by Laila Winters
Of all the books that were released in 2019, I was most excited for Nina Varela’s debut. Crier’s War is an LGBTQ+ novel that straddles the line between science fiction and fantasy, and it did not disappoint. It tells the story of Ayla, a human servant with the dire need to avenge the death of her family, and Crier, a girl who was Made to absolute perfection and to follow in her father’s footsteps.
Crier’s War presents a new take on the concept of humans being ruled by what they’ve created; in this case, the “Made” vs. machines or artificial intelligence. Those who are Made, like Crier, are built to look humanlike in appearance, though their existence depends entirely on Heartstone, a finite resource that must be consumed for their survival. But with the (brilliant) idea of Heartstone set side, the Made have hearts that beat, blood that bleeds, and they blur the line of what it means to be ‘human.’ Especially Crier, whose build is unusual because she was Made to experience passion.
Or so she thought.
Ayla, a human whose family was slaughtered by Crier’s father, has one main goal throughout the novel: kill Crier by any means necessary. She does everything to see this through, to put herself in the position to exact her revenge against the sovereign. But when she finds herself as Crier’s handmaiden, Ayla begins to realize that Crier might not be like the rest of them—she’s different—and it puts a serious dent in her plans.
Apart from the unique world building, as a queer woman, the representation in Crier’s War is the absolute selling-point of this novel. Same-sex relationships are normal throughout the book, and as Crier struggles to understand what her feelings for Ayla might mean for her, the fact that Ayla is another girl is never a concern. And Ayla, who is perhaps bisexual, cares more that Crier is Made than she does that Crier is the same gender.
Unlike with many other novels (because we all love a good story where the token queer dies a horrible death), Crier’s War does not use sexuality as a plot device, which is a wonderful breath of fresh air. The fact that Crier and Ayla fall somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum is there and is all kinds of lovely, but their sexuality / budding same-sex relationship isn’t the explicit focal point in their story; there’s no tragedy or “wrongness” that derives from it, which is something that can’t be said for plenty of other books in the genre.
Highly anticipated and with queer, confused, and sometimes awkward characters (Crier is precious and it’s a hill I will absolutely die on), Crier’s War has been one of my favorite reads of the year. 10/10, I recommend it.
Laila Winters (she/her) is an anxious, cosplaying YA author of science fiction and fantasy. Also an avid reader, she squeezed a small library into her 600sf apartment and continues to add to her collection, much to her fiancée’s dismay. Laila is part of the LGBTQ+ community and identifies as both a lesbian and asexual. When she’s not writing, Laila enjoys cosplaying, crocheting, and watching documentaries. She’s a shield maiden at heart, has a love for snarky pirates, and is distantly related to Blackbeard. She lives with her family and dogs, Moo and Shiro.