After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.
Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.
Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.
Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.
Release date: October 1st 2019
Page number: 448 pages
Genre: YA, Dystopian, Fantasy, F/F romance
Format: ARC edition
Diversity: Sapphic MC’s, f/f romance
At the beginning of the Automae era, human Queen Thea – who cannot bear children – commissions her people to build her a child. One who can replicate every aspect of human life. A seemingly impossible request is manufactured, where individuals are Made, with Four Pillars: Reason, Calculation, Organics, and Intellect. However, this ignites a vicious war between the humans and the Automades, who rise to power and enslave the remaining humans.
Crier is an Automade and the daughter of Hesod, the sovereign. She’s engaged to Scrye Kinok, but wishes to attain power and leadership herself. However, a possible, compassionate flaw in her design alters her disposition to humans. She doesn’t abhor their Kind as her father and betrothed do.
Ayla is a human who’s had everything taken from her by the Automades, except the cherished locket she keeps around her neck at all times. She’s currently a servant at the House of Sovereign and desires revenge against the tyrant Hesod. Ayla determines this can be achieved by killing his daughter, Crier. However, their lives become entwined by chance and the lines of loyalty are blurred for the Automade and the human.
The best way to begin a review is to burst your bubble. This isn’t necessarily fantasy. It has fantastical elements, but the fundamentals of the story are dystopian. A battle between two different groups, leaving one victorious and another enslaved. After years, the oppressed band together and form rebellions against their leaders. Sounds exactly like dystopian to me. However, there’s nothing wrong with dystopian, I just feel like there’s a trend of misleading readers – especially in f/f fiction – by labelling anything not contemporary as “fantasy”. This isn’t the fault of the publishers, but rather the word-of-mouth from individuals on social media who haven’t read the book itself and unconsciously mislabel the genre.
I’ve intensely disliked the slow-burn trope my entire life, but sometimes you encounter someone who knows how to execute it properly. So thank you, Nina Varela. I always find them tedious and insufferable to read, often lowering my ratings because I spent the entire book waiting for a kiss and, when my wish is finally granted, I no longer care about the book. However, the way Varela developed Crier and Ayla’s romance – even the methodical revelation of plot points that slowly expanded on each other to the final climax – was genius and I applaud her. The tension that arose from something as simple as their knees brushing in a carriage was brilliant. In addition, I think I enjoyed Crier and Ayla’s slow-burn because they were genuinely enemies to lovers – and forbidden – the entire time. Ayla has plotted revenge against Hesod for almost a decade, wishing to murder his daughter in cold blood, and she still does towards the end of the book. Enemies to lovers has really lost its spark in recent times. It’s never true enemies to lovers. It also doesn’t hurt that one of my favourite tropes – forced proximity in a bed, where one shifts during their sleep and unconsciously throws their arm around the other – was included.
I intentionally didn’t mention anything about how these characters are sapphic in my discussion of the romance because I don’t want it to be the main focus of my discussion. I feel like there’s a trend of people only reading books with the promise of LGBT characters – which is valid, and I do it too – but I also want people to appreciate and discuss these characters like any other couple. Not only are Crier and Ayla both girls interested in each other, but it’s acknowledged that same-gender love and marriage is accepted in their world. There are brief mentions of marriage between two males and the romance between Crier and Ayla is forbidden because Ayla is believed to be a rebel, not because of their gender. I love that fantasy worlds filled with tension, war, bloodshed, fighting, and rebellion are more harmonious than our current society in regards to same-sex couples.
Crier was undeniably my favourite character and one of the new loves of my life. Please take a shot every time I say that about a gay girl in a book (don’t get alcohol poisoning, kids). She’s designed to be physically and mentally perfect but believes she’s flawed because she feels compassion. My heart shattered for her multiple times throughout the book, especially when she realised her father’s care for her might not run as deeply as she’d hoped. I definitely think her and Ayla had an admirable light/dark or stoic/soft theme, where she was optimistic and tried to see the best in everything. As much as I love the dark, complex, immoral female character, I appreciate the soft girls even more. She has an innocence and ignorance of human activities that’ll make you fall for her. She’s curious about the actions of humans and watches from a distance, always questioning why they find joy in certain things, but never in a judgemental matter. I found the scene where she discovered the concept of sex hilarious because she was flushed and felt “flutters in her stomach”, which inevitably leads to thoughts about Ayla.
I’m surprised she managed to survive for so long if I’m being honest. I love her, but the fact that she spent almost a decade wanting to murder Crier and had AMPLE opportunities to do so before they were acquainted, but didn’t was quite frustrating. I feel like she was the typical vengeful character archetype with nothing left to care for, so she barricades herself against feelings and emotions. I can’t discuss much about her personality without spoiling, but I wasn’t as warmed to her as I was with Crier.
Crier’s War‘s world-building is intricate and doesn’t interrupt the flow of plot, which I appreciated. Majority of the book is spent introducing and building-up the conflict, though this is typical for the first book in a series. A lot of the revelations throughout the book aren’t resolved in the end, which is excellent in building anticipation for the next release. I felt like I had a deep understanding of the world and characters, especially with the excerpts from their history books at the beginning of the chapters. A lot of the discussion of the past was shown to us in unique ways instead of told, which I felt was exceptional at grasping the reason for the tension between the humans and Automade, while also upholding interest.
If I can include comparisons to other well-known fantasy series, I’d definitely acknowledge that this has similar vibes as The Winner’s Trilogy. There are a few plot similarities, but the comparison drew mainly from the ambitious female main character, vengeful, enslaved love interest, and plentiful political intrigue. The slow-burn romance is additionally on a similar level, but I’d classify it as even slower.
It’s difficult to believe Crier’s War is a debut, with lyrical prose, intricate worldbuilding, and a heart-clenching sapphic slow-burn romance. It’s a book I’ll definitely be recommending to others looking for f/f fantasy romance in the future.