“Justice was a god, and Ayla didn’t believe in such childish things.
She believed in blood.”
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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.
DISCLAIMER: I received an early finished copy from Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review.
EXPECTED OCTOBER 1, 2019
CW: loss of a loved one, animal death, gore, violence, suicide
Anyone who knows me knows that the fastest way to get me to pick up a book is to tell me that it’s F/F. From there, it’s just a matter of how quickly I can find the money to purchase a book, or prod the library system into shoveling a copy through the inter-library loan networks.
So you can imagine my absolute JOY when Wunderkind PR approved an eARC and sent along a finished copy my way! F/F enemies to lovers, in my hands, with a beautiful cover and the promise of DRAMA.
And honestly, this book did not disappoint.
We have two polar opposites in Crier and Ayla, which is the best way to start an enemies to lovers story, if you ask me. On the one hand, Crier is bookish and diligent, and she’s desperate to prove herself to her father, who doesn’t seem to recognize that she’s just as intelligent and motivated as the other members of his ruling council. Sometimes, she’s a little naive, especially where human practice is concerned, especially where human suffering under Automae rule is concerned, but she makes an earnest attempt to do the right thing. That’s a hell of a lot more than her father or fiancé can say, and I appreciate that.
On the other hand, we have Ayla, who is all fury and no forgiveness. She lost her brother and parents to Automae rule, survived the slaughter thanks to her brother’s quick thinking, and now she’s living as a servant in Crier’s household, waiting for her chance to serve the human rebellion best, to strike the Automae where it will hurt: by killing Crier. Sharp and determined, she’s also only sixteen, and she makes very real mistakes. More than that, she has very real feelings that can lead to those mistakes, and it puts her at odds with Crier even as they start spiraling closer together.
Really, Ayla and Crier are a Gryffindor (or maybe Slytherin, arguably either) and a Ravenclaw under immense pressure, stumbling into this forbidden romance, and I loved it. There’s BEDSHARING, there’s STUCK IN A SMALL SPACE TOGETHER, there’s ANGST, there’s HEARTBREAK, there’s DOGGED PERSISTENCE TO SEE EACH OTHER AGAIN. There’s even a good dose of subtle UNREQUITED PINING, because Automae are not exactly Made to process feelings.
And best of all, I think the romance was timed well. It’s largely a slowburn, since there’s no rushing into a romance where the power dynamics are unequal and one party’s initial mission is to quite literally stab the other to death, and it only kicks off once it’s becoming clear that power structures are starting to be left to the side in pursuit of the romance. Really, that’s my number one criteria for enjoying enemies to lovers: the romance can’t kick off while both parties still relate to each other within an unequal power dynamic. In this case, the power dynamic doesn’t entirely go away, because that’s beyond their power to just wish it aside, no big deal, but the desire for it to be done away with is there, and that MATTERS.
Moving away from the characters, though, I really loved the way the worldbuilding unfolded. Not only is there a map and a timeline at the beginning (a map AND a timeline! omg!), but there’s also snippets of history interlaced throughout the book, offering insight into the events that led to the Automae uprising and human defeat about five decades before the book’s start. The world feels full in this way. It has a history, and while the human parts of that history have been erased in part by the Automae, there’s history nonetheless.
I actually really appreciated Ayla’s POV because of this. She is furious with the Automae, and rightly so. Deeming humans inferior to Made beings, they’ve slaughtered and usurped and destroyed, and now they have the nerve to claim their culture as their own rather than acknowledging it as borrowed almost wholesale from the humans they conquered. It’s functionally how colonialism works, and Ayla’s refusal to accept empty apologies or timid solutions is incredibly encouraging, even if it’s horrific that she’s in this position to begin with (much like, frankly, folks who find themselves combating everyday racism and colonialism in the real world).
Truth be told, the only thing that prevented this from being a 5 star read was the pace. I don’t feel that any page space was necessarily wasted, but given the scope of what’s at hand, I wanted just a little more to happen in the book. There’s an antagonist I DESPISE, hints that are setting up all kinds of danger for anyone who opposes him, a revolution on the horizon, human secrets escaping even keen Automae ears, and yet…something about the ending left me wanting more.
I do want more! I desperately want a sequel (interrupting with this PSA: please for the love of all things holy, preorder and support this book!), and I can’t wait to see how Crier and Ayla’s tense orbit resolves, but there’s something missing by the end of this installment. Crier’s War is easily one of my more treasured reads this year, but there’s just that little, almost indefinable piece missing that has me scratching my head and waiting with perhaps more impatience than is warranted.
But don’t let that stop you from supporting Crier’s War. It’s F/F, something that desperately needs vocal, heartfelt support, and it’s wonderfully well-written, something that belongs in a treasured spot on the shelf. Pub day is October 1st (this coming Tuesday!), and I highly encourage you to preorder it or place a request with your library. It’s worth every page. 💛
5 thoughts on “Crier’s War by Nina Varela”
I had tentatively added this to my TBR based on the premise alone, but your review has made me very excited to read it!
Oh good, I’m so glad! I hope you enjoy it when you get to it. 😊
Amazing review, and I can’t wait to get around to my copy (I preordered it!)!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!! It really is wonderful!