ARC REVIEW: Criers War by Nina Varela


  • published by: HarperTeen
  • genres: fantasy, lgbtq+, young adult
  • content warnings: death of family, depictions of hangings/torture, government control, oppression & state-sanctioned violence, war themes, general depictions around violence and murder
  • read if you’re a fan of:  The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon, The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie, media representing/exploring the humanity of AI and dystopian stories in fantasy.


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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.

This book was sent to my for free by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Thankyou to HarperTeen for approving me for this ARC !


I have to admit – before this book was brought to my attention on Twitter I had no idea it was coming out. And I feel bad about that because the premise sounded like everything I had been asking for – it’s a fantasy trilogy, it has a central f/f relationship that develops over MULTIPLE books. It has true enemies to lovers romance (yep, they really wanna kill each other) but is also strongly focussed on a plot that exists outside of the sexuality of the characters.

Because this book was promising me so much content I knew I would love it’s no surprise I requested it. I’m so thankful to HarperCollins for accepting my request and I’m extremely happy to report this book really WAS everything I had been waiting for – this is an exciting fantasy, with high stakes, intriguing mystery,  complex worldbuilding, and an excellent romantic arc that allows for individual development for both characters involved. I absolutely adored this book and really think this is going to be a book lots of people sit back and go – hey, I’ve been waiting for this one.

           "Loving someone who's... who's impossible to have. 
             I know what that's like more than anything."

Criers War is set in a world where Automae, (essentially humanoid automatons) were created by the monarchy 200 years ago. The first Automae was designed for a barren Queen, and she raised the automae as her child. But these automatons eventually developed their own culture and overthrew the human world. They installed their own government and oppressed their human creators, relegating them to second-class citizenship.

We follow two main characters – Ayla, a human whose parents were killed by the King of Automae, Hesoid. And Crier, Hesoid’s daughter and the Princess of Automae. As revenge for killing her parents, Ayla – who is part of the human resistance, becomes Crier’s personal servant as a ploy to get close enough to murder her. But the two become involved in political forces much larger than themselves, and learn secrets about the Automae and Humans neither could have suspected.

First, I think one of my favourite things about this book is its strong political underpinnings and detailed worldbuilding. This a fantasy with dystopian elements that examines oppression through governmental control. I really, really love political based fantasies and thought Crier’s War did an excellent job at creating a well thought out and complex world with an established history that felt believable and solid. Further, Varela transplanted real-world politics about oppression and control into the culture of the Automae that brings authenticity and relatability to their reign.

The second (maybe equally) strongest component was the development of the relationship between Crier and Ayla.  As I’ve said, too many times – I ADORE slowburn books and relationships that develop over multiple books. For me, this is probably the most satisfying and shippable f/f relationship that I’ve encountered in a book. I adored the tension and the ‘will they – won’t they’ between Crier and Ayla. Their positions as genuine political enemies also added that extra oomph. I would compare it to The Abyss Surrounds Us, but in many ways, I think the stakes are even higher for Crier and Ayla than Swift and Cass.

Varela convincingly built-up tension and attraction, skirting that line between enemies and romance in such a perfect way. There are scenes that genuinely made me FEEL THAT SWOOP IN YOUR STOMACH. I think for this reason it’s one of those books I know people have been waiting for – it’s that slow-burn ship everyone craves in sapphic fiction and Criers War delivers in spades.

I think what was fun for me about this book is that it includes SO MANY of those tiny specific tropes I love. There is political tension and conspiracy – and resistance. I’m a sucker for a dystopian resistance. There’s a strong historical focus, especially on history that’s been obscured, lost or misinterpreted. I love fantasies that play with the worlds backstories. There is a strong character focus and relationship at the centre of the book that drives the book but doesn’t necessarily define the action. There are plot twists that genuinely made me go ‘what the fuck’, and so many tense shippy moments that were everything. And seeing all these things I love, and have been done before but not quite like this – because of the f/f relationship, really just took this book to another level for me.

              "A thought came to her: a story of its own, 
         one that only just began writing itself in her mind:
             a story of two women, one human, one Made."

If it’s not clear already from this review – to sum it up quickly I loved this so much. It was one of those times where you finish the ARC and then you hate yourself for reading the ARC because now you need book two ASAP and book one ISN’T EVEN OUT. I’m so glad I buddy read this with Chaima or I may have died from having no one to talk about it with. I highly recommend you pick up Crier’s War when it releases. This is an epic dystopian fantasy with such a well written f/f relationship that delivers on its premise, and then gives even more.

Crier’s War by Nina Varela comes out on October 1st, 2019


until next time!

sign off

7 thoughts on “ARC REVIEW: Criers War by Nina Varela

  1. I love your review so much! I wrote 1k words about it and yet I feel like you expressed my feelings better!! 😍😍 It feels like I’ve been waiting for this book for AGES! The slow-burn! The enemies-to-lovers that’s actually intense and life and death! The strong focus on characters but without disregarding the worldbuilding or the plot! The high stakes and constant rise and fall and push and pull! THE SAPPHIC ROMANCE ON THE FRONT!

    I had the exact same thoughts about hating myself for reading the ARC since the sequel is even further away from us now… Can’t fix that but if you need more content I wrote two poems based on Ayla & Crier. Not exactly two more books of sweet and painful slow-burn but it’s always something!


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