Blog tour and review: Iron Heart by Nina Varela

Hi everyone,

I’m here today with such an exciting post, it’s my stop on the blog tour for Iron Heart! Iron Heart is the sequel to the incredible sapphic science fantasy novel Crier’s War. Thank you so much to Shealea at Caffeine Book Tours, HarperTeen and Nina Varela for allowing me to scream excitedly about this book on this tour! You are in for such a treat with this sequel! Do check out the rest of the tour stops all week long, you can view the tour schedule here.

Title: Iron Heart

Author: Nina Varela

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication date: 08 September 2020

Genres: Young Adult | Fantasy | Science Fiction

Rating:

Synopsis:

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.

You can purchase your own copy of Iron Heart at Amazon, B&N, Book Depository, IndieBound, or your own favourite local bookshop!

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Bio: 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.

You can keep uptodate with Nina Varela at the following links: website, Goodreads, Instagram and Twitter

Please note that this review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, Crier’s War. All quotes are from an advanced reader’s copy so may be changed in the final copy.

Ummmm so where on earth do I start with this book?! It’s probably one of my favourite sequels ever! I love it even more than Crier’s War, it went in a direction I never really expected and oh my god, it’s so, so gay. I am in love.

Iron Heart picks up where Crier’s War left off: Ayla and Benji are on their way to Varn to ally with the Mad Queen; Crier is betrothed to Scyre Kinok and waiting to be married. Meanwhile, Scyre Kinok’s alternative to Heartstone continues to wreck havoc on his followers and Crier and Ayla must find find a way to stop him.

All I have to say is wow. I wasn’t sure what we were going to expect in this sequel, but it certainly wasn’t what we got. But I loved it! I’m going to attempt to talk about this in some semblance of an order so here are some headings to assist.

Things got dark

This is probably the main element giving me the ‘I did not expect this’ vibe. But Iron Heart got so dark, it almost had a horror vibe at times which is of course why I’m so absolutely in love with this!! Let’s start with the shades, these creepy, terrifying creatures: goodness they are horrific! I absolutely adore the kind of ‘creature that is quite clearly dead but yet still fights on and on and will never, ever stop’. There is just something so spinechillingly creepy about it. Varela’s descriptions were so fantastic. They are definitely creepy and gross, and there is a MAJOR content warning for body horror. But I found the way the shades were described with their broken limbs, black veins and caved in heads, just so disgustingly fantastic!

The plotline surrounding the Iron Heart and how Heartstone was made also got rreeeal dark and I absolutely loved it. It was so unexpected, I was shook. There’s a moment in a room where Crier just freezes as she realises the truth and then you freeze when you realise what she’s realised, it was just amazing. Where Crier’s War was perhaps a little lighter, based within the safety of the palace, now that Ayla and Crier have left the confines of the palace, they are faced with a world darker than even I, someone who reads a lot of dark books, had anticipated.

Things got real gay

Crier oh Crier my sweet, sweet Crier. The love she has for Ayla is seriously unmatched. This Automa is literally fighting to the death and all she can think about is Ayla. It is so funny but also so sweet and tender. Meanwhile there’s Ayla who’s refusing to think about Crier at all even though she’ll see random day to day objects like a hairbrush or a bathtub and immediately think about Crier. The way these two are so constantly in the other’s thoughts was just adorable and so so beautiful. And their reunion scene is one of my favourites in the book. The horror and shock and disbelief is hilarious to read and also it’s just really really gay. There are so many moments of soft queer yearning and longing and glancing looks and holding hands and constantly checking back to make sure the other is okay, I love them to pieces. This book just gives us sapphic joy and I love it.

Other characters

I loved that we got to spend a bit more time with characters we didn’t get to see as much of in the first book, particularly Queen Junn of Varn, the Mad Queen, the Bone Eater. We saw her briefly in Crier’s War but she plays a much more important role in this book. I love seeing female monarchs kicking butts and ruling shit and Junn, as a queen who had to take the throne whilst still a teenager, is that to a tee. She’s had to build this air of ferocity and madness in an attempt to get people to fear her because it’s the only way they’d listen to a young woman. I also appreciated getting to see more of Storme and hear his backstory finally about how the heck he survived the village raid and made it to Queen Junn’s court. There’s also some really sweet anecdotes about the relationship between Junn and Storme, and despite it being such a small part of the book, the hidden story of how they met is really touching and beautiful. I’m still not a Benji fan however. Benji, can you seriously stop harassing Ayla for being in love with Crier, WHO WOULDN’T LOVE HER.

Alchemy

We also get a deeper look into alchemy in this book! I really loved the extra worldbuilding details added thanks to our time spent in Queen Junn’s court. I really love small worldbuilding details in fantasy, so there were some really interesting alchemy creations that I appreciated, like the little birds that flew about to stop intruders. We also got a better look at alchemy in the search for Yora’s heart, that mysterious substance from the first book which we learned powered the very first Automa. I would still have liked to see more of this, but that’s because I’m a big fan of very intricate and detailed adult fantasies and so love exploring new and exciting sciences or magics or religions – I always want more of it!

So all in all, I really loved Iron Heart! I enjoyed Crier’s War but loved this sequel even more. The darkness was unexpected but that’s part of what made me love this book as it provided such a deadly, tense atmosphere for the book. And finally, of course Crier and Ayla’s relationship continued to be both the sweetest and gayest relationship in YA and I will love them forever.

Blog tour: The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

I am so excited to say welcome to my first ever blog tour stop!! Thank you so much to Shealea at Caffeine Book Tours for inviting me onto the tour, and to both Rin Chupeco and the publisher for offering a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. In just a few short words: The Never Tilting World is brilliant book, one about family and truth and the corruption of power. Also bisexuals. 

***

Book information

Title: The Never Tilting World

Author: Rin Chupeco

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication date: 15 October 2019

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis:

Frozen meets Mad Max in this epic teen fantasy duology bursting with star-crossed romance, immortal heroines, and elemental magic, perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.

While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.

But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

Book links: Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

***

A demoness is what they call a goddess that men cannot control.

I want to start by saying a big ol’ THANK YOU to Rin Chupeco for featuring bisexuality in a fantasy novel because this is seriously all my jams, this is it, it’s all I want. The Never Tilting World was a whirlwind of action and romance, of finding family and losing family, and discovering the way power can corrupt and twist who you are. 

The Never Tilting World is told through four POVs. In an icy cold, dark and destructive world are Lan; healer Catseye suffering from PTSD, bound to protect a goddess; and Odessa, goddess suffering from an unknown illness, newly discovering her power. On the other side of the world in the blistering heat of the desert are Haidee, goddess trying to break free from her mother’s plans to wed her off, and Arjun, desert rogue and amputee who has one desire: kill the goddess. These four are pulled to the centre of the world where a dark and unknown terror awaits – the terrible Brighthenge temple which was the site of the Breaking, where the world was torn apart and the frozen and heated wastelands created.

“I didn’t hate Haidee exactly, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to throttle her for having no sense of self-preservation.”

i am so here for this snark

All four of these characters are so unique. I adored the sniping and snark between Haidee and Arjun, but I think my favourite was Odessa. Her character arc is brilliant, and it was so interesting to see from her perspective as her power grew and changed. The romance interwoven into the story was lovely, please authors I beg of you to keep writing awesome queer relationships into fantasy, it brings me such joy to see. 

Another thing I loved was the backstory of the world and how it came to be. Both Odessa and Haidee are told different stories from their mothers regarding the Breaking and what happened all those years ago, and so we the reader are as confused and intrigued by the mystery as much as the characters are. I do wish we’d gotten perhaps a little more information and closure on that but I understand completely there is a sequel which will continue this. It was really interesting to see how both Odessa and Haidee’s view of their mothers adapted as the book progressed, and as they discovered more about the events of the Breaking. The insidious way these events emerge is fantastic and I cannot wait to find out the truth about what happened.

Sacrifice is necessary for what was two to become one.

something bad will happen i know it

Another fantastically creative element were all of the twisted (although at times adorable…) creatures we met along the way. From the dolugongs, dolphin like sand sea creatures, to the giant scorpions, and horror shadow creatures that can steal you away. They were all so different and interesting, I loved all the run ins with them! 

The Never Tilting World is a really solid series start, it sets the sequel up so well (too well perhaps, I GOTS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED). I’m already very attached to all four of our main characters and I actually don’t have one I didn’t like (rare indeed for me!) It was such a creative and interesting read, with a fascinating history and a bisexual romance which is just awesome! If you love strong bisexuals, creative creatures and a killer mysterious history, then pick up The Never Tilting World!

***

Please do visit all the amazing bloggers who are participating in this tour! I can’t wait to see what everyone else thought and has created for this book!

If you’re eagle eyed you’ll be able to spot the bottom right corner, which mentions the Twitter chat we’ll having on Saturday October 19! It will be happening at 9AM EST – I may not be able to make it as it will be pretty late here in Australia, but do listen in to everyone as they chat about this awesome read!

Rin Chupeco

Rin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy.

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. Dances like the neighbors are watching.

Find out more about Rin over on her website, Goodreads, Instagram, Pintrest and Twitter!

Paws out,
Rach + Draco