book review · books · shanti

Review: Nemesis

Anna Banks convinced me to read this by tweeting ‘If you like feisty runaway princesses who enchant and fluster a boy king to no end, you should check out NEMESIS.’ It sounded like my thing, I was in the mood for fantasy, and there was a silver girl on the cover. The library delivered it to me in a few days, and I really liked it. The tension between the different characters was brilliant, the fantasy didn’t waste it’s time explaining, and there were discussions of power and fighting and equality.

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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 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 may be able to save Tarik’s kingdom. But should she risk exposing herself and her growing feelings for her nemesis?

A large plot point of Nemesis did hinge on a somewhat unexplained motivations, and it did slightly annoy me that we were thrown into the action without quite getting Sepora’s parents and their situation.
Okay, Anna Banks is AMAZING at writing romantic tension. I only read the first two books of the ‘Of Poiseidon’ series, but I remember the tension, not between Emma and Galen but between cool badass girl (her name was Rayna, right?) and her love interest being insane. Seriously, I was just kept on tenterhooks the whole time. And there was nothing heavy, just a few innuendo and kissing, but the suspense killed me. Part of the reason this works so well is that Banks just has really great characters. Tarik’s situation and Sepora’s are well explained, you can totally get inside their heads and fall in love with them, and I just generally loved it. The alternating perspectives totally worked for me, and the tension goes up and up, and it’s done very well. The other characters–Sethos, Rashidi, Cara, the *mysterious* architect, Cy, Nuna and Dody, the different guards, Sen the Parani, Rollan and Chut– all add vibrancy to this landscape of story, and I loved it. Each character is just detailed and interesting enough that you feel like you really want a spinoff book just focussing on them.
I love detailed fantasy worlds. I love fantasy worlds that have had a lot of thought put into them. The world of Nemesis is not the former, but it is the latter. That’s what stops it from being banal. It’s got a bit of Egypt, a bit of Greece/Rome, and a lot of mystery. Nothing was overexplained, which meant that I could focus on the story. But I was never confused about why someone was where they were, or where a creature exists–and that shows that Banks is an amazing writer. The Parani, Lingots and Forgers existed, without being explained or questioned–and this made me feel like I was part of their world, because they didn’t question these things. There are lots of unique features too, and it definitely didn’t feel like Generic-European-mediveal-fantasy-land, which is fabulous.
With characters from two different cultures, there’s lots of talking points in this story, that really added to it’s richness and nuance. These things never distract from the story though–again, demonstrating Banks’ mastery of her writing. For example, the treatment of women. It’s not simple like ‘this kingdom treats women well and this one has SHOCKING INEQUALITY.’ In Theodoria, women can be sold, but they can also be educated and hold positions of mastery. In Serubel, women are expected to be modest, but can lead, and do important work, just not in a public way. The way that different characters react to that was very telling, and added more shades to the story, bringing it to life. Fantasy worlds are also very violent, but Tarik and Sepora both wanted to avoid war, which made a nice change, and I loved how the qualities of nefarite added to that. I also liked that trade was a big deal, because the economy drives war. These little thematic features really added to the richness of the novel.
This is a fast paced fantasy novel, with exquisitely painful tension, wonderfully complex characters, an immersive world, and some ideas behind it.

Have you read Nemesis? What is a book with a great relationship between the characters? tell me in the comments!

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