Published: October 4th, 2016 by Feiwel and Friends | Series: Book 1 in Nemesis duology | Length: 368 pages | Genre: YA, fantasy, romance | Source: I won an ARC in a Twitter giveaway from Anna Banks.
Summary from Goodreads:
The princess didn’t expect to fall in love–with her nemesis.
Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king’s servitude.
Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.
Sepora’s gift could save Tarik’s kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs?
Edit: When I first read this book, I didn’t pick up on the racial issues and problems with cultural appropriation. I’m keeping my original review as it was written, but I highly recommend reading this review which talks about the problems the book has.
Let me start off by saying that this book really had me hooked from the beginning. The book opens as Sepora is fleeing from her homeland, Serubel, in an attempt to escape cruel treatment at the hands of her father. Literally at the end of the chapter I was tearing up because Sepora had to say goodbye to her Defender Serpen, Nuna. I was just devastated that she had to leave her loyal Serpen behind. (Not to fear, though, the whole story did not have me quite as emotional.)
After that, the book wasn’t quite as captivating for a bit but it did pretty quickly pick back up. There’s a decent amount of chapters dedicated to Sepora actually getting into Theoria which I wasn’t super entertained by. It wasn’t boring and I didn’t even realize that I didn’t like it very much until I got to see her in Theoria and interacting with the king, Tarik. It was kind of a retrospective realization that her journey across the desert wasn’t as interesting.
With that said, I absolutely loved Tarik and Sepora, both as individuals and together. Tarik is a very kind and gentle king, the complete opposite of Sepora’s father. In fact, she’s so caught off guard by him that she’s constantly wondering if he’s faking his kindness in order to get her to trust him. This just made me really fall in love with Tarik. Sepora is so stubborn and brash that it would’ve been very easy for him to be mean or harsh with her, but he’s not. He’s forgiving and understanding.
As I mentioned, Sepora is really stubborn. I think a lot of it stems from her desire to be independent. Her whole life she’s been used as a tool for the profit of Serubel and her father, so she really wants to break away from that and be in charge of her own life. I think this is something that a lot of readers will be able to relate to. Who hasn’t felt the desire to have more control over their life? Her independence was really something that I thoroughly enjoyed and was very thankful for. Even when she starts to develop feelings for Tarik, she’s still thinking first and foremost of being in charge of her own life. To see a female character who has that really strong desire for independence and for her to be really adamant in keeping that independence was really great to see.
As a pair (not necessarily romantically, but even as friends), Tarik and Sepora are great together and complement each other really well. Sepora is a bit reckless and doesn’t really think things through before she acts on them. She acts and deals with the consequences after. Tarik is the complete opposite. He explores every option, takes a very logical approach to things, and really thinks things through before deciding on a course of action. I liked how well they balanced each other and liked seeing their two different approaches clash and cause some conflict between them.
I also loved the magic in this book and kind of wish we got to see more of it. Sepora is a Forger, capable of creating a very powerful element, spectorium. I can’t remember ever reading a book or watching a movie or anything that had something like that in it. I definitely appreciated the uniqueness of that particular magical ability. Tarik is a Lingot, able to discern whether someone speaks the truth or is lying. I generally don’t like to compare books when I’m reviewing them, but this was really everything I had kind of been expecting and hoping for with Truthwitch. Tarik relies on his ability as a Lingot in many ways. It’s not seen as unreliable or untrustworthy. What I really liked about Tarik being a Lingot is that he uses it to allow him to get to know Sepora. Even when he knows she’s lying to him, rather than demand the truth from her, he kind of tries to figure out why she’d be lying. This isn’t always the case, but I think it showed a certain level of respect for her privacy and with his abilities, it would have been easy to disregard her desire to keep certain things to herself.
Going back to Sepora’s independence for a minute… I really enjoyed seeing her struggle with wanting to make sure she stays in control of her life and independent, but also struggling with knowing that she could be helping people. Her ability as a Forger makes her capable of helping struggling Theorians. Yet she knows from personal experience that she can be taken advantage of. Her father forced her to Forge constantly so that he could profit off her spectorium. She wants to avoid being taken advantage of while also wanting to help people. Seeing that internal struggle was fascinating.
The one thing that I’m not quite sure how to feel about was the way in which women are thought of by the people in the story. For example, Tarik has a harem as king and although he thinks the idea of a harem is ridiculous, it’s still seen as this great honor to be a part of it. When Tarik mentions getting rid of the harem, the idea is totally preposterous. Women in Theoria can be captured and sold. Theorian tradition has a lot of really sexist stuff going on. On the same token, women aren’t prohibited from doing things. It’s mentioned that Tarik’s top architect is a woman and you do see women in other relatively important roles. Sepora is treated with great respect by pretty much everyone in Theoria. So it’s not that women are only seen as sexual objects, but it still didn’t sit quite right with me at times. On the one hand, it was kind of a great reflection of our own society where women are capable of attaining power or high positions (although not as easily or commonly as men), but they’re also very sexualized. If Banks’ intention was to reflect our own society, she did a great job. If it wasn’t, well… it would have been nice to see women viewed a bit more respectfully. I’m choosing to go with the former explanation. 😉 Edit: I realize now this is because the world is based on ancient Egypt. Still not really a fan of this particular aspect of the book though. 😛
Nemesis was a really enjoyable book. The world, including its magic, was very interesting. Sepora and Tarik are incredibly fascinating characters (as are some of the side characters). There’s a really intriguing plot to go alongside all of this as well. Basically, this was an incredibly enjoyable book and I can’t wait to read book 2 (do I really have to wait?!) and see what’s next for Sepora and Tarik. If you’re looking for a good fantasy book and want (or at the very least, don’t mind) some romance to go along with it, I’d highly recommend checking out Nemesis when it releases on the 4th.