Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 27, 2018
Series: Heart of Iron #1
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 480 pages Source: FairyLoot
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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?
Heart of Iron and I have sort of a weird relationship. I think at the end of the day, I didn’t like it. But the thing is… I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s not a train wreck or anything like that – it’s just really immersive. And that’s good!
This novel is an Anastasia retelling in a space outlaw setting. In many ways, it’s similar to L1F3LIKE, which I read earlier this year. Of course it is – they’re both high-tech Anastasia retellings! I honestly do believe I may have enjoyed Heart of Iron more if I hadn’t read L1F3LIKE, or if I has read them further apart. But here we are!
Our story starts with Ana and Di in a shrine, looking to steal some coordinates to a ship that may have the secret to repairing D09’s memory core. The world provides hints of magic and mythology (woven in with Jax and his whole backstory, which is only hinted), but for the most part, this is spaceships and androids. If you like things like Star Trek or Firefly, you’ll probably be entertained by this one. What starts as a simple heist grows into something that could change the future of the entire empire, as all the best stories do.
The world building is outstanding. The layers of history woven in with the fire and the plague are fascinating, but also with the choice of location is really great. There are a few scenes in a moon lily grove that I imagine must be stunning. You can see the setting, smell the setting… but you can’t quite touch the setting, and that’s where I begin to have issues with this book. My favorite kinds of books make the reader feel like they are there, and Heart of Iron made me feel like I was watching through a two-way mirror.
I think a lot of this comes from the characters and the relationships. There’s a M/M instalove relationship that could have been really interesting, but instead it happened so quickly that it comes off as super irrational and shallow. Not trying to diss M/M relationships, because I think that there’s still far too few ships like that out there, but this one didn’t work for me at all. The second love story made even less sense, and appeared to be there simply for the sake of upping the stakes at the end. This relationship would have been more believable and more powerful as a strong friendship. I was able to shrug off a lot of the first one, because it was very subplot, but the second was front and center and tied closely to the plot and … I just couldn’t care less about it.
This is an issue I have in YA a lot – so many characters are defined by their romantic relationships. I know that teens put a lot of self-worth on relationships, too, so that’s probably more a problem with our culture than the genre… but I digress.
The lack of spark I felt in the characters made me struggle a lot with this one. Writing an epic space drama in YA is no small feat, and I wanted so much more from it. The characters drove much of the plot and in choosing to develop the relationships, parts of the world building that could have been fascinating were left to inference. And it’s a shame, because I’d really have enjoyed learning more about the Plague and the Great Dark.
Maybe in the next book?
Heart of Iron stays on my bookshelf.
For all my grappling with it, I really think this one needs a re-read to be well-judged. Most the time I spent reading it was in a noisy airport as I was half-sick or in my mechanic’s waiting room… not exactly places of high comfort. I can’t help feeling like I missed some layers of Heart of Iron that may raise my rating.
Or maybe I’m just a sucker for the purple sprayed pages.