I didn’t mean for one of my very few first reviews to be trashing a book so much… And yet here we are! Anna Bank’s Nemesis was part of FairyLoot’s November book and my biggest book disappointment in a very long while.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase what is discussed. I will receive a small commission from the sale.Nemesis (Nemesis #1)
Written by Anna Banks
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Published on October 4th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Buy on Amazon
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?
What is Nemesis about?
Nemesis starts with Sepora, young princess, running away from her kingdom and getting lost in the desert. Her father the king had decided to imprison her so she could keep producing some metal thingy only she is capable of producing, a metal they use in business with the other kingdoms. Sepora is strong, smart, and very good at fighting, so obviously she gets kidnapped by two airheaded men the moment she decides to bathe naked in the desert’s river. (Yikes.) She is sold into slavery by the two morons and bought by the king’s brother as a gift and new, pretty addition to the royal harem. (Double yikes.)
Tarik becomes king after his father died of a plague that slowly but surely takes over the kingdom. He finds himself at the head of the kingdom with little to no warning and the pressure of making his father proud in the afterlife. He has to deal both with this plague coming out of nowhere, and with having to rule over a kingdom that is far too rooted in traditions.
As if Tarik’s life wasn’t complicated enough as it is, he now has to deal with Sepora, who will not stop bothering him until she gets what she wants. Because she didn’t get the memo that a runaway princess can’t act like a princess without blowing her cover. Poor guy, seriously…
Judging ‘Nemesis’ by its cover?
I have to say, I am a proud defender of the “Don’t judge a book by its cover” motto, both in real life and with actual books. But that cover… Gosh, that cover! I had to google it when I received the book, just to see if it had been talked about — and of course, it had! Accusation of blackface were obvious (and what stuck me when I saw the cover) and opinions were mixed on the subject. I mostly read “well it is a fantasy version of Ancient Egypt and it makes sense in context” and I started dreading the cultural appropriation even more…
In the end, you need to be three quarters into the book to find out the lead male character has “olive skin,” which we all know is a hand wave for “tanned but not too much” for a lot of people. (Looking at you, Hunger Games casting department!) It also didn’t satisfy me all that much, the one and only mention of fantasy-Egyptians being, you know, not white, when there were plenty of moments when it could have been mentioned, especially since Sepora is surrounded by fantasy-Egyptian characters from beginning to end. It felt to me as a cop-out.
Now… What of Nemesis in itself?
Well, let’s just say that there is nothing revolutionary about it. The plot is your classic girl-meets-boy scenario, the lead female character is as bland as a fresh Bella Swan, and the twists are so predictable they made me roll my eyes more than once. I will give it brownie points for not using Ancient Greece or Middle Ages as its fantasy setting, which is refreshing. But the setting isn’t used to its full potential, and the world-building falls flat more often than not.
Speaking of world-building, I usually am good at accepting what is offered to me. I don’t need a scientific explanation to magic in one’s universe, and I’m more than fine accepting the rules of the world I am reading… But gosh does Nemesis abuse that reader’s trust. The magical metal thingy (that I kept calling Vibranium in my head, to be honest) is a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. And it becomes a little too much at times, this one thing holding way too much power. Especially since only one person is producing it. Do you really want me to believe a single teenager could produce enough metal thingy for the population of four different countries, including the building of pyramids? …Nah…….
Speaking of, I found Sepora’s backstory really unreliable at times. You are told that her father imprisoned her for quite a long time, but also that she was able to fly on her flying snake (lol) and that she could walk around her people? Two very different scenarios here, and not once is it explained. Which also leads to me not believing one second that Sepora gives a single damn about her kingdom or her people — she has no friends, no connection, treats her mother like dirt even if we are talking about a woman in an abusive relationship, and only mentions her teacher once in a while. Am I supposed to believe she cares about anything but herself in that context? No.
The book’s only redeeming quality is Tarik. The poor guy is stuck in a storyline too weak for him, which makes him shine even more in an otherwise dull book. His insecurities were realistic, and I was touched by the way he managed to mingle into the crowd and to show how much he cares about and values his people and their well-being. He is constantly trying to prove his worth all the while defying old traditions, which makes the boring storyline he finds himself thrown in all the more frustrating.
In the end, Nemesis is a boring book with a barely-there storyline and a lead female character I wanted to punch more than once. It didn’t help that only her chapters were written in the first person, while Tarik’s were written in the third person. It told me all I needed to know about the self-insert factor of the book.