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The Empress by S.J. Kincaid
Book Two of The Diabolic series
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Rating: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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?
What I Liked:
I. Am. Slain. Vanquished. Defeated. Here lies Alyssa, perished by the hand of S.J. Kincaid due to a particular emotion-evoking book written by said vanquisher. I don't even know how to process what I've just read. I was going along, reading the book very gamely, getting a little more anxious as it went, and then BAM! The ending. I am shooketh. (Is that what the young people say these days? I'm 22. I should know these things. I don't.)
The Empress picks up after The Diabolic left off, with Tyrus ascending the throne as Emperor, and Nemesis by his side. Many are opposed to their upcoming union, but it hasn't stopped them from making appearances together. But being in love might not be enough in the world of politics. One Senator in particular wants to manipulate and maneuver his way up, and Tyrus and Nemesis must figure out a way to stop him without outright killing him. They will fight for each other and die for each other, and this may be their downfall. All Nemesis ever wanted was to be seen as human, and to be happy with Tyrus. But the fate of the galaxy is so much bigger than her and Tyrus's love for each other. Sacrifices must be made, morals must be cast aside, and lines must be drawn. This sequel is sure to bring readers to the edge of their seats and desperate for more.
Well, it definitely had me on the edge of my seat. And I'm definitely begging for more. Where the heck are the rest of the pages?! The ending of this book was so cruel. I guess that's as good a spot as any to start with, in this review. The ending of this book is where all of the shenanigans I'd been expecting occurred. HOW does Kincaid do this to readers?! I was howling as I was reading the ending. I have no idea how the author is going to turn things around in book three (if she is going to turn things around). Do I WANT her to turn things around? Kind of? But also no? But also yes?
The pacing of this book is somewhat fast, though initially, not quite. A lot happens in the book and a lot of time passes (think on the scale of years). The author did an amazing job of making time pass, although it broke my heart a little bit (because of how the passage of time was done). It was so cool - the explanation and whatnot - but it was also sad because lost time. Nobody likes to lose time! But again, the science is really cool.
In fact the science aspect of the story in general is cool, in all parts. The time passage thing is neat but this whole story is sci-fi, set among various planets and starships and among the stars as Tyrus and Nemesis hop into hyperspace to travel across the galaxy. I love YA sci-fi, so I was really happy about how science-heavy this book was. Not enough to be off-putting to non-sci-fi-loving people, I promise!
Another heavy aspect of the book was the politics. There is a lot of politics in this book, from start to finish. A lot of negotiating, a lot of scheming, a lot of betraying, a lot of careful planning, a lot of backstabbing... a lot of everything political. Tyrus is a political mastermind, and I loved seeing his brain work. Seeing him and Senator Pasus try to outsmart and outmaneuver each other was nerve-wracking but also kind of thrilling (at least whenever Tyrus gained the upper hand).
Speaking of Tyrus, I adored him. He is so clever and "Type A", always thinking ahead and planning and overthinking. I connect with him on that level, although he is more masterminded than me. He plays the long game, and suffers as he does it, but he endures. His strength of mind and iron will are so impressive. I'm rooting for him in book three.
Nemesis is such a wonderful protagonist to follow. This book is written entirely from her first-person POV, and while I would have loved to read from Tyrus's first-person POV, it was just fine to have her narrative alone. She grows even more in this book, with having to make so many difficult decisions. She and Tyrus fight alongside each other and really learn their limits. While Tyrus is intelligent and clever, Nemesis is loyal and stubborn. I didn't love a few of her decisions, but at the same time, I put myself in her position and there is a good chance I'd do the same.
I looooove how Tyrus and Nemesis two would fight and die for each other. They prove this over and over, how willing they are to sacrifice themselves, and the extreme lengths they'd go to protect the other. I really ship this romance and I loved seeing them grow closer and closer in this book. As individuals, they are super cool and I admire them. As a couple, they are wonderful together and I ship them. Sparks really really fly and the pages heat up in this book. And they are actually together for the majority of the book, which is surprising for a second book in a trilogy. You don't ever see that (usually the couple is split up early on). I was happy to see them together with no internal couple drama between them. It's that ending though.
That. Ending. It changes everrrrrrrything. In a good and bad way. I'm so curious as to how Kincaid is going to go about book three. I'm hoping for one thing, but that thing seems impossible. But knowing our hero, and knowing our heroine, nothing is impossible.
Seriously, Tyrus is wicked smart and plans and accounts for everything. And Nemesis is kickbutt and seemingly indestructible. So. We shall see!
I'm not going to say too much about the plot because a ton of action happens in the book, whether it is flying off into space or being imprisoned or fighting narcotics (yeah, there is a lot going on). This book made me grow more and more anxious but 100% hooked and needing to know what happens next. Once I settled into the first couple of chapters, I was hooked.
If you couldn't tell, I am sooo looking forward to reading book three. I hope it is on track to be an October 2018 publication (or earlier???). Gimmee.
What I Did Not Like:
THE ENDING OKAY???
I may never recover.
Would I Recommend It:
If you read The Diabolic, you must read The Empress. Not only did it NOT disappoint me, but it is probably the first YA book in a loooong time that actually made me FEEL things like excitement and anxiety and thrill. Well, a lot of those things. I've been feeling very "meh" about YA but this book was given me life. It also drained that same life with the ending, but that's irrelevant (well not really). This sequel is exciting and thrilling and just as good as its predecessor. And it sets up really well for an intense final novel!
4.5 stars. I am so here for this third book. Also I'm terrified of it. I'm so afraid of how things will end because how else are they supposed to end?! Hopefully Kincaid does something that will make readers happy. I really don't want to rage over the final book. Pleaseeeee let me love it. I hate it when you love a series and you support it so much and then the final novel is a huge disappointment that makes you want to set things on fire!
When I started The Empress, I did not really know what I was getting myself into. I did not know how much pain I was subjecting myself to. This book took Nemesis, AND ME, through a tumultuous emotional journey, and I just had to take time to process it, so that I could write this review. The Empress starts off at the end of Diabolic, with a newly crowned Tyrus hoping to start off his reign with two stunning declarations - that he was restoring scientific studies, and that he was taking a Diabolic as his wife. Cut to The Empress, and you realize that wasn't as easy as it seems, even in an authoritarian society as the Empire. Randelvald had it easy I think, even with how he was possible the worst. Tyrus has to start his reign with a beggared treasury, half of his Senators in opposition to him, and being separated from the true power the Emperor wields, because the vicars won't support him.
Nemesis, for her part, is growing to suppress her Diabolic instincts and instead act as if she were an Empress. Not easy for a person who until recently, didn't even think of herself as a person. She feels like a liability to him, but they love each other too much. In fact, this book kinda convinced me on their love more than Diabolic ever had. Like, during Diabolic, I was slightly invested in Tyrus, but my main interest was in Nemesis' personal growth. In this - man, I wish I did not have so many feelings.
They both try different measures to circumvent the restrictions to their power, even going far and beyond in space to seek certain truths. All the obstacles they faced had me going, "oh come one, give them an effing break!"
Senator Pasus was a key figure in their turmoil - he was the father of Elantra, in case you don't remember, and also a big member (I am implying both meanings of the word here) of the Helionic faith. He personally was so responsible for so much of the pain, I was constantly going like - please stop this. But Nemesis' and Tyrus' personal choices, and what those choices mean for each other and the Empire also play an important role. While they are both wily and pragmatic, they also have differing instincts. She has always relied on him to make the plans, because he thinks ten steps ahead (that twist in Diabolic - *kisses fingers like an Italian chef*) but when he is incapacitated, she has to figure out how to hold the power for him. There are so much twists, so much betrayal, I had to regularly put down the book because my heart couldn't take it. This book broke me - like so many before have, but also in a different way. There is inherently nothing noble about their cause, yet I wanted them to have it all. And what did I get? Pain and heartache! Thanks, Kincaid!
This has been an amazing sequel, which went way beyond what Diabolic was. We get blackholes, shifting times, some reveals about the Diabolic generation process, and finally some answers to how this Empire came about. About that ending - even if the book had ended at the penultimate chapter (which wreaked so much havoc on my emotions), I would have accepted that as the end of the series. It was seemingly complete in that chapter, and masochistically, I think that would have made a brilliantly unique ending to the series. The next chapter, however, propels us into more pain and maybe a predictable outcome, and of course I am going to waiting eagerly for the next one.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss.
I went through bouts of happiness, rage, frustration, hopelessness, and had to step away from this novel at times, but it is undoubtedly one of my best YA sci-fi reads this year because of the completely shocking, soul-crushing, and infuriating twists the story takes.
Tyrus may possibly be one of my favorite YA characters - he's intelligent and usually ten steps ahead of everyone else, flawed, idealistic, and has a strong moral compass, but his soul is striated with shades of gray.
Occasionally, second books in a series are filler before the finale, but beware, folks - that isn't the case here. This is an emotionally gut-wrenching tale that will leave you in agony waiting for the next book.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.
Most recent customer reviews
The Empress picks up right where The Diabolic left off.Read more
I just finished this book and I have soo many feels I don’t know if I can accurately...Read more