Crier’s War by Nina Varela is the first novel in this authors debut series. Only one book has been published thus far with the second set to release September 8th, 2020. This book’s tagline is:
One mortal, one made – one loved, one betrayed
So, going into it I knew it was a romance of two women that were on opposite sides. With one side being Automae (automatons that are human in design with the capability to bleed that survive off some type of stone) and humans (who are currently lower class to their creations). A little Detroit: Become Human in that sense if the androids in that game decided to take over the government rather than just get their freedom/rights.
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.
The story is told with each chapter coming from one of the two main characters: Ayla (a human) and Crier (an Automae). The first few chapters it took me a while to get through. There was a lot of backstory unloaded all at once, which in a way is needed since this there’s a lot of background context but it was also a little overwhelming. Before you even start the book there’s a timeline of events and a map of the kingdom of Rabu where this story takes place. I felt almost as if I was taking a fictional history lesson.
And the switching of narratives between the two opposing sides, initially made me feel out of place. Or conflicted over which narrator to trust/like. In other books whenever this happened, the two usually had the same stance or viewpoint of the book so it wasn’t so jarring. Crier sees the Automae as peaceful rulers, while Ayla exposes them for being anything but and wants to kill Crier for revenge over the death of her family and so many others. Then the two collide when Ayla decides not to let Crier die after she stumbles off a cliff, because there might be a way to use Crier to get information for a human revolution against the Automae. While Crier is pretty much out of it because she learned there is a flaw in her design, as she has a fifth pillar called Passion.
After the two meet, Crier makes Ayla her handmaiden because Ayla saw Crier cry. And is afraid that someone will terminate Crier for it, because she is flawed (according to the schematics her fiancé Scyre Kinok provided her with). Ayla on the other hand has little choice in the matter as she got caught with a forbidden artifact, a necklace made by the Makers that used to belong to her mother. Also, Ayla wants revenge and seeing as Kinok knows about the Iron Heart (where all Automae get their energy source) she is inclined not to outright kill Crier, but use her for access.
Crier becomes engaged to Kinok, know is aware she is flawed. And during their engagement ceremony all Crier can think about is Ayla. I mean the tagline is about the two of them becoming romantically involved in some way, but it just seems so odd at this point. They’ve literally had maybe three short conversations. The first when Ayla decides not to kill Crier, the second being Crier asking Ayla to work for her, and the third about music before Crier heads to her engagement. Then again, Crier is extremely inexperienced with the world.
While this is happening Ayla has broken into Kinok’s room to find a chart of human faces with various threads connecting them. Gold for family, red for lovers, blue for friends, and black for dead (Luna, a human Ayla knows had these threads with her face crossed out). Kinok has assumed in his map that Ayla is with Benjy, though she is not. Ayla assumes this means that Kinok is using the information to find weaknesses in the humans, exploiting connections for punishments like killing Luna over something Faye did. However, Ayla forgets Nessa’s handkerchief in Kinok’s room and Nessa was killed for it three days later when she refused to let them take her daughter. Which makes Ayla realize if she gets caught, Benjy will pay the price not her. So, Kinok is a great guy (sarcasm).
Then it cuts to Crier who assumes a guard went rogue and killed Nessa (she doesn’t know the woman’s name) and tells another servant to give food to Ayla as well as gives her the next two days off over the shock (not that she knew Ayla was an emotional wreck over getting Nessa killed). Crier goes to her first council meeting where she is not given a seat, yet she speaks out of term multiple times. To learn that some Queen Junn (the mad queen) wants to meet Crier, Kinok wants to eliminate humans as they have been uprising, and her mentor Reyka has vanished with numerous of the others laughing over the fact Reyka supported humans. Kinok also mentions Crier’s fifth pillar in a way only Crier would notice, so she decides not to trust him. And I don’t blame her. The guy doesn’t seem that great. Then just to add more insult to injury, her father nominates Kinok not Crier for the empty seat which is approved by the mass majority. I feel bad for Crier… but she’s also super naïve and has no allies on that board.
Crier leaves early and ends up at the human’s celebration of the Reaper’s Moon. Ayla spots her after admitting to Benjy that it’s her fault Nessa is dead. She refuses to let him speak knowing that he’ll admit something she isn’t ready for, since again he’s her only connection on Kinok’s wall. Ayla spots Crier and leaves begging Crier not to tell her father about their gathering in fear of everyone’s death. Crier agrees more because she is furious by her father after the council meeting, and tells Ayla a story before they go their separate ways. Crier cannot stop thinking about Ayla, and breaks into Kinok’s study (something Ayla wanted to do) where she discovers notes referring to Yora’s Heart. Which according to the beginning timeline of the book is an Automae that doesn’t require heartstone to survive.
At this point, while I’m still not addicted to it as I was with the previous book I read (like I seriously couldn’t put ACOTAR down, I read each book at least four times). I was finding myself enjoying it more than I had in the beginning. And it didn’t feel like an effort anymore to read/understand.
Also, I find it hard to believe that this is the first time in sixteen years that anyone is noticing Crier having different emotions and thoughts than the rest of the Automae. Yes, she’s been super sheltered but really? They’re robots (??) so wouldn’t they all detect she’s flawed. Like seriously? Also, at this point I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a one-sided romance because I have a hard time believing that Ayla is going to fall for Crier. Maybe start to think of her as a friend or ally, but surely not lover. Ayla doesn’t let anyone in, and has gone through a lot of traumatic events including the death of her family including her twin brother. That’s just my thoughts at this point in the book, I could be wrong.
Two weeks have passed since the last chapter. Junn comes to the visit, and Ayla sees her brother Storme… who died. She thought he had after shoving her into an outhouse then listened to Automae kill her family. She comments that she had seen his body. So what?!? But Ayla didn’t describe him as an Automae and comments he’s human. Seven years older, but looks identical to her brother. And the two numerous times halt and look at each other… what happened? This is the most curious I have been the entire book so far.
Jump to Ayla, Kinok tells her about his ideas to get rid of the heartstone and use another fuel source that is infinite. She is fearful of him, and he points out that he said his words in the council meeting to provoke her. I hate him. More so than I did before. After Crier talks to the Mad Queen Junn who wants Crier’s help to get rid of Kinok, and she believes that humans and Automae should be equals… the advisor is Storme… Ayla’s twin brother and he’s in a sexual relationship with Junn. Or at least, according to Crier that’s what she heard but there was moaning and he left her room after so it can be assumed.
Ayla heads to the castle after curfew and runs into her brother (who used to hate Automae with a passion). They have a heated conversation. Which is not unexpected. Both of them thought the other was dead. Only Storme was forced to vow never to look for Ayla, and somehow ended up in the other country. But he won’t speak about it in the open, for obvious reasons, and invites Ayla to come join them. Ayla ends up at Crier’s room not wanting to go back to the servant’s quarters, and Crier invites her to stay. Ayla ends up asking Crier to help the humans by looking into Kinok. I can’t tell if it’s because Ayla likes Crier or she’s just using Crier (that chapter was from Crier’s POV and she’s very much into Ayla). Crier ends up getting Ayla’s necklace when Ayla falls asleep in Crier’s bed, and Crier freaks out which sets up for distress alarm. Ayla is taken away and Crier begs the King to release her before sending a letter to the Queen stating she’ll work with her to end Kinok.
Ayla is questioned by Kinok and finds her necklace on his desk. Either he retrieved it from where Crier placed it, or he has the twin necklace to hers that was lost. Ayla also suspects that the compass Kinok has points to the Iron Heart (where all heartstone is obtained), and finds where the safe is hidden in his study when he leaves her alone in the room. When he returns she is free to go only to receive a green feather her brother left for her, the same thing Junn gave to Crier. After she talks to Benjy and their resistance friend/mentor Rowan. Benjy learns of the black dust that belongs to Kinok’s movement, which Faye had been in charge of before they killed her sister as punishment. And Ayla shares the information she learned with the others so they can come up with a plan, but considering they have to get back to the servant’s quarter it has to wait.
After the last section, I didn’t think Ayla felt anything for Crier. But she’s starting to or rather her obsession has changed. From killing Crier to just general fascination about Crier. Not the same as Crier’s feelings towards Ayla, but you can see it’s changing. I think there’s one more reading session after this one as there are only a hundred pages or so left. I’m really curious where this will go.
Predictions because why not… I don’t know the ending but here’s what I’m guessing is going to happen:
- Ayla will get her hands on the compass, which will result in Benjy being killed, because he’s her only weak point (not including her brother that Kinok is unaware of) and there’s no way Kinok won’t punish that.
- Ayla will join her brother when she’s escaping after stealing said compass, possibly with Rowan.
- Crier will try and fail to cover for Ayla, and maybe at some point try to kiss her since Crier clearly wants to.
Ayla and Crier admit to each other about knowing about the feathers from Junn (Ayla through Storme and Crier through the Queen). Crier’s letters to the queen results in the death of three Automae that have sided with Kinok. So, Crier takes Ayla along to check on the fiancé of one of those that died. There they see the side effects of Kinok’s black dust, and after have a conversation at an Inn (after Crier tricks the guards into taking her there). And learn that Crier’s mentor had been in contact with Junn. The two also kiss, Ayla admits to wanting it in her thoughts. Again like most things involving Ayla and Crier is seemed rushed… but maybe that’s just a limitation of their viewpoints, as according to all the other characters Ayla had been drawn to or constantly looking at Crier. We just don’t see this, it all happens off the page. And I wish it didn’t.
Rowan is killed in a riot that Ayla witnesses, as Ayla sees Rowan as a mother figure and mentor this greatly affects her. After Ayla is cold and distant, and vows to Benjy that she’ll kill Crier to serve as a distraction while he gets Kinok’s safe. However, she is able to bring herself to do it. Benjy also isn’t successful in getting the safe, but both manage to escape along with some of the others that helped them. Ayla decides to flee to Queen Junn’s country where Storme is with Benjy who got injured during the escape. Since they are wanted for treason, as Herod the King believes Ayla has been writing in code to Junn not Crier. Not to mention setting the stable on fire, attempting to kill Crier, and stealing from Kinok (granted those three are true).
Crier learns she never had a fifth pillar according to the midwives, when she goes there to have it removed so she will stop thinking about/loving Ayla. Kinok lied and showed her a fake blueprint to blackmail her into being obedient. She learns on her way back that Queen Junn killed Crier’s mentor, and the queen wants her to go through with the wedding so they can wipe out Kinok’s following there. It’s unclear if she leaves to go find Ayla or heads back to the castle. Though from the synopsis of the next book, she did end up going after Ayla.
Crier also learns that Ayla’s ancestor (grandmother) created the first Automae but it had a blue gemstone heart that never died, and after a raid Yora (the Automae) was destroyed or at least had it’s heart removed which Ayla’s grandmother gave to her grandfather before going back to her design. If they can get that information before Kinok can, then that could prevent a war of soulless Automae as Crier sees in the locket that Ayla used to have.
I know there’s a sequel coming in September of this year called Iron Heart. I avoided looking at it, so the ending of Crier’s War wouldn’t be ruined. I will be reading this after it comes out as I am curious where this story goes. While it’s not as addictive as ACOTAR, I did enjoy the book and started to get into the story after the first hundred or so pages. Considering that’s a fourth of the book though, and motives/relationships develop not in the typical sense, I’m going to give this book a 3 out of 5 stars.
Also, it at times relationships or views just suddenly change with nothing really to support those changes. Like Crier with Kinok, you don’t really see any supporting evidence that backs up her change in thoughts besides a comment here or there that’s off. Most of that comes from Ayla’s chapters, and it’s not something the two talk about. So, Crier suddenly changing isn’t really explained. It just happens. Same goes with Ayla, her motives are just all over the board. Most of the development happens off the page or through mentions of other characters, which helps move the plot along but you don’t get to experience that. Which is a shame, I think the book would’ve been better with that in. The plot was good but it just didn’t have the depth, so the betrayal of Ayla to Crier doesn’t sink in. Same with almost every other relationship, it’s very surface level.
With that being said, I did find the book enjoyable and I generally liked it. That was just one thing I couldn’t help but notice, think about while reading the book. Maybe I just missed it but the context clues just weren’t there to explain those changes well enough. Or come way after the fact through a remark here or there. Not from the main characters themselves who are telling the story. In part, I think the only reason they stood out so much is I was writing this while reading, if I didn’t do that I’m not sure I would’ve cared as much. But writing it out just… it’s too obvious for me to overlook.
However, with all that being said, if Crier’s War sounds like something you would be interested in, I do recommend it. As I think the concept is interesting and different from what I’ve read in the past. Some aspects are just a bit rushed within the four hundred pages, though that could just because I’m insanely used to reading 700+ page books where things are more stretched out/explained.
If you’ve read Crier’s War, what did you think of the book? Or where do you think the sequel will go?
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