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.
“For the queer readers, you deserve every adventure.“
I was in tears before I even began this book because the dedication page got to me. Varela plays around with a lot of the same YA Fantasy tropes from other books of the genre and I loved how those scenes played out with a Sapphic couple.
The actual plot itself isn’t anything we haven’t seen many times before: world ruled by Automae where humans are treated as second class citizens, rebel MC infiltrating royal palace to spy, enemies-to-romance between rebel and ruler’s child, international wars, etc. Stories we’ve seen with countless straight couples and I can’t say I would’ve enjoyed this book half as much if our MCs weren’t a same-sex couple.
The book isn’t romance heavy though. Both Crier and Ayla are trying to figure out where they fit into their world and what they need to do to change it.
Absolutely loved that it was a queernormative world, always makes me happy to see more of that in fantasies. I also loved the commentary the book makes on what it means to be human.
I would’ve liked the side characters to be explored more, we spend so much time with Ayla and Crier that all the sides are a little neglected.
For too long, Automae have lorded over the kingdom of Rabu, oppressing its human citizens. But the human revolution has risen, and at its heart is Ayla. Once a handmaiden, now a fugitive, Ayla narrowly escaped the palace of Lady Crier, the girl she would’ve killed if she hadn’t fallen in love first.
Now Ayla has pledged her allegiance to Queen Junn, who can help accomplish the human rebellion’s ultimate goal: destroy the Iron Heart. Without its power, the Automae will be weakened to the point of extinction. Ayla wants to succeed, but can’t shake the strong feelings she’s developed for Crier. And unbeknownst to her, Crier has also fled the palace, taking up among traveling rebels, determined to find and protect Ayla.
Even as their paths collide, nothing can prepare them for the dark secret underlying the Iron Heart.
I thought Iron Heart was a satisfying ending to the duology. I loved Crier and Ayla’s journey in finding themselves and their place in this world.
That being said, the plot was a little too convenient at times and they kept getting lucky. That’s not always a bad thing because I like it when things go right for my MCs but it got to be too much.
I have the same complaints about the side characters on this one as I did in the first one. I was holding out hope after the first book that the sides will be explored more but none of the other characters beside Ayla and Crier are explored all that much.
!! spoiler zone !!
The reveal of Queen Junn being human didn’t make sense to me especially seeing that Automae have heightened senses. You’re telling me none of them noticed that she was human? I wasn’t buying that explanation.
Also didn’t make sense to me how Kinok was so powerful and had spies everywhere but missed entire mines of Tourmaline. Yes the people of Tarreen were secretive but I can’t believe that he didn’t even think to look in those lands especially seeing how much research he was doing on that stone.
But overall, it’s a good fantasy series, made even better by being gay 😌 would recommend.