Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
An action-packed tale full of romance, royalty, and adventure, inspired by the story of Anastasia. Perfect for fans of Six of Crows, Cinder, and the cult classic television show Firefly.
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?
What I Liked:
This review is suuuuper early (November 2017), I know. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and I'm going to be passing on my review copy to another reviewer, so I figured I'd get my review out too. I'd not read anything by Poston before but I'd heard good things about Geekerella. This book is much different from her other ones, and I'd been so excited about it. Sadly this YA sci-fi novel wasn't totally amazing for me, but I wasn't disappointed either. It is sure to please most excited readers.
Ana is part of a highly wanted crew high heavy bounties on their names. She's a thief and fighter, and currently she is looking for coordinates to a lost ship that might contain information that will help her Metal friend Di. Di's memory has been short-circuiting, and Ana wants to save him. But an Ironblood buys the coordinates first. Robb Valerio might royalty, but that doesn't mean he always gets what he wants. He knows his father was on that lost ship seven years ago before it disappeared, which is why he wants the coordinates. Ana and Robb end up fleeing with the coordinates, and with the help of Ana's crew, they find the lost ship. But the ship doesn't hold all of the answers they expect - in fact, it only leads to more questions. Everything is about to change for Robb and Ana, and in ways they'd never expect.
This book is told from many POVs, which typically I don't like. Robb, Ana, Di, Jax (crew member), and a fifth POV who I won't mention (since it might be spoiler-y). I actually didn't mind all of the POVs! The book is written in third-person, so all of the POVs didn't blur together and get confusing. I liked all four of the characters, and rooted for each other them. Usually I dislike at least one person who has an exclusive POV but that was not the case in this book.
Of the four main characters, I think I liked Robb the most. I felt like he was the most misjudged. He is Robb Valerio (i.e. royalty), but he is a second son. He never had an interest in the kingdom, and he always hated his older brother (who is cruel and slimy). Robb becomes one of the most selfless characters pretty immediately. I feel like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time at the beginning, and that sucked for him, but he was smart enough to realize that the crew was his best chance at finding the lost ship.
Ana is impulsive and irrational, only thinking of getting the coordinates to find the lost ship to find something that will help Di with his short-circuiting memory problems. She seems selfish, right? Dragging her entire crew - and an innocent Robb - into a dangerous situation. Not to mention Robb's mother and an Armada in tow, trying to get Robb back. I didn't love Ana at first but I also didn't hate her. She's a fighter and she's stubborn, which I really liked.
Jax is a sweetheart! He is the pilot and he is wicked smart. He's also loyal to a fault and one you wouldn't want to cross. I liked him. Other members of the crew, like Captain Siege, Barger, Wick, Lenda, and more I can't name, were fun to watch and easy to fall in love with.
I adored Di. He's a Metal, which is basically like a robot though not entirely a robot. He is programmed not to have emotions, but if Di could have emotions, they would all be for Ana.
There are two romances in this book! I don't think naming them is terribly spoiler-y. You'd think Robb and Ana would be a couple - they're not! Ana has always loved Di, and her desperation to find a solution to his memory circuit problem stems from her feelings for her Metal. Robb and Jax hit it off, though not quite at first... but they are so cute. Honestly they are my favorite couple in the book.
If you couldn't tell, the romances are very diverse. A human and a robot is pretty new, right? And there is Robb and Jax, whose relationship felt so natural and cute to follow. Captain Siege is a woman and she's married to Talle, another woman, and that relationship was also very ship-worthy. Good on Poston for writing so many diverse romances without any of them feeling forced. Also, no love triangles in or between any of the romances!
Not to mention the cast is diverse in terms of skin color and background. There was a ton of diversity in the book without all of it feeling overwhelming or forced in readers' faces.
I think I was a little underwhelmed with the world-building and the story itself (which I'll talk about in the next section), but I wasn't bored at any point. Loss of interest happened, but I kept going and I'm glad I did. The ending was a roller coaster! This cannot be a standalone. If it is, I think everyone should beg the book's editor or the publisher (or both) for more.
I won't go into detail about the plot and the story because that will get spoiler-y really quickly. But once the lost ship is found, things pick up from there. Ana learns a lot of truths about her past that she can't remember, and Robb makes some really key decisions involving Ana. You'll see!
Overall, I see why this book is so hyped. I see why people want to read it so badly. It had potential for me (especially with it being YA sci-fi), but I didn't love it - but I didn't hate it either. I think most readers will be very content with this book, and clamoring for more by the end.
What I Did Not Like:
The beginning of the book is soooooo slow. I can see why some set the book aside for the time being. I didn't really get invested until the crew boards the lost ship, and that was at least one hundred pages in (maybe?). And even then, I was going through the motions. Things start to shake up after the crew comes out of the ship and are found by the Armada (i.e. Robb's mother).
And after that too, the story wasn't terribly unique. Intriguing, yes, but I recognize how similar it could be compared to other YA sci-fi novels dealing with space.
Maybe I was expecting more "science" from a space-centered science fiction novel. Sure, the Metals are robots which are science-y, right? For some reason I thought there would be more space travel and such, especially given the giant space ship on the cover. This book was more about saving Di (which is cool) than anything else. And then politics, towards the end. I was hoping for action and battles and basically Star Wars.
I think I was underwhelmed by the world-building, in general. I never got a good sense of where I was or what Astoria looked like or even the hierarchy of their political system. Everyone threw around a "Goddess" all the time and how this one person of the royal line could become the Goddess (or something). This wasn't really explained well (or I didn't grasp it). I also didn't the significance or the true heir's touch not rusting the crown. A lot of things surrounding the religion and the whole heir succession thing seemed too convenient and not fleshed out.
I had a hard time with Ana, initially. Arguably I had a hard time with her for the entire book. I *know*, teenagers are teenagers and don't I remember what I was like as a teen? Gee well that was only three years ago, and five years ago since I was seventeen. Ana is so irrational and impulsive - like maybe too much so? She seemed so over-the-top. And she's very selfish and knows she's selfish. Sadly, this trait really didn't get better as the book went on. You know how there is character development and such, in a book? I didn't see Ana getting less selfish, less irrational, less impulsive. I didn't hate her, but I didn't love her. I found it easier to root for the other characters. Perhaps her character will be further developed in the next book though.
The ending, of course! The author turns a great character into a bad one, and that was heartbreaking. I know the idea is that the crew will try to save this character in book two, but it still made me sad.
In general, in terms of dislikes, I think my thoughts are that the world isn't anything unique or special in YA science fiction right now. YA sci-fi is inundated with space thrillers, and I can see them all blending together in my mind. This one was unique with all of the shippy romances! But the world and the story weren't super unique.
Would I Recommend It:
I think this will be a fan favorite, for those who enjoy YA sci-fi. It isn't nearly as science-y as I'd expected, but it is set in space on various planets and moons, which is neat. There are several shippy romances and NO love triangles, which is awesome. The story is interesting and never boring, though it is a slow-burn type that works up to a very intense climax. I do recommend the book, but at the same time, for those who are curious but not dying to read it - wait until the next book publishes! have no idea how long the series will be (or if there is even a second book contracted at this point) but I think there needs to be at least one more!
3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. Really it's 3.5 stars and my overall feelings toward the book are fairly positive. But I'm rounding down to 3 stars for now. It's a very long book and there are stretches of pages in which I felt like nothing was happening or was important. But I think the second book will be more exciting with higher stakes, especially with all of the curtains having fallen. I'm going to keep an eye out for that sequel!
Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!