I finished last month with Crier’s War for book club. It was so good that I abandoned the rest of my TBR to read Iron Heart right after it. And let me tell you, it was worth abandoning it. Plus, there wasn’t really much time left to read anything else so I took advantage of my mood and just coasted through a great little fantasy series.
Here’s more about the books
Impossible love between two girls —one human, one Made. A love that could birth a revolution.
After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, Designed to be the playthings of royals, took over the estates of their owners and bent the human race to their will.
Now, Ayla, a human servant rising the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging the death of her family… by killing the Sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier, who was Made to be beautiful, to be flawless. And to take over the work of her father.
Crier had been preparing to do just that—to inherit her father’s rule over the land. But that was before she was betrothed to Scyre Kinok, who seems to have a thousand secrets. That was before she discovered her father isn’t as benevolent as she thought. That was before she met Ayla.
Set in a richly-imagined fantasy world, Nina Varela’s debut novel is a sweepingly romantic tale of love, loss and revenge, that challenges what it really means to be human.
Critically acclaimed author Nina Varela delivers a stunning sequel to the richly imagined queer epic fantasy Crier’s War, which SLJ called “perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass.”
For too long, Automae have lorded over the kingdom of Rabu, oppressing its human citizens. But the human revolution has risen, and at its heart is Ayla. Once a handmaiden, now a fugitive, Ayla narrowly escaped the palace of Lady Crier, the girl she would’ve killed if she hadn’t fallen in love first.
Now Ayla has pledged her allegiance to Queen Junn, who can help accomplish the human rebellion’s ultimate goal: destroy the Iron Heart. Without its power, the Automae will be weakened to the point of extinction. Ayla wants to succeed, but can’t shake the strong feelings she’s developed for Crier. And unbeknownst to her, Crier has also fled the palace, taking up among traveling rebels, determined to find and protect Ayla.
Even as their paths collide, nothing can prepare them for the dark secret underlying the Iron Heart.
First off, I love a duology. Two books that can say everything it needs to say is enough for me. And when the story is so good that you want to pick up the book right after it, it’s so satisfying. I finished these books like I finished a really great meal. The wine was delicious. The flavors paired well together and I sighed that great big sigh.
Crier’s War blew me away. I wasn’t expecting anything in particular from the book, but when I started reading and seeing Ayla and Crier coming together and the tension between them both mentally and emotionally, it kept me reading. I loved the play of feelings here; there was the mental struggle to stay loyal to your cause, but then emotional struggle to not fall in love. Ayla’s feelings were so real and her push/pull from Crier really drove the story for me. That isn’t to say Crier didn’t do the same either. Her ignorance of growing up in a gilded cage and then meeting Ayla who questioned everything is literally what you want to see; someone strong enough to open your eyes to what’s around you and make you wonder why.
It’s stories like this one that really make me love reading; books that pursue passion and question yourself and make you wonder why you’ve been doing the same thing for so long. I also love that mental and emotional struggle to stay away from someone who you know is your enemy, but still finding common ground and accepting them as is as well.
Of course, there was also all the tropes you love about fantasy books. There’s political intrigue, female bad ass-ery, romance, and poor choices because hey, they’re young.
Iron Heart was the continuation of this story picking up right where Crier’s War left off. There wasn’t a strong cliffhanger at the end of Crier’s War, so you’re not left with clamoring to the next book because of it. However, there’s enough there to make you reach for book 2 right after book 1. The first part of the book was a little slow since it recaps the first book, but once it dives into it, then it starts to really pick up.
I did love seeing the role reversals between Crier and Ayla. Ayla gets to see what opulent living looks like while Crier tries her best not to starve. I also loved that each of them don’t miss the life they had before, accepting their circumstances, and moving forward than complaining that one has it rougher than the other.
The second book had a ton of twists and turns with surprising components that kept me reading. Certain people showed up at the wrong time and big secrets are revealed making it a much more interesting story. I’m so glad that they continued the same journey they were on in the first book and that all those pieces fit so well together as you approach the end. At some point, I was a bit confused by what the ultimate goal was for Ayla and Crier, but it did get an answer before the ending.
I will say I was a bit disappointed with how easy things were at the end of Iron Heart. There were a few instances where I had to stretch my disbelief a bit more than I usually would like, but I also remember this is a YA fantasy novel and sometimes those things get overlooked for much more important components.
Overall, this duology was such a stunner and I absolutely enjoyed every bit of it. After a string of pretty meh books, I’m glad to have read something I really liked. I’ll definitely be adding Crier’s War to my favorites of the year.