The pitch for Heart of Iron is Anastasia meets Firefly. As a massive fan of this amazing TV-show, I knew I had to read this book. Also, the story of the real Anastasia is very intriguing to say the least. In a nutshell: in 1918, the entire Russian royal family was murdered. One princess, Anastasia, possibly survived the killings. Or did she? If you want to know more, there are tons of stories to find on this event and what happened before and after. It’s all pretty interesting. So, Heart of Iron has a great premise, but does it deliver?
A big thanks to The American Bookcenter for providing me this ARC. This in no way influenced my opinion or the content of the Heart of Iron review.
The lost princess trope
So, if there’s one thing I hate, it’s the ‘lost royalty’ trope. Or more specifically, a lost royal that doesn’t know (s)he is royal. It’s not for me, and I can’t name one example where I ever liked a book about this. The ‘big’ revelation is always cringeworthy and often even poorly written. I think it’s a too easy plot for writers, and too unoriginal. At least with Heart of Iron I knew what I was getting into, as the pitch is basically Anastasia in space. So it’s no secret who the main character actually is. Even her name gives it away: Ana. Ana doesn’t know she’s a lost princess, she thinks she is a space pirate. Things are set in motion when she meets a so-called Ironblood. Ironbloods are the royals in Heart of Iron.
It has to be said: Poston did a fine job with the lost royalty story. But, it still isn’t the trope for me. The whole set-up, the whole discovery: nah. I personally would have liked it better if Ana wouldn’t have a lost memory, but she actually knew who she was. This was the case with real life ‘possible’ Anastasia’s, as the real Russian princess died when she was 17. So a new found ‘Anastasia’ should have some recollection of her previous life. So while this (for me) stupid trope made the book less enjoyable for me, it didn’t kill the entire vibe. I still had fun reading it for other reasons.
Heart of Iron POV characters
The prime reason I still enjoyed Heart of Iron, were the main characters. There are four POV characters: Ana, her Metal D09 (Metals are a basically androids in this universe), Jax, the pilot for the ship on which Ana lives, and Ironblood Robb. These four all have their own tone of voice. Each character has it’s own secrets and own backstory. With Ana’s pretty much known, the other three are more fun to read about. I especially liked Jax. I think his backstory was the most interesting and least predicatable. Because that was also a big let down for me: Heart of Iron is VERY predictable at all points. There were no big revelations for me, or plottwists I didn’t see coming.
So don’t come to me about this book with things like ‘I am so shocked’ or ‘I totally didn’t see that coming’. Heart of Iron doesn’t get it’s strength from the plot or the story. And that’s OK, since I feel this YA novel revolves around the characters and the worldbuilding, and not around the plot. It also helps that Ashley Poston has a great writing style; I went through Heart if Iron in no time. Sometimes, with books that have less enjoyable plots, it just drags on and on, and you take forever to finish it. Thanks to Poston and her characters, I finished this very fast.
Another big plus is the worldbuilding. With science fiction, it can be hard to explain the setting or the teminology. In Heart of Iron, everything makes sense. Yes, there is a lot of infodumping at the beginning of the book, but that is to be expected with a setting like this. It wasn’t hard to figure out how the worlds/universe works, what Metals and Ironbloods are and where everything takes place. I think this also helps with making this a fun and quick read. Some sci-fi and fantasy novels get lost in their worlds and the explanation of all terms and countries/places, but not Heart of Iron. Everything makes sense and it’s clear Poston thought about this a lot.
As with pretty much all Young Adult novels, there’s a lot of love and shipping to go around. And while one couple was a complete instalove (meh), they still made me ship them and root for them, and they became my favourite couple. I also have to mention that I think it’s great Poston makes clear everybody (OK, maybe the Metals not so much) are mortal and can be killed. And while some minor characters felt a lot like cannon fodder, nobody is safe from death or injury. I hate it when characters in a book can do basically anything and don’t even get a scratch on them. In Heart of Iron, things get messy and bloody at times, and I liked that.
Don’t read this book for it’s plot. It’s highly predictable and the lost royal trope is… just meh. Read Heart of Iron if you’re looking for a fun, high paced YA sci-fi novel with loveable characters. The four POC characters are great, the worldbuilding is smart and not too heavy (as some science fiction novels go). Also, a very big plus for representation in Heart of Iron: there are people of different color, race and sexual orientation. Heart of Iron may not be the book of the year, but it’s a very nice read to add to your 2018 reading pile. You’ll finish it in no time and will make you feel the feels. And… that ending just asks for a sequel! If Poston ever writes one, I’ll read it for sure.
Heart of Iron is in stores on February 27th!