This book broke me. No seriously, it hurt my soul. I had a good cry when I finished it, and my heart hurt. It was just as brilliant as the first, but it hurt so bad. The Empress was one of my favourite books that I read this year, next to the first book in the series, The Diabolic. S. J. Kincaid has a mind for world-building unlike anything I’ve read in YA Sci-fi before.
As always, the publishers description and book cover will appear below, before my review. I was given this book in E-ARC format through NetGalley by Simon & Schuster. All of the opinions below are my own, and it was not a sponsored review. Heads up for spoilers, as this book is the second in the series. I highly recommend reading The Diabolic and The Empress. Onwards!
It’s a new day in the Empire. Tyrus has ascended to the throne with Nemesis by his side and now they can find a new way forward—one where they don’t have to hide or scheme or kill. One where creatures like Nemesis will be given worth and recognition, where science and information can be shared with everyone and not just the elite.
But having power isn’t the same thing as keeping it, and change isn’t always welcome. The ruling class, the Grandiloquy, has held control over planets and systems for centuries—and they are plotting to stop this teenage Emperor and Nemesis, who is considered nothing more than a creature and certainly not worthy of being Empress.
Nemesis will protect Tyrus at any cost. He is the love of her life, and they are partners in this new beginning. But she cannot protect him by being the killing machine she once was. She will have to prove the humanity that she’s found inside herself to the whole Empire—or she and Tyrus may lose more than just the throne. But if proving her humanity means that she and Tyrus must do inhuman things, is the fight worth the cost of winning it?
First and foremost, this book continues right where The Diabolic left off. It was nice to have the book pick up right where you had ended with the first. While it did help to have read or re-read the first novel, you could totally jump straight into reading The Empress without having done so. This novel flew by, as Kincaid makes it so easy to become immersed in the world she’s created. Right away, Nemesis is having to protect Tyrus and herself. The battle they create between the two of them over saving one another is both awe-inspiring and hilarious. Not only because Nemesis seems to have taken on the role of Tyrus’ Diabolic, but because Tyrus has begun to almost take on the role that Sidonia played, where he refuses to let her be killed for him.
This novel is full of complex relationships. I think that’s one of the most interesting parts of these novels; the human and the machine, and how they almost switch roles on and off in order to protect one another. Or how they use said complex relationships to gain what they want. While Nemesis was bred to kill or be killed, Tyrus was not. Though he intends to do so in order to protect the one he loves. Their journey throughout this novel, playing off of one another in order to save the other is completely unique. Though it does backfire. I’ve never felt so devastated while reading this series as I did when Tyrus betrays Nemesis in order to bend to Senator von Pasus.
Senator von Pasus’s role in this novel is very interesting as well. I never expected Nemesis to voluntarily hand Tyrus to him in order to save him. I thought she would find another way. And for von Pasus to then use their relationship to manipulate each of them, was evil genius. When he started drugging Tyrus and altering his behavioural patterns it was so upsetting. Though I can’t decide whether he was the ultimate villain of this novel, or if the villain was Neveni.
Neveni’s character is maybe the most interesting to me in this series thus far. She begins in The Diabolic as Nemesis’s friend, while she is impersonating Sidonia. Upon discovering she is a Diabolic, Neveni looks at her as a murderer, and less than human. She is disgusted by her relationship with Tyrus as the Empire killed her family, but at the end of The Empress she is living on a spaceship with Anguish, sleeping next to him and saving Nemesis; even though earlier in the book she had trapped Nemesis on a ship, killed the head of the Living Cosmos, and altered the fate of Tyrus completely.
I was completely astounded by how deep Kincaid went into the history of her world and the religious systems which have caused this deep-seeded conflict amongst her characters. The ideas of right and wrong, of reality versus alternate reality. For the Living Cosmos to be an ideal, before religion was astounding. I was very interested reading the dialogue between Tyrus, Nemesis and the Living Cosmos in regards to science, learning and the alternate fate of Earth. It was so different from anything else I’ve read that follows a similar arc, with religious upheaval in Sci-Fi/Fantasy. It will be interesting to see the extended consequences of Neveni’s killing the leader of the Living Cosmos, of Nemesis being accepted by him, and of Tyrus spitting on his decree in order to bend to Pasus.
However, it was the ending of this book that absolutely did me in. Tyrus went off the deep-end due to torture by Pasus, and was acting more Domitrian than himself. Nemesis, broken and battered cannot defend him or anyone from him any longer, and in an attempt to do so, is killed by the person who taught her how to love. I was so sad. I’m pretty sure I threw my phone across the room. I had a good cry about it, especially once I learned that Neveni was the one who picked the still-living Nemesis out of her coffin.
This book was so good. It had all of the action, adventure and intrigue of The Diabolic, but hurt my heart a great deal more. S. J. Kincaid continues to build this interesting and beautiful world, which I adore. I’m so excited for the third book in the series that it hurts. The entire novel was brilliant. I’m very excited to see where Nemesis goes next.