Crier’s War by Nina Varela (Crier's War #1)
From debut author Nina Varela comes the first book in an Own Voices, richly imagined epic fantasy duology about an impossible love between two girls--one human, one Made--whose romance could be the beginning of a revolution.
Perfect for fans of Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Curse as well as Game of Thrones and Westworld.
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.
TITLE: Crier's War
AUTHOR: Nina Varela with Kim Mai Guest (Narrator)
LENGTH: 464 pages (13 hours 38 minutes)
AGE: Young Adult
GENRE: Fantasy, Romance
Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Main Character(s), Gay/Achillean Minor Character(s).
I devoured this, finishing the whole thing in two days. Crier is Made, one of the Automae who took over several decades before her creation and displaced the humans who made the first of them. Humans now are servants at best, slaves at worst, full of unrest and needing a revolution. Ayla has dreamed for years of getting back at the local Automae leader for her own brother's death by killing his daughter, but when she becomes Lady Crier's servant things stop feeling so simple after all.
Ayla's closest human friend is in love with her, but she doesn't seem to reciprocate his feelings. I'm not sure whether that's because she doesn't want to get him killed, or if she completely lacks romantic and/or feelings toward him.
Crier and Ayla don't trust each other but find themselves drawn to each other's company. Crier has almost no friends and is newly betrothed to an Automa fomenting a different kind of revolution, one which would move away from human trappings entirely in a city devoid of life except for the Made. Ayla wanted to kill a specific powerful Automa's child, but before she can she begins to maybe think of that Automae as Crier, possibly a person, and not so easy to let herself kill. The romance between Ayla and Crier builds very slowly and fits their situation. They share intimate connections because of Ayla's role as Crier's servant, but those connections feel one-way because what Crier feels as kindness is a job for Ayla. However, the fact that Ayla has spent years planning to kill Crier means that she has feelings for the Automa which are as intense as Crier's for her... they're just not necessarily the same kind of feeling.
The worldbuilding for the Automae and the humans is detailed enough to feel like a real place, but it focuses mainly on the ways that the Automae do or do not attempt to mimic humans in their society and structures. It means that a great many concepts and items can be lifted wholesale and then used by the Automae in slightly different ways from how a human would have meant them. The political machinations hit the right balance of intrigue and complexity for me, stopping shy of becoming confusing by keeping the number of important characters and factions small but having their plans have multiple layers. This uses cross-purposes between supposed allies and complementary tactics between nominal enemies in a way that's deliciously messy.
I love this and I'll read the sequel as soon as I can, I want to know how things resolve for everyone. I don't necessarily want Crier and Ayla to end up together (not without having several truthful conversations first), but I'm excited to see how this story goes.
Graphic/Explicit CW for violence, death.
Moderate CW for blood, gore, injury detail.
Minor CW for sexual content, pregnancy, animal death, self harm, suicide,