[Book Review] Crier’s War – Nina Varelas // a philosophical look at what makes us human

It’s been over a week since I finished reading this.

I.

HAVE NOT.

STOPPED.

SCREAMING.

I was already expecting a lot from Crier’s War because so many book bloggers whose opinions I trust loved it and couldn’t stop raving about it. So you can imagine how pleased I was that not only did this book meet my expectations, it fucking surpassed them! Read on to find out why!

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Purchase Links:
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Title: Crier’s War

Author: Nina Varelas

Age Range: Young Adult

Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian

Rating: 5/5

Summary:

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.

Content Warnings: Violence, torture, death, suicide

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 ☕ Quotes ☕

“Justice was a god, and Ayla didn’t believe in such childish things. She believed in blood.”

“With each new song, Crier thought: would Ayla like this?”

“Which was worse, vulnerability or loneliness? The danger of friendship or the safety of total isolation?”

“In a short time, she’d grown to know exactly what it felt like to be watched by her, the way Crier’s gaze trailed her when she thought Ayla was busy with a task.”

“Some part of her had known it was Ayla from the first moment she saw the fox dancing on quick, nimble feet.”

“If longing is madness, then none of us are safe.”

“In the next second, her mind went white. Her thoughts vanished like dancing sparks. Because Ayla started singing.”

“She felt like an open flame, she felt like she could devour anything she touched; it had been a long time since she was this angry. It felt almost good to return here, like coming home. This fire was her home, the element she thrived in.”

“If a spider weaves her web to catch flies and catches a butterfly instead, what does the spider do? She eats the butterfly.”

“Crier had been Designed. Crier was Made. But in the moment Ayla first touched her, Crier had learned what it felt like to be born.”

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☕ Plot ☕

Humans made the Automae to be their playthings, but the Automae rose up, took over human society, and now keeps the human as slaves. Into this world is born Ayla, a human girl whose family is murdered in an Automae takeover of her village. And into this world is Made the Lady Crier, daughter of Hesod, Sovereign of the kingdom of Rabu.

The two girls could not be further apart from each other. Crier is the epitome of Automae grace and beauty, living in the lap of luxury; Ayla is an orphan and a servant, and burns with the desire for revenge. When she’s taken on as handmaiden to Lady Crier, she knows she can’t waste the chance to spy on the Scyre Kinok, one of the key figures in the Automae government and Lady Crier’s fiance. In addition, this is Ayla’s chance to exact revenge on Sovereign Hesod for her family’s deaths – by killing Lady Crier.

For her part, Lady Crier discovers that not all is at it seems. Although she’s been sheltered from the outside world for most of her existence, she soon finds that her kind have been carrying out all sorts of terrible atrocities against the humans. She feels for their plight and resolves to be a better Sovereign to them, but who knows if she’ll ever get the chance to be a ruler, with her father and Scyre Kinok both determined to wrest power from the other? And of course, her new handmaiden being passionate and beautiful, igniting all sorts of strange, new feelings in Crier, isn’t helping any.

The plot of this novel is a powder keg waiting to explode. I felt like I was on tenterhooks the entire time, frantically flipping from one page to the next in order to discover what happens to Ayla and Crier. The entire journey of reading this felt like hiking up a massive mountain and then getting to rollerblade the way down, and I mean that in the best possible way.

It mixes so many elements together: enemies-to-lovers romance, political intrigue, mystery, dystopian and revolutionary themes.  And it does it so well. Not once did it feel like an improbably put-together mishmash of genres. Instead, it felt like the author’s own unique spin on an intrinsic, philosophical question: what makes us human? And the way that both the author and reader go about answering this question takes us through some of the best, most heart-achingly slow-burn f/f romance I have ever read.

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☕ Writing ☕

Have I mentioned yet how magnificent Nina is at portraying slow-burn f/f romance? Because holy shit, she kicks ass.

The entire time I was reading this, I was chanting in my head, kiss, kiss, kiss. And not until the book was more than halfway over DID NINA FINALLY GRANT ME THE DESIRE OF MY HEART. But throughout that entire time, not once did I get bored. That is the true hallmark of a great writer of romance!

Not only was the chemistry between Ayla and Crier positively sizzling, the world-building was absolutely A-plus as well. I absolutely adored the little bits and pieces of history we got about how the Automae came about, what they need to live and survive, and of course the War of Kinds. Nina did a good job at letting us know all about the world Ayla and Crier live in, without it turning into a massive info dump.

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 ☕ Characters ☕

Let me just say it right here and right now: I would officially die for Ayla.

Ayla is everything I like in female characters in dystopian novels, and more. She’s fire and vengeance, and yet she also understands – or at least comes to understand – the necessity of revolution, or larger action in general, over her own personal desire for revenge. She’s loyal to her cause and to her friends, and despite the pain and hatred burning in her, she still finds pockets of happiness in her life with the fellow revolutionaries she’s come to think of as her family.

Crier, too, is an extraordinary character. The phrase ‘useless lesbian’ doesn’t even begin to cut it! I mean, here you are, suddenly hyper-aware of things like the color of your handmaiden’s eyes and how she loves music, and yet still refuses to do anything concrete about your very clear attraction? Sarap niyong pag umpugin sa isa’t isa.

It’s really too bad though that my favourite part of Crier’s character arc is a spoiler! I won’t talk about it too much here, but suffice it to say that it really calls into question the delineation that Automae have drawn between themselves and mankind. And in between all the kilig feels between Crier and Ayla’s intensely slow-burn romance, the way the characters are portrayed still manages to make us ponder that question. And that is great characterization.

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☕ Overall ☕

Crier’s War is definitely making it to my list of top 2019 reads, not to mention all-time favourites. Not only had this big marupok and manhid energy with it’s toe-curlingly slow-burn enemies-to-lovers romance, it was also a really compelling fantasy with interesting, fresh world-building and characters that make you wonder who the real villain is. Absolutely, without a doubt an attention-grabbing, powerful read!

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What did you think?

☕ Will you be picking this book up?
☕ What’s your favourite f/f read?
☕ What’s your favourite enemies-to-lovers read?

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12 thoughts on “[Book Review] Crier’s War – Nina Varelas // a philosophical look at what makes us human

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    • Lmfao yes, this is definitely the kind of 5-star read where you gotta pause and think about what you want to say, unless you’re okay with your review devolving into ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!! I LOVED IT SDJKSKD’ lol.

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

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