Nemesis by Anna Banks
Book One of the Nemesis series
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: October 4, 2016
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
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?
What I Liked:
Anna Banks' books have been rather hit-or-miss for me. I liked Of Poseidon a lot, but felt a bit meh about the series in general. I didn't love Joyride. I DID really love Degrees of Wrong, but that's an adult book of hers, written under Anna Scarlett. I think Nemesis might be my favorite of her Young Adult novels!
This book starts with Princess Sepora's flight (literally - on her dragon-like creature's back) from her home of Serubel. She refuses to be used as a weapon by her greedy father, so she escapes to Theoria, the rival kingdom. But she is captured and sold to the Theorian prince, who gives her to his brother, the Theorian king, as a concubine. But Tarik, the Falcon King (king of Theoria) doesn't care for his father's harem, and never goes. Sepora needs to get out of the harem, and she does. Tarik reassigns her to be an assistant to his most trusted adviser. But Sepora's wit and intelligence makes an impression on Tarik, and he includes her on more decisions for Theoria. Sepora reveals much about Serubel, but she find that she doesn't want to lie to the Falcon King. Sepora wants to help him protect Theoria, and help the Theorian people (who are dying of the Quiet Plague), but she doesn't want to be used by yet another kingdom. And what will happen when Tarik finds out that she is the princess of the rival kingdom?
I did not realize that this book was part of a series, before starting the book! I was convinced that the book was a standalone, so I went into the book thinking that I was getting a story that would be resolved after approximately four hundred pages. Unfortunately I was disappointed, because the ending was totally unresolved and this book was clearly not a standalone. BUT. I liked the book and even though the ending surprised me, it is not a bad ending for book one of a duology (I think this is a duology).
This book is written in alternating POVs - Sepora's first-person POV, and Tarik's third-person POV. This was a bit weird - I would have preferred both to be in first-person, or both to be in third-person. But I really appreciated having both POVs, even if they were told in first- and third-person. I loved reading from Tarik's POV.
Of the two, I like Tarik more. He is eighteen, and a brand-new king. His father died at the beginning of the book, leaving Tarik to rule the most powerful of the five kingdoms. Tarik is not a rough warrior like his father or his fifteen-year-old brother. He is kind and intelligent, a little soft-spoken, but with a spine of steel. I liked seeing him grow and develop, especially with his new role. Banks does not shy away from throwing all the difficult decisions at Tarik. As a king, he can't think about right and wrong as black and white - he needs to think of the good of his people. Tarik is kind and empathetic, but he is also not a soft man. He is a good king, and a good person.
I thought Sepora was okay overall, but I didn't love her or warm up to her entirely. She had her moments, but I found her a little annoying. However, Sepora proves her intelligent and rational thinking even when I think she's a complete idiot at other times. I'm still trying to decide if I like her; I both like and dislike her, and I'm okay with that.
The world that Banks has created is pretty cool. This is fantasy, with rich history and lots of wars. The five kingdoms are intriguing, especially the two we know very little about. Obviously this book is very much centered around Theoria and Serubel, and Hemut enters the picture in an important way, but the other two kingdoms are a mystery. Perhaps we'll see more about them in book two - I hope so! Part of the fantasy world is Sepora's ability to create a magical element with her hands. She is the last Forger - or so she thinks. The element she makes could have Theoria from the Quiet Plague, but it is why she ran from Serubel.
There is romance in this book (of course), though not as much as I expected. The way the synopsis made it sound, I thought there would be so much kissing and breathlessness and such. Naaahhh, there is only one kiss in this book. I love Sepora and Tarik together, but I wish they were together more in this book. I'm glad Tarik's brother isn't a factor. I don't see a love triangle happening on any front, so that's good!
Like I said above, I thought this book was a standalone, so I thought the ending was going to be nice and resolved. Nope, the ending is somewhat cliffhanger-y! But not as bad as some books that have a conclusion novel to follow. I am definitely going to be reading book two!
What I Did Not Like:
I don't think I loved Sepora. Did I like her? I'm still trying to decide. Sepora is high-tempered and fiery, with no regard to rules or decorum. She is constantly interrupting the king, defying the king, lying to the king, etc. Honestly her behavior was borderline obnoxious, especially since she's a servant (everyone thinks she is, including Tarik), and totally rude. Any other king would have had her executed. I know YA lit these days are really pushing the "I am feminist hear me roar" types of heroines (which is cool!), but you can't build a world like this (i.e. with kingdoms and kings and servants), and not have your servants showing at least a little respect for the king. OR not having your king take appropriate action to reprimand or punish said servant, no matter how much she amuses you or "is refreshing". It's not authentic.
Also, part of Sepora's personality is her ability to go from one extreme of the emotional spectrum to the next. I noticed this towards the end of the book, and I was giving this girl some serious side-eye. She jumped to conclusions and got mad and fled the scene verrrrrrry quickly. Irrationally so. See why I'm not sure I like her? She's okay sometimes, but dumb at other times.
I don't think there is a love triangle manifesting in this series, but the fact that Sethos (Tarik's younger brother) exists really bothered me. You could see the author thinking about making him a love interest, but then pulling back. I really wish the author could just leave siblings out of romances. NOT that Sethos is "in" the romance - no. He thinks Sepora is gorgeous and flirts with her, and that's the extent of it. Can we not though? Like, at all? Can Sethos be an uninteresting scholar type of prince, or something? Ugh.
This goes without saying - more romance. More chemistry between Sepora and Tarik. I expected so much more swoon, especially given the first line of the synopsis.
Would I Recommend It:
I hope this series turns out nicely, especially if it's a duology, but I'd recommend waiting for the books to publish. Binge-reading is a beautiful thing, especially when you have someone else telling you that a series might or might not be worth binge-reading (rather than reading staggered).
3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. I liked this book. I really did. But I wish I liked Banks' YA heroines more. All of her heroines feel the same, and I have yet to really like a single one of them. But perhaps the author will change my mind in book two of this series! Which I look forward to reading.
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