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.
Warnings: depiction of self-harm, mentions of child death, mentions of solitary confinement, massacre, slavery
Crier’s War has a slow burn, soft yet intense enemies-to-lovers in a setting where Automata rule over humans, and has similarities to The Winner’s Curse (only this is gay), if you are looking for something like that. In the kingdoms of Rabu and Varn, which are ruled by Automa sovereigns as a result of an Automa uprising less than 50 years ago, humans are second-class citizens, and the ones who serve in the palace are little more than slaves. Ayla, whose parents were killed in a raid by Automa soldiers, has only revenge in her heart; she however saves Crier from falling off a cliff instead of letting her die and becomes her handmaiden, which she initially thinks is a good way to get deep into enemy territory. The Automa Council, meanwhile, is having an upheaval over the direction of their policy, as the radical Kinok wishes to remove their reliance on human labor entirely, and also their only weakness. He has been amassing followers slowly but surely, and Crier is wary of his attempts to influence power in the Council and over her father Hesod.
Most of the book, aside from the slow building romance, is about Crier and Ayla independently looking into Kinok’s schemes to ascertain what is his past, and what he is trying to do. They each have parts of the puzzle, with some calling back to the origins of the Automa kind, and current powderkeg of a kingdom they live in. The picture unfolds over a slow moving plot, with rebellion in the background and a mystery at the forefront. The world-building is enough for the sake of the plot, yet it leaves a lot of things about the alchemy and everything to general assumption and lore. There’s a timeline laid out at the start of the book, but I found it conflicting sometimes with the events in the book. For instance, it is mentioned in the timeline that Thomas Wren was killed in the year 28-29 but later in the book, it is said to be year 50. There are other smaller inconsistencies, too, like when Ayla finds the handkerchief missing 3 days later but also the next day after losing it, she finds out the consequences of her losing her handkerchief? Then there was the fact that I was thinking Midwives were Automa, but they are actually human; why would Automa entrust the creation and rearing of their children to the very humans they don’t entirely trust with every gathering in public?
Small inconsistencies aside, the book is otherwise an emotional and engaging read. Ayla’s conflicting feelings over Crier, Crier’s awakening towards romantic and sexual feelings which are an anomaly in her kind – all of this is written so well, and so is the nuances of their relationship! The fact that they are supposed to on opposite sides, at least for Ayla, whose kind has been oppressed by Crier’s kind, is a thing looming in every interaction of theirs and affects so much about how they interact with each other. It was truly a spectacular enemies-to-lovers arc, with all the inherent angst pouring out of the pages. And the political mess as a backdrop is just the cherry on the cake – while it is not really complicated to be called political intrigue, it is nevertheless a major obstacle for the romance and the plot. The addition of Queen of Varn in the later half of the book really raised the level, and I can’t wait to find out what that means for Crier herself going forward.
Is it diverse? both main character are queer, and WoC (they are mentioned as being brown-skinned), the setting has openly queer couples
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Harper Teen, via Edelweiss.
Released on October 1, 2019