After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, Designed to be the playthings of royals, took over the estates of their owners and bent the human race to their will. Now, Ayla, a human servant rising the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging the death of her family… by killing the Sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier, who was Made to be beautiful, to be flawless. And to take over the work of her father. Crier had been preparing to do just that—to inherit her father’s rule over the land. But that was before she was betrothed to Scyre Kinok, who seems to have a thousand secrets. That was before she discovered her father isn’t as benevolent as she thought. That was before she met Ayla. Set in a richly-imagined fantasy world, Nina Varela’s debut novel is a sweepingly romantic tale of love, loss and revenge, that challenges what it really means to be human.
In a very me way, it was the second I found out this book was queer was the second I knew I wanted to read it. (Yes, it might have taken me a little bit to get to it, but I wanted to read it the whole time.) This was a queer fantasy book. A queer fantasy with the enemies-to-lovers trope and a very intriguing world, a world with Automae ruling over humans. It sounded amazing.
It was easy to fall into this book, fall into the world and fall in love with the characters. It was brilliantly written and quietly ruthless. I truly loved it.
I’m going to start off with the characters. I kind of want to give them all a hug, but I don’t think they would appricate that too much. Crier was naive, but alive with curiosity. She has a gentle demenor, but her mind is sharp, ready to navigate the political waves of her world. Ayla was the complete opposite. She was sharp and her anger burns bright, ready to ignite at a moments notice. She carries so much pain, driven by revenge and anger. These two girls complement each other so well. Crier is the smooth plains to Ayla’s sharp edges. Crier doesn’t get Ayla’s anger, pain, and the deepness behind her eyes. Ayla doesn’t get Crier’s gentleness. Their worlds are so different and what one’s view of the other showed another side to it. It created such an interesting dynamic.
And Ayla and Crier together? WOAH. Their interactions felt like pure poetry. They were just so QUEER. They’re both drawn to each other, despite neither wanting that attraction. The way they looked at each other, they way they talked to each other, they way they described each other. Wow, it was an incredible slow burn and just an incredible relationship overall.
The side characters were also ones I had a lot of love for. Benjy, Storme, and even Junn were brilliant characters.
The relationships between these characters was also something that I fell in love with. Not just because they were incredibly well done and developed, but the way these relationships are used in the plot. They are weaponized, used to hurt and manipulate. They can bring pain and suffering, but they are also something to cling on to, something that brings hope and support. They brought about an incredibly amount of emotion as character tried to protect loved ones, tried to figure out where they stood with people, and tried to survive the brutal world they live in.
Speaking of the world, it was so intriguing. Automae rule after winning the war against humans. Now, humans are the ones at the bottom of society. It was a world brimming with politics, and surprising dangers lurking behind every corner. It was intricate and endlessly fascinating. It was all around amazing.
This book was everything I thought it was going to be and more. Everything about it was easy to fall in love with, the world twisting with secrets, politics that weave themselves into a maze, so much queerness, and characters that were so bright and so lovable. It really was so good.