Hi everyone! I hope you’re all keeping well! You may notice that my blog banner has had a wee bit of an update – I really wanted to add more of what the blog is about in it and I’m really happy with the results! Over the past few days I’ve been reading quite a bit of fantasy, including the book that this review post is all about! I’ve been wanting to read Crier’s War for a couple of years now, despite not loving enemies-to-lovers books, as it was one of the few sapphic fantasy books I was aware of on its release. But despite preordering it, it has sat on my shelf unread since 2019. So, I was so excited to see that it had been picked as one of the books for this month’s Sapphic Stories Bookclub picks so I could finally get round to reading it! And, I really enjoyed my time doing so!
Title: Crier’s War
Author: Nina Varela
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT+, Young Adult
Synopsis: 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.
So I’m pretty late to the party when it comes to this well-loved sapphic fantasy novel – everyone and their mum seems to have already read and loved it, but I’m only just picking it up now in 2021! The book follows Ayla, a human servant who is determined to kill the automae Soverign’s daughter – Lady Crier – to avenge the death of her family and show him what it’s like to feel that kind of pain. But Lady Crier is nothing like Ayla expects her to be – behind the scenes she has been struggling to show her father that she is worthy of playing a role in the country’s rule, only to be overshadowed by her betrothed, Scyre Kinok who had uncovered a secret of Crier’s making, one that could lead to her unmaking.
I’m sure you’re all well aware of it by now, but I’m not a huge fan of enemies-to-lovers dynamics. However, as a rule I generally enjoy it much more in sci-fi or fantasy novels – something about those genres just really lends itself to the dynamic, allowing it to be all the most flamboyant and outrageous – so I was still looking forward to picking this up. I also really enjoy fantasy novels that have some sort of a rebellion or uprising in them, and this book has just that, as the humans who initially created the automae race, are now being bent to their will. And in general, I liked how these two aspects of the book were handled, but I definitely had some minor ‘issues’ with them both.
But starting out with the good – I really enjoyed the characters. They were definitely one of the highlights for me. I loved Ayla’s courage and strong-willed personality. I loved seeing her unwavering fidelity to those she loved and I was behind her cause the whole way. Surprisingly, after a slightly rocky start where I really couldn’t stand Crier, I also came to really enjoy her character, perhaps even more than I enjoyed Ayla! Her gentle strength was so refreshing and seeing her strive for people to recognise her abilities and her kindness just felt so real. Their dynamic together was also really sweet and the slowburn romance was done so, so well!
I also really enjoyed the worldbuilding – so much has obviously gone into creating Ayla and Crier’s world, and something I particularly enjoyed were the wee snippets of diary entries, articles, etc. at the start of chapters that detailed historical events and important information that really added to your immersion in the world. The plot twists, too, were also so intriguing and I loved that the book just kept me guessing and kept me on my toes, and I really didn’t want to put it down!
But what made me dock a star was ultimately to do with a combination of the romance and the whole rebellion plotline – and in fact, after what I sad earlier in this review, this issue I had may come as a bit of a surprise to you (as it definitely did for me)! As I mentioned this is a hate-to-love story – Ayla is supposedly hell-bent on killing Lady Crier, and right at the start of the book during their first encounter, she has the perfect opportunity to kill her, but doesn’t. I understand here that she want’s it to be more meaningful than just letting her fall off the cliff, or even pushing her that last little bit, but I really didn’t feel any animosity between them at all. Ayla didn’t really spend any of the book hating Crier, or even so much as disliking her, at all. It showed that she really believed in the cause, but didn’t feel any form of hatred towards the automae she was meant to be killing, and I actually wanted to see more of them hating each other, as to me that aspect just fell a bit flat – though perhaps my expectations were too high from all of the glowing reviews I’ve seen of the enemies-to-lovers romance.
Despite that, this truly was a really fun YA fantasy read, and the sapphic yearning throughout was top tier. I can really see why so many people adore this book and I’m already dying to get my hands on the sequel!