Iron Heart by Nina Varela
This is the sequel to Crier’s War, and I was lucky that it came out shortly after I finished the first book. Continuing the story of Crier and Ayla, Ayla is journeying to join with Queen Judd in order to aid the rebellion. Crier, still in love with Ayla and dreading her marriage to Kinok, decides to take drastic action to escape the trap her father has set for her.
Queer, dystopian, fantasy, young adult
For too long the cruel, beautiful Automae have lorded over the kingdom of Rabu, oppressing the humans who live there. But the human revolution is on the rise, and at its heart is Ayla. Once handmaiden, now fugitive, Ayla escaped the palace of Lady Crier, the girl Ayla had planned to kill . . . but instead fell in love with. Now Ayla has pledged her allegiance to Queen Junn, whom she believes can accomplish the ultimate goal of the human rebellion: destroy the Iron Heart. Without it, the Automae will be weakened to the point of extinction.
But playing at Ayla’s memory are the powerful feelings she developed for Crier. And unbeknownst to her, Crier has also fled the palace, taking up among travelling rebels, determined to find and protect Ayla.
As their paths collide, neither are prepared for the dark secret underlying the Iron Heart.
In this stunning sequel to acclaimed author Nina Varela’s Crier’s War, the love that launched a revolution must now pave the way for a whole new era . . . and the ultimate change of heart.
This was just as good as the first book! Varela writes romance so well; the slow-burn yearning was torturous but made the conclusion so much better. The way she describes all the little details Crier and Ayla notice about each other is so wonderful. I was completely absorbed in that storyline.
The main plot of the rebellion was just as compelling. I was entirely wrapped up in these characters and their fates, so just like in the first book I felt genuine tension internally while reading, particularly the climax scenes. The way Varela writes makes you care so much about what happens and really makes you feel like you know those characters.
My one complaint is I was left wanting a bit more from the Benji storyline. Benji was Ayla’s best friend since they were kids, and I felt like the side plot where they have a falling out wasn’t fully addressed. It was put in there, but wasn’t followed through except for a brief note in the epilogue. Benji and Ayla’s friendship was supposedly really important and I felt like there should have been more development. As it was, Benji felt superfluous and annoying.
Other than that, I LOVE this book. It’s one of my favorites of the sapphic books I’ve read; right up there with the the We Set the Dark on Fire duology. I hope Nina Varela writes more books soon because she has amazing talent.