Iron Heart has to be one of my most anticipated sequels of 2020. Crier’s War is one of my absolute favorites queer ships and SFF duologies. And, having read Iron Heart, the same can be said for the sequel. Keep reading this book review to see why I adored Iron Heart.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
I shrieked when I was accepted for the Caffeine Book Tours for this sequel. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to read this sequel early. But my wishes were granted. Basically right after Crier’s War ended I knew I needed Iron Heart! If you saw my interview with Nina, you’ll know how much I fell in love with the world building of Crier’s War. While there’s surprises that left me shrieking and scenes that left tears in my eyes, I adored Iron Heart for its characters.
Crier and Ayla can have my entire heart okay? They’re so precious. I adore Ayla’s narration, her humor, and her passionate spirit. At the same time, I’ve loved watching Crier’s journey and evolution as she tries to figure out what her limits are. Crier is such a bookworm and there’s something endearing in watching her appreciate humanity. In Iron Heart, Crier embarks alone and has to figure out how she will rise, or fall, in this new freedom.
World Building & Themes
Emotions were high in this sequel, especially considering the amount of surprises and plot twists Varela throws into the mix. I basically read Iron Heart in almost 24 hours because I could not stop reading. Varela is able to balance this dual POV novel by leaving us on the edge of our seats whenever we end one perspective. Meaning we HAVE to keep reading! Considering Crier’s War, I am in awe of the way Varela expands on the world building. The documents and quotes in between chapters only heightens our sense of the world. But Varela explores this distinction between Made and Human. The ones who imitate the others, whose flaws and mistakes are complicated and multiplied.
Thematically, Iron Heart discusses our free choice, power, and control. As long as we assume we have control over our choices, where will we decide to make a stand? To fight for something more important than ourselves? To decide what causes are worth the battles? Or the shades of grey between what we insist are two opposing good or bad binaries. There are struggles for power, dependency, and control. That’s what is built almost into the Made, but there are other things more important like love, loyalty, and freedom. Not everything is what we think.
(Also we love to see a world where queerness is normalized and I loved the queer side characters!)
I knew I was going to love Iron Heart, but I don’t think I expected how emotional it would make me. Okay, yes I knew the scenes with Crier and Ayla were going to give me all the feels. But some of the moments which resonated with me the most, brought on the tears, were moments where they stood alone. A testament to how much these characters impact my heart even when they aren’t being an adorable sapphic ship.
Make sure to check out the entire tour schedule!
About the Author
Nina Varela is a nationally awarded writer of screenplays, short fiction, poetry, and novels. In May 2017, she graduated magna cum laude from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a BFA in Writing for Screen & Television. Crier’s War was her debut, and this is the sequel. She is originally from Durham, North Carolina, where she grew up on a hippie commune in the middle of the woods. She now lives in Los Angeles.