Crier’s War

Crier’s War was written by Nina Varela and will be released in the United Kingdom on 20th February 2020. It is a science-fiction fantasy story that is set in a world where humanoid Automae have taken control of the planet, treating the humans that created them as slaves. The novel forms the first part of a planned series, though at the time of writing no future instalments have been announced.

Lady Crier was Made to her “father’s” exact specifications. King Hesod needed his daughter and heir to represent the very best of the Automae – intelligent, beautiful and refined. Her betrothal to the legendary warrior, Kinok, will only serve to make the Kingdom of Rabu even stronger. Yet Crier soon discovers that Kinok has learned something about her. He has discovered a flaw in her schematics which, if revealed, will certainly result in her termination. Crier soon realises that she is now just a pawn in a larger game and is powerless to stop it.

Ayla is a human girl who has good reason to hate the Automae. Her family was executed on Hesod’s orders and now she wants only one thing – to destroy his daughter from him in return. Fortune smiles on Ayla when she manages to save Crier’s life and is taken on as the lonely Automa’s handmaiden. She soon realises that this could be her chance not only to have her revenge but also destroy the Automae once and for all.

However, a deeper conspiracy is at foot. Crier and Ayla soon learn that Kinok may have made a dangerous discovery that could well remove the Automae’s only weakness. Doing so will inevitably cause a power struggle, putting both humans and Automae in danger. Both Crier and Ayla are determined to us this knowledge to their advantage, but soon find their individual missions hindered by their forbidden attraction to each other…

Although I was attracted to Crier’s War by its blurb, I unfortunately found that I liked the concept of the novel more than I did its execution. The idea behind the story is not exactly original but did present a compelling medieval fantasy in which humans have become subservient to sentient artificial beings that were originally created for their entertainment.

While the novel never goes into detail about how the Automae were created, the setting that they occupied is rich and complex, filled with distinct political factions who were intent on sabotaging each other. These factions range from extremists on both sides, to those who wish for humans and Automae to live in harmony. These political views seem to be pretty clear cut at first, but the novel quickly blurs the lines between them as it proves that all factions are capable of doing horrible things in order to further their agendas.

The main problem was that this world was largely presented to the reader through solid exposition, which really bogged down the first half of the novel. Not only did it begin with a hefty timeline (which, oddly, contained some spoilers for later twists), but the first hundred pages of the novel was largely in the form of lengthy passages in which Crier and Ayla explained the whole history of Rabu. Even once this information had been relayed to the reader, a surprising amount of action still occurred off-page, only to be related back to the reader later in the tale.

The result was that Crier’s War was incredibly slow-burning. While a greater underlying conspiracy was slowly revealed as the novel progressed, it took along time until the plot truly felt as though it was picking up. This did make it a little difficult to get into the novel, as it meant that it could be very dry in places. Yet, as Crier’s War neared it climax, the story became a lot more exciting and broke off at precisely the right point, leaving me curious to see how the story will continue in a future instalment.

Although I did find the plot of Crier’s War to be a bit underwhelming, it was the characters that kept me reading. While both Crier and Ayla could be frustratingly naïve at times, I soon found myself growing very attached to them both. Their attitudes towards each other felt very realistic and I loved the subtle way that their attraction grew over the course of the story. While this was always very clear to the reader, it took a long time for Ayla in particular to realise that it was there and you truly felt her internal conflict towards finding herself falling in love with a “leech”. Although their relationship never truly bloomed in this instalment, the seeds have been more than planted and I look forward to seeing where this will go in the future.

However, the supporting cast did not really receive the same level of care. Ayla’s human allies were largely two-dimensional, characterised purely by their hatred to the Automae. While there was some more depth to the Automa characters – the Mad Queen in particular – this was still fleeting and only really touched upon to help Crier to develop her own opinions. I would have liked for there to be more development for Kinok in particular, as he did not feature as much in the story as I first expected. While I feel that this is likely to change in the next instalment, I would have liked to have seen more of his plans developing first hand, as his absence prevented him from ever feeling like a true threat.

So, all in all, Crier’s War was ultimately a bit of a mixed bag. All though it had some complex ideas and great protagonists, the plot was bogged down by heavy exposition and had a shallow secondary cast, which caused me to struggle to get through it at times. Still, the ending left me curious to see where this story is going and I will certainly be picking up the next instalment to see where Crier and Ayla’s further adventures will take them.

Crier’s War is due for release on 20th February 2020 and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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