Published by Balzer + Bray on February 27th 2018
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Action & Adventure, Diversity, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult, Science Fiction
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Seventeen-year-old Ana is a scoundrel by nurture and an outlaw by nature. Found as a child drifting through space with a sentient android called D09, Ana was saved by a fearsome space captain and the grizzled crew she now calls family. But D09—one of the last remaining illegal Metals—has been glitching, and Ana will stop at nothing to find a way to fix him.
Ana’s desperate effort to save D09 leads her on a quest to steal the coordinates to a lost ship that could offer all the answers. But at the last moment, a spoiled Ironblood boy beats Ana to her prize. He has his own reasons for taking the coordinates, and he doesn’t care what he’ll sacrifice to keep them.
When everything goes wrong, she and the Ironblood end up as fugitives on the run. Now their entire kingdom is after them—and the coordinates—and not everyone wants them captured alive.
What they find in a lost corner of the universe will change all their lives—and unearth dangerous secrets. But when a darkness from Ana’s past returns, she must face an impossible choice: does she protect a kingdom that wants her dead or save the Metal boy she loves?
THIS. BOOK. Has left me raw. Gutted. It’s been a while since a sci-fi set in space has dug its way into my heart like that. Honestly though, I’m extremely weak to family settings on a spacecraft and romances that make my chest burn and nonstop action. IT JUST HAD ALL MY WEAKNESSES, OKAY? I was scared coming into Heart of Iron because of mixed reviews, but I should have listened to my… heart. (haHA!) It’s basically a space opera, and while reminiscent of plenty of space sci-fi stories, it still comes together in a very unique and refreshing way.
To my space SFF lovers: remember when Illuminae made us fall in love with an AI? It has that. The family tones of Starflight and an unwilling crew member? That’s there too. What about smoldering romances that spark of forbidden love and guilt and despair and hope and freedom all wrapped into one, like the slow burn in Defy the Stars? Check. What about kingdoms and familiar fantasy tropes set in space, like Stitching Snow? All there. Switching POV’s with nonstop action and pacing like Empress of a Thousand Skies? Yes. While I recognize each and every one of these tropes, my body and mind are susceptible to such adventures and so here I sit, heart pounding, while I regale you readers of my love for this book. (Btw, all the books mentioned above have been reviewed on Happy Indulgence!)
Did I mention it’s partly a retelling of Anastasia? While this lends some predictability, I’m a sucker for it and gobbled it up with enthusiasm.
Heart of Iron follows the third person limited POV’s of four characters: Ana, Di, Jax, and Robb. Each have distinctive voices, although Ana’s POV is followed more. Each have stories and backgrounds that will make your heart weep for them. They’re connected by the Dossier, an outlaw ship commanded by the fierce and mysterious captain, Siege, along with a loving crew. Di is a Metal, or humanoid, that has gone Rogue. Created with good intentions in mind – saving the dying planet from the Plague – Metals led a Rebellion against the royal family of Ironbloods and killed them all. Now Metals are mostly controlled by the H.I.V.E to oversee humanity’s protection instead of giving them artificial intelligence. However, the H.I.V.E isn’t all what it seems… Also, it’s good that Di is Rogue – that means he has his own will!
He was not a unit. He was not a commodity.
He was more than the sum of his parts.
His constant companion is Ana, a tough, bold space pirate who grew up in the stars, on Siege’s ship. She’s reckless and accident-prone, but all of that stems from her love of the people around her. Even when a predictable twist takes her to unfamiliar territory, her character remains true as she doesn’t let go of her quick wit and even quicker combat skills. Jax is a star-kisser, or Solani, a species that can supposedly see one’s future in the stars, and Robb is the younger brother of the next in line to the Ironblood throne – the rebellious younger brother who can’t seem to fit into his cunning family. And with these characters – each with their individual hopes, goals, and dreams – the plot races and twists as their actions sets the course towards the end.
One thing that I found this book lacking in is immersive world-building. The characters are wonderful, the plot is constantly turning, but the world falls quite flat. There are fun references to past heists from the crew, but I could never really map my head around it. There are different planets and species, and I know they’re mentioned and there, but are explored superficially. Ultimately, there’s a lot of great potential with how the world is set up but never delivered. And the most surprising fact is that I didn’t quite mind until after finishing the book. Once the adrenaline of the action wears out though, I was left with thoughts like… “Wait, so are the Solani extinct are not? Will this character that was mentioned three times but had a huge impact on Robb be explained?” And such.
There are two linear romances that I thought were deftly woven into the story. Ana and Di follow a slightly forbidden love bent as Di is a Metal, but wow was there love really shining (like stars! Which become popular metaphors in the book). It’s in the small actions, the seemingly insignificant touches, the selflessness rooted in their core… And despite the small amounts of romantic action seen, I was ready for more. The other couple is Jax and Robb, and while theirs had a faster development than I would have liked (total insta-attraction, but it was MAGICAL), I also thought it matched their characters and made it easy for the plot to keep going.
All his life he’d thought that all fates flowed in a continuous, never-ending river, but now the current was disrupted, the path unsettled. They had changed the stars, and he was falling in love with a boy who should have died.
Since this is SFF, y’all know I’m on the hunt for some diversity. (Can’t wait for the day when I don’t have to hunt for it) There are POC’s abound, including Ana and Robb and same-sex couples written naturally into the story. Poston’s writing is awesome: fast, sharp, and easy to follow. To me, that’s the best combination to keep readers’ eyes glued to the pages. I admit, some of her metaphors with stars and iron (trust me, there’s a lot) became repetitive at times. But truthfully? I am a fan. Give me some cheesy adjectives that compare something to the stars – I LIVE for that stuff.
I’m still reeling from the cliffhanger conclusion to Heart of Iron. Next book, take me away! This space opera offers familiar tropes, true, but is also written in a way that brings readers to their next great adventure in the stars. Ana, Di, Jax, and Robb are all flawful but strong characters that are more than the sum of their parts. The twists on the Metals and kingdom may be predictable, but couldn’t stop me from falling in love with them. Sci-fi lovers that don’t mind these aspects, please put this book on your TBR now. If you’re not an avid space sci-fi reader, I also recommend you check this one out. I would say that readers who are used to bits of the story I mentioned above and are unimpressed can skip over this one. After the way the climax passed in this book, I expect the sequel to be nothing short of amazing.
Content Warning: abuse, violence
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you Edelweiss and Harper Collins for the review copy!
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