Anna Banks’ NEMESIS has strong fantasy, adventure, and a charming romance!
Has there ever been a better case of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” than Anna Banks’ Nemesis? We think not, so let us clear up some of the finer points.
First, take a look at the cover so you know what we’re talking about, in case you missed it:
Let’s start at the top, shall we? The tagline reads “She never meant to fall in love– with her nemesis.” Your inner trope alarm as already flashing red, right? We’ve all read enough stories where a girl bumps into a guy she’s supposed to hate and they fall madly in love within three days, batting their eyelashes at each other as their rival groups try to tear them apart. Good news though– The tagline is really misleading and this isn’t that type of story. We repeat: This isn’t that type of story.
When we first meet Princess Sepora, she’s a refugee headed to Theoria, where she plans to hide from her own father, the ruthless King of Serubel. She never expects to be hiding her identity while in the service of young King Tarik himself, but she’s still planning a life among the Serubelan refugee population in Theoria because she trust his people and their very different culture more than her own vicious family. There’s no hate between them, even though the societies don’t always see eye-to-eye. To call Tarik her nemesis is a bit confounding, because you don’t run to your sworn enemy for safety. As for the romance? We won’t deny it’s there, but it’s slow, complex, and not overtly ridiculous in its expression.
Then we get to the main image: Blond Sepora covered in silver body paint with Kohl designs around her eyes. Initial reactions to the image have included some discomfort, even comparisons to blackface. However, there’s a historical explanation for this: The kingdom of Theoria is loosely based in ancient Egyptian culture and as such, metallic body paint is a sign of status. During important events, King Tarik wears gold body paint and any person in service of him wears silver. Kohl around the eyes is common for both. It’s not Sepora’s personal choice to wear the paint. She’s just going along with what’s required of her in this new world.
Why are we telling you all this? Because we really, really liked this book and we’d hate for people to skip out because of cover shock! We read and enjoyed Anna Banks’ Syrena Legacy books, but Nemesis is smarter, fiercer, and far more intricately woven in a way that really sucked us in.
Princess Sepora of Serubel has a special gift: She’s the last known forger of the mystical element called spectorium, the major source of energy in all five kingdoms known in her world. It seeps from her body naturally and she feels strength and comfort in its creation. However, Sepora’s father, the king, keeps her captive so nothing can keep him from a steady supply. See, spectorium is more than just energy. It can be used to create harrowing weapons. When Sepora learns that the king plans to destroy neighboring kingdoms with such weapons, she plans her escape to Theoria, where she expects to live a laborious but anonymous life among the lower classes.
Of course, things never go as planned. Sepora finds herself in a palace once again, this time as a high status attendant to the newly appointed Falcon King, Tarik. Clever and unwilling to bend to the orders of others, Sepora makes herself known in the palace despite the fact that she’s hiding her gifts and her true status as a foreign royal. Troublesome as it may be for outward appearances, Tarik finds himself impressed by Sepora’s fiery wit. He’s even more impressed when she risks so much to provide solutions to protect and serve Theoria against both foreign threats and the plague ravaging the kingdom. He doesn’t realize is that Sepora holds the key to stopping the increasingly imminent war and the plague– She can create the element that will safeguard them from both threats. Tarik could make her a slave once again, just like her father did, and Sepora won’t risk it.
Sepora is my favorite Anna Banks character to date. She’s gutsy and yes, occasionally a bit wild– But when your choices are sitting idly and letting thousands of people die or making a scene, you make a scene. She recognizes her feelings, doesn’t give into them easily, but also doesn’t endlessly toil about her heart and her head pulling her in opposite directions. Tarik is a character with a great moral center, but as a new king he feels the wild pressure of tradition upon him. It’s great to watch him question what he knows and ride the fine line between serving his people and protecting them, ideals which can sometimes conflict.
There are also some great secondary characters, including Tarik’s snarky military brat brother, Sethi, his loving but “I’m too old for this” advisor Rashidi, and a young genius fighting the kingdom’s plague. We wish there were more notable female characters other than Sepora, however.
If you’re a sucker for some solid fantasy worldbuilding, you’re going to love this book. There kingdoms with unique habitats and trades and government systems and fashions and ideals. There are unique creatures, both of the pet-like variety and with their own mysterious societies. There is history spanning back generations.
Once you get all that, you also get the action and the tension. This story doesn’t get complacent. There’s a constant threat, a constant worry, and just when you think things might settle down, something happens to put Sepora and Tarik’s troubles in a new light. The end of this book left us on edge and we’re already craving the Nemesis sequel!
RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
Nemesis hits shelves on October 4, 2016. You can pre-order it now via Amazon.