“The Diabolic featured a big story arc that might’ve stretched over several books if I’d planned it as a trilogy from the start, but I decided to go all-out and make a big, action-packed standalone,” Kincaid tells EW. “I was merciless with the characters, and when I wrapped up that first book, I felt really satisfied that I’d finished Nemesis’s story. Then something happened: this idea came to me, all tempting and tantalizing. I tried to resist it, but it just stayed in my head, so I gave a shot to writing a tiny bit — and I couldn’t stop.”
This new sequel, The Empress, follows Tyrus and Nemesis as Tyrus adjusts to his new role as Emperor, and Nemesis sits beside him at the throne. But the Grandiloquy won’t rest until the teen Emperor and Empress are stopped. At the same time, Nemesis tries to distance herself from the killer she used to be.
The Empress hits shelves Oct. 31, 2017 — but EW can exclusively reveal its cover and a sneak peek inside, below.
Excerpt from The Empress by S.J. Kincaid
WARNING: Spoilers for those who have not finished THE DIABOLIC
Someone had poisoned me. I knew it with a single sip.
That someone was about to die.
I glanced around the crowded Presence Chamber, hoping to spot the doomed idiot who thought to poison a Diabolic. This was hardly the first attempt on my life in the harried days since Tyrus’s Coronation. There’d been the young Grande Austerlitz, who tried to stab me in a surprise attack. I’d been bemused enough to tolerate his clumsy slashes for a few moments.
It seemed wise to be diplomatic, so I gave him a chance. “Stop this at once,” I told him, dodging his next slash, his next.
He just bared his teeth and dove at me. I side-stepped him and hooked his ankle in mine to flip his legs out from under him. He screamed out as he tried to launch himself back to his feet—so I delivered a kick to his head that broke his skull open.
Days passed before the next attempt. This one had been a fanatical junior Vicar. She gave away her intentions with the shout of, “Abomination!” just before she tried to pull me into the airlock with her.
I tore from her grip and batted her away—knocking her into the airlock shaft. The blast doors sealed closed behind her – clearly some automated timer she’d set up in advance – and I met her eyes in the split second before the door to space popped open behind her and vented her into the darkness.
When prisoners were vented to space for execution, the onlookers were supposed to turn their backs and look away. It was a gesture of deliberate disrespect. The condemned were so unworthy, even their deaths wouldn’t be watched.
For this bold woman who’d so daringly attacked me, I felt a strange desire to watch her float away. It was the least I could do for one of such daring. There were a great many Grandiloquy who loathed me, a great many Helionics who scorned me with every righteous fiber of their being, but few were bold enough to act upon it.
Helionics viewed creatures like me as subhumans. The ‘dan’ in our names meant we were beneath them in status, yet now their new Emperor meant to wed me. They would have to kneel to a creature. A Diabolic.
The assassination attempts weren’t a surprise to me; the infrequency of the attempts was. A mere three attempts on my life in ten days? It was actually somewhat disappointing.
I welcomed the familiarity of feeling in danger. It tightened my focus, made my heart pick up a beat. My gaze swept the crowd as I drew the goblet to my lips, because surely my would-be assassin was fool enough to watch me drink this poison.
Yet I realized in moments that too many eyes were fixed upon me to guess which pair might belong to my would-be assassin. I should have realized it at once. After all, everywhere I went now, I was watched, I was scrutinized, I invited discussion and opinion.
“Do they ever tire of staring?” I’d wondered the first night after the Coronation, when I’d noticed the unnatural degree of scrutiny.
“This is just life as a Domitrian,” Tyrus told me.
So my assassin… There were too many candidates. The crowd for the Day of Pardon was simply too thick, and there was no guessing who’d meant to end my life. Too many of these people watching me probably wanted to do it.
Then, a familiar pair of pale eyes met mine, and Tyrus inclined his head towards the exit, telling me silently that we needed to part ways with this company for the ceremony.
I dipped my head in acknowledgment. We had to go to the Great Heliosphere. The Day of Pardon was a great Imperial holiday, but it was also one of the few aimed at pleasing the Excess who lived on planets rather than the ruling Grandiloquy in space.
On this day, Tyrus would enjoy the Emperor’s privilege of commuting the prison sentences of several Excess who’d converted to the Helionic faith. I aimed towards the exit, knowing Tyrus would meet me there, then my steps stilled as I passed a cluster of revelers gathered before Tyrus’s cousin and her husband.
I always took note of those who flocked to the Successor Primus, Devineé, since she was heir to Tyrus’s throne, and in my eyes, the greatest threat he faced. I’d damaged her mind beyond healing, so she couldn’t plot on her own behalf, but others could use her as a puppet. Had it been up to me, she’d be dead already.
Then the realization crawled into my mind then: there was a weapon of murder in my hand that could not be blamed on me or traced back to me.
I made up my mind. I walked over to my future sister-in-law. My shadow slid over her, and her foggy gaze raised to mine vacantly.
“Hello, your eminence. Are you enjoying the festivities?” I said pleasantly, dipping down beside her on the recliner.
Devineé blinked at me dully, unable to comprehend me. I set down my goblet seemingly off-handedly, just beside hers. I made a show of unwinding my elaborate twist of currently-chestnut brown hair, then arranging it anew (unnecessary with the hair stilts that arranged my locks in any style, but many women fussed over hair anyway)so I could point to that.
“Well, it was a fine conversation,” I said to Devineé. “I bid you good evening.”
Then I plucked up her goblet, leaving mine behind. And so quickly, so easily, it was done. I headed out to meet Tyrus for the ceremony, hoping by the time it concluded, we’d hear news of it… Confirmation of the death of his deadliest foe.