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“It was never really a choice, was it? Wanting her. Killing her.”
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.
Crier’s War was one of my most anticipated books of the year. A fantasy with a F/F romance? I’m always down for those. Plus, it’s been hyped up for months. I finally read it this week and… I mean, it’s fine. Just… fine.
I’m at a point in my life where I wonder if the problem with my frequent disappointment with YA is me or the book. I’ve read some fantastic YA books, but I’m well past the target audience. Am I coming at these books with too much of an adult perspective? Or am I simply expecting all books to be well-plotted and characterized?
I’m genuinely torn because I know I didn’t read as critically as a teen, but that doesn’t mean teens today don’t. Then again, I’ve seen teens love books that I’ve found mediocre. Is the problem me or the books?
I don’t have an answer, so I’m still going to review this book with the criticisms I had while reading. Just take my opinions with a grain of salt. Anyway, let’s get into the nitty gritty of this review.
Firstly, I want to point out that this book isn’t bad. It’s just a very basic YA fantasy story. I was hoping for something new with such a unique mythology. The only thing that made this novel refreshing is the F/F relationship.
That said, the relationship isn’t very well developed. Crier’s obvious crush on Ayla is adorable and relatable, but Ayla’s reciprocation isn’t built up as well. It really strains incredulity. What could’ve been the saving grace of this novel is actually another hindrance.
Again, this isn’t a bad book. It’s a decent debut. But it also makes some real rookie mistakes. The world-building is skeletal at best. It’s unclear how Automae are Made. There are some scenes that are meant to be devastating, but the characters and relationships aren’t explored enough to have impact. The climax feels remarkably tame after all the promises of peril. And, of course, there’s a lot that’s told instead of shown.
There are a few scenes in this book that feel incredibly contrived. One example is where Crier is brought along to a meeting, only to not be allowed to do anything and then immediately sent home where she catches the humans doing something forbidden. This allows her a chance to grow closer to Ayla. But why get to that point in such a roundabout way?
I do want to give Varela credit for the writing, which is pretty good. She pens some nice turns of phrase here. She also keeps the reader engaged. It’s also a pretty quick read, despite being over 400 pages. I appreciated how effortless this book was to read.
Ultimately, I see why readers who haven’t read as much fantasy as I have love this book. I’m glad they do, especially since support for Sapphic stories begets more Sapphic stories. It just isn’t solid enough for me.
Will I continue the series? That’s unclear at this point, though I do appreciate the little wrinkle at the end that adds another layer to the conflict. It could make the story fresher. But we’ll see how I feel next year when Iron Heart comes out. In the meantime, I’ll continue my inner war over whether the problem is actually the book… or me.
Have you read Crier’s War by Nina Varela? Share your thoughts in the comments!