Blog Tour | IRON HEART

Iron Heart by Nina Varela

Hi friends! Last year I read and loved Nina Varela’s debut, Crier’s War, and this year I’m so excited to be a stop on the blog tour for the second book in the duology, Iron Heart. This blog tour is organized by Caffeine Tours and I’m so glad I was selected to participate. I mean, honestly, is there anything I love more than shouting about queer YA books?! Before I get to my review, read on for more information about the book, and a synopsis!

AUTHOR: Nina Varela
COVER ARTIST: David Curtis
GENRE: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance
RELEASE: September 8, 2020
LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Iron Heart: An unstoppable love between two girls—one human, one Made—both set on destroying the 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.

In this stunning sequel to acclaimed author Nina Varela’s Crier’s War, the love that launched a revolution must now pave the way for a whole new era . . . and the ultimate change of heart.

The human resistance is rising, preparing to fight back against the rule of the Automae over Rabu. Ayla, a handmaiden, had been determined to kill Lady Crier, but instead fell in love with her. Having fled the palace, Ayla takes refuge with the infamous Queen Junn, where she begins to plot to destroy the Iron Heart–the mine that produces heartstone, the lifeforce for all Automae. But as Ayla seeks out the Iron Heart, she cannot help but feel the pull between her and Crier, even as she longs to forget the feelings between them. What Ayla doesn’t know: Crier, too, has fled the palace and has set out on a journey of her own. As their paths draw closer and closer, Ayla and Crier will uncover dark secrets about the Iron Heart that will change Rabu forever. 

Iron Heart is a satisfying conclusion to the Crier’s War duology that proved to be well worth the wait. Readers will definitely need to read the first novel before delving into this one, but I promise, it’s worth it. Iron Heart carries some of the same themes of Crier’s War, like queer love, class, rebellion, resistance, but is very different in many ways. The reader follows Crier and Ayla as they set out on their respective journeys, and honestly the whole time, I was crossing my fingers for these two girls to reunite and get on with the kissing! It takes a skilled writer to create a compelling, swoon-worthy romance when two characters are apart from each other, and Nina Varela absolutely does just that. 

While the love story is definitely still there, a lot of this novel centers around resistance and rebellion. This duology touches upon class, power, and oppression. Iron Heart dives deeper into this struggle between the humans and Automae, and we get to learn more about the rebellion and the people behind it. In the first book, we were introduced to Kinok, Crier’s husband-to-be and leader of the Anti-Relliance Movement (ARM), which encourages Automae society to stop relying on the Iron Heart as its source for heartstone. In Iron Heart, we learn more about ARM and Kinok’s sinister plans that lie beneath its surface. I loved learning more about heartstone and the Iron Heart, and thought Nina Varela did a great job of developing this storyline. Without giving too much away, I’ll simply say that this book is full of chilling twists that had me unable to put it down.

Much like Crier’s War, Iron Heart is centered around Ayla and Crier. It’s delightful revisiting these two characters, and they’re just as compelling as they were the first time around. But I love that Iron Heart also allows these two girls to grow and change. Ayla and Crier are both on their own journeys throughout the novel and it’s rich with character growth and development. I especially adored Crier even more than I had in the first book, and loved how she came into her own in this conclusion to the duology. There are some other familiar characters readers will recognize, and I especially enjoyed getting more of Queen Junn! 

Nina Varela’s writing makes this a super entertaining, quick-paced read–as someone who struggles to read fantasy at times (I normally prefer it in audio format), I was immediately immersed in this story and absolutely could not put it down. She does a superb job at integrating a complex story full of character development with an easy-to-follow narrative. The pacing is spot-on, hooking the reader from the very beginning. I love that the plotline of Iron Heart explored more of Ayla’s family history–of which we got a taste in Crier’s War. Since this one takes place primarily outside of the castle we grew familiar with in the first book, we also get to see more world building and different sides of Automae culture. 

As a queer woman, this is the kind of book I love. The kind I wish I’d had when I was a teen. The kind I now, as a teen services librarian, will do everything I can to make sure it finds its readers. Iron Heart, much like Crier’s War is a fantasy and science fiction novel, but above all else, it’s a queer love story. It’s a story of two girls loving each other deeply, learning what to do with that love, and fighting for it. My absolute favorite thing about this series is that it is never Ayla and Crier’s queerness that makes their relationship forbidden, but rather that one is human and one is Automae. It’s incredibly refreshing to read a queer love story in which the “problem” of the story is not rooted in anti-queerness. 

Ultimately, Iron Heart is the perfect end to this YA duology. It’s rich with world building, character development, and plot with a satisfying wrap-up. While different from Crier’s War in its plot and pacing, Iron Heart takes everything that readers love about the first novel and builds upon it beautifully. You can bet I’ll be purchasing a copy for my library’s collection and hyping this duology up to my Teen Book Club. If you read and loved Crier’s War, I promise you won’t be disappointed with this conclusion. If you’re new to the series, it’s absolutely worth starting. I’ll be recommending this to fans of We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia, Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon, and Mirage by Somaiya Daud. This sci-fi fantasy novel carries the love story my queer heart needed and its conclusion is everything I wanted.

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.

KEEP UP WITH NINA: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Iron Heart Official Book Tour: September 7
☕ decklededgess
☕ Kirsty’s Book Reviews
☕ Lives In Books
☕ Ruby’s Books Blog
September 8
☕ Anxious Nachos
☕ A Short Book Lover
☕ El’s Book Reviews
☕ Libri Draconis
September 9
☕ Books. Libraries. Also, cats.
☕ Its Just A Coffee Addicted Bibliophile
☕ Northern Plunder
☕ Utopia State of Mind
September 10
☕ Dragon on a Book
☕ Reading Through Infinity
☕ Reads Rainbow
☕ Your Tita Kate
September 11
☕ Forever and Everly
☕ Jasmin‘s Library
☕ Magical Reads
☕ xreadingsolacex
September 12
☕ Hollibrary Books
☕ Love Yo Shelf
☕ The Quiet Pond
☕ Ysa, not Bella

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour! See the schedule above or check it out here.

Thank you to Caffeine Tours and HarperTeen for the digital review copy, and for including me on this tour!

Thanks for reading my post! I would like to ask that you please also take the time to read about how you can support Black Lives Matter, as well as the Junk Terror Bill initiative. 

Happy reading! Ari

2 thoughts on “Blog Tour | IRON HEART

  1. Great review! I also really appreciated the character growth and how both the MCs really benefited from their time apart!
    It was great to know more about Junn as well, but I have to say, I’m not completely satisfied because Junn’s secret was a big surprise and I’d have liked to read a bit more about it.


    1. Thanks for taking the time to read my review! And that’s a great point–it was such a shocking reveal and it would have been nice to read more about it! It would be so cool to see Junn get her own book or even just a short story or novella, especially now that we know how much more there is to her story.

      Liked by 1 person

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