disseminating scientific knowledge through underground galactic networks.

When his act of treachery is discovered, Sidonia is summoned to the Chrysanthemum. Her calculating mother, refusing to send her daughter to almost certain cruelty and death, disguises Nemesis and sends her in Sidonia’s place. Unleashed into the larger world and freed from the servile role she was made to play, Nemesis’s feelings and behaviour slowly shift from Diabolic to human and her purpose from protecting one person to facing threats on behalf of the whole galaxy.

The Diabolic is simply a cracking read. Kincaid is a master world-builder and her imagination and attention to detail draw you in deep. I recommend it to anyone who likes speculative fiction, but the lead character being a murderous mutant does inject a strong dose of violence into proceedings so it is perhaps best for readers aged 14 and up.

Kate O’Mara works as a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.

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