Saturday, December 14, 2019

Crier's War by Nina Vareela

Rating: Unrated | 320 pages | HaperTeen | Fantasy| 10/01/2019 |

Automae are alchemically created "Made"  humans designed to serve as humanoid companions and servants. They were not supposed to rise up, they were not supposed to conquer humanity...but they did. It's been nearly fifty years and The Age of Automae is still on the rise, but a human rebellion is on the horizon.

The world created in Nin Vareela's Crier's War is a twist on the uncanny valley and robot apocalypse. The highly detailed world-building and the mythology was one of the best parts of the book,  but this book hinges so hard on what felt like a lukewarm forbidden romance between Crier, an Automae noble and Ayla a vengeful human girl working in secret for the resistance and motivated only by her need to kill Crier. 

Crier's War has a promising start as Ayla and Crier have an accidental run-in where Ayla witnesses Crier...cry, something Automae are not supposed to do. As Crier finds herself experiencing new emotions she decides to keep Ayla close by making her her handmaid. But the more time Crier spends with Ayla the more she begins to feel the one thing Automae aren't supposed to have; passion.

This could have been so compelling, but in a book that is about forbidden emotions ALL of the emotions felt a little muted. 

There is a lot of telling not showing, I feel like the characters don't get a chance to really form a relationship  There are a handful of moments where we as the reader are shown the two getting closer but it felt sequestered to just those moments.  I think I wanted more of the day-to-day watching how Ayla takes on the trusted and intimate role of Crier's handmaiden when she wants to kill her. 

We don't get to see them discover and face obstacles together and whenever conflict arises, instead of showing them dealing with it together, the plot quickly separates them. For example, there is a scene where Crier discovers that a forbidden Made (read: magical) object Ayla wears holds memories that are important to the history of Automae. When Crier discovers this, instead of seeing the characters deal with this revelation together; Ayla is quickly hauled away and the fact that MAJOR WORLD BUILDING SECRETS are contained in the necklace gets put in the background until later? 

I really liked the potential of Crier, she is a political-minded character but there wasn't much focus on that part.  Instead, a big part of Crier's character development is that she doesn't understand how relationships work (Automae don't have emotional relationships) but she wants to make Ayla happy so she gives her special treatment not realizing this would alienate her from the other human staff.  But considering Crier is like a genius political prodigy wouldn't she realize that wasn't a good idea? I mean wouldn't politicking prepare you for that? 
There are also a lot of folk tales in the book. The characters use fables or stories to help illustrate points and I feel like these could have been taken out so we could focus more on the relationship.  
I think one of the disconnects in the book and what a Fantasy needs is a good adversary and I honestly couldn't tell if the villain was the villain because it was done so subtly. Crier is engaged to Scyre Kinok, an ambitious Automae who wants Automae to create a culture outside of humanity. He is a very passive villain. All of the characters literally just sort of allude to the shady activities Scyre has been up to, but the whole time I sort of thought it was setting up that he wasn't the villain . . . but I guess he was ?
I really wanted to like this one. It has such good world-building and a great premise but I felt like the characters weren't put together in a compelling way. I liked that this was a story full of female characters in the forefront. This book was comped a lot fo The Winner's Curse which gave me the same unfulfilled vibes. 
We are lead to believe that Crier has a fifth pillar of passion and that's why she is able to cry and why she is falling for Ayla. But then at the end, it's revealed that it was a lie. And I get it if it's like Crier's could love "all along" but then WHY COULD SHE CRY?

 And like her name is Crier so I thought perhaps when her father Made named her Crier because of this but no, she's not special at all.  Also, there is a mad Queen who comes to visit and it's revealed that she is in love with Ayla's brother (who she thought had died) and Crier is aware of this so it seems like Autome falling in love isn't that rare? 

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