Crier’s War by Nina Varela (Review)

Justice was a god, and Ayla didn’t believe in such childish things.

She believed in blood.

Everyone everywhere I looked was talking about Crier’s War, and I was genuinely devastated to find out that it’s not yet being published in the UK. I’m not one to let that stop me, though, so when a work colleague told me she was going to New York, and would be visiting a Barnes and Noble, I grovelled and begged until she brought me Crier’s War back. Somehow I didn’t end up reading it until now, as part of my Queer Reads Crew book club for February. I almost wish I’d waited longer now, because the wait for Iron Heart is going to be unbearable.

Rating: 5 stars!

Read me for the:

  • Enemies to lovers
  • Revenge gone awry
  • Automae vs humans
  • Slow-burn poc f/f romance
  • Revolution

The plot:

The kingdom of Rabu was ravaged by the War of Kinds, separating the Automae from the humans. The Automae were designed to be the toys and pets of royals and nobles until they usurped their owners and bent the human race into submission. Ayla is a human servant slowly working her way into the House of the Sovereign, on a mission to avenge her family’s death at Hesod’s hands by murdering his beloved daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made with perfection in mind, artfully designed to carry on her father’s legacy. Until, that is, she was betrothed to the secretive Scyre Kinok, before she realised there were secrets buried deep in her family and before she met Ayla. The city is wracked by unrest, there’s a foreign queen putting pressure on King and country and Crier and Ayla find that ‘love and war’ is more complicated than they’d ever expected.

What did I think?

I ended up reading this whole book in one go. It wasn’t exactly my plan to devour the whole thing in one hungry marathon, but once I’d started I just couldn’t put it down. For that, I have to say the pacing was flawless. It was engaging all the way through, which isn’t always possible when balancing two POV characters, flash-backs and ‘found document’ sections. That’s not to say it was fast paced all the way through, it had slow sections that were definitely needed but I very much felt like those slow sections still had a huge purpose in the story as a whole. Either they were acting as a valuable come-down after moments of action, or they were there to let the reader and the characters mull over some of the information they’d discovered. It also felt like those moments of quiet were hard bought by the characters.

The threat and the stakes in Crier’s War felt unbelievably real. There was a cost to every single thing that happened in the story. Every action had consequences, and it’s shown pretty early in the story that those consequences are going to be damn harsh if Ayla slips up in her mission. We see Crier learning how to trust people like a fragile baby bird (stop trusting the wrong people, baby girl 😥) and Ayla torn between her feelings and her mission, and the stakes are so high. Characters are brutally and fatally punished for much less than the things our MCs are involved in, and my heart was in my throat for the whole last third of the book. The ending wasn’t a cliff-hanger but still managed to have me absolutely desperate for Iron Heart as there’s a very clear turning point in the story. Somehow I know that the danger and the stakes are going to be even higher in Iron Heart, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen after that breathlessly exciting final chapter.

As if this story wasn’t made for me already, it’s hugely character driven, and we know that’s my favourite kind of novel. It’s Ayla and Crier who make this story, and their character arcs were literally everything to me.

The Automae society is built on perfection. Every new-built Automa is carefully Designed before they are Made. They are built of four pillars, two human and two Automae that keep them perfectly balanced as an elevated Kind – better than the humans they were once based upon. Crier, in particular, was Designed to be perfect. She’s beautiful, uncannily beautiful, and every part of her blueprint was made with the Sovereign’s heir in mind… right? When she thinks there’s a chance she might be Flawed it throws her whole life into confusion. That isn’t helped by the way she’s starting to feel about Ayla, and we see Crier taking huge leaps in personal development as she literally reconsiders her whole life, her role in her family and her nation, and the way that humans are treated by her Kind. Honestly? I would die for Crier, I’m so proud of her personal development and the way she turns Flaws into strengths.

The romance between Crier and Ayla is so slow burn and beautiful. It’s taboo, not because it’s queer, but because human and Made should not entangle themselves together – and because Automae should have no interest in such human emotions. And yet. And yet. Crier and Ayla know each other’s secrets, and that buys them a sense of false trust that Ayla definitely doesn’t rely on. Crier on the other hand, really wants to trust Ayla. Slowly trust turns to affection, and even knowing the whole time that Ayla had ulterior motives I was emotional as hell every time these girls were in the same place. (There’s bedsharing and I screamed.) The promised slow burn was actually slow burn, too. I have a particular hatred for books where it’s all slow burn until half-way through and then all of a sudden it’s all resolved and that’s the end of that. Crier’s War does not do that. The closer they grow, the more careful they get and it’s so beautiful. I can’t wait for Iron Heart to hopefully get some real emotional pay-off for these girls because they deserve to be happy.

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4 thoughts on “Crier’s War by Nina Varela (Review)

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