Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston
Yes, this IS a basically positive rating from me. Heart of Ironis basically Anastasia, in space, with lots of extra plotlines. And full disclosure: it’s basically entertaining fluff. You know, good entertaining fluff. With messy bits.
[This took me a weird amount of time to finish considering how much I liked reading it?]
This book follows a world in which the imperial families rule over everyone. In this world, robots were created to treat those infected with plague, but after a rebellion, most robots have had their minds erased and controlled. There are four lead characters, each with their own point of view.
➽Ana – our Anastasia character, sort of reckless and honestly… has a weaker sarcasm game than original Anastasia. But she’s also pretty badass. And also brown-skinned!
➽D09 – our Dimitri character and also a robot, which is… kind of awesome. But also totally could have been handled better. We’ll talk.
➽Robb – a spoiled Ironblood boy trying to escape his mother. A very lazy tragic backstory but a lot of potential for Character DevelopmentTM. Probably the most sympathetic character in this whole book.
➽Jax – probably the character that needed to be in this book the least in terms of actual plot and I’m mad about it. Buuuuut he was really funny and good. Give him his own subplots. Or explain what the hell is going on with his people being able to read the stars, because I swear to god it is never explained.
→ let’s discuss why this was kind of trashy ←
The beginning of this book was, for lack of a better word, weird, and I think I know what the problem was. First of all, the worldbuilding, which is that flavor of let’s-just-throw-worldbuilding-at-them-and-hope-they-don’t-notice-it’s-bullshit. [I noticed.] I think Poston wanted to avoid an infodump, which is a noble goal, but the result is that I actually don’t have a fucking clue what’s happening. I prefer infodumps. [I actually am not joking about this, I totally prefer infodumps to bullshit.]
Second and perhaps most typical, we have the famous Zenith problem: too many pov switches. You know what the problem is with too many pov switches? It feels messy, first of all. The book feels as if it’s jumping from place to place at breakneck speed. And worse, it impedes the actual feeling of connection with the characters. I somehow managed to like the characters anyway, but listen, I could have liked them more and Ashley Poston knows it.
Another kind of messy thing: rapidly changing goals. This book is fucking all over the place. It does not have an overarching plot. This leads to a very fast pace and a sense of not knowing what will happen, which is good. This also leads to several issues that destroy Heart of Iron’s overall quality. There is so much filler as characters wait around to be useful for the plot. This is a subset of the rapidly changing goals and all-over-the-place plot.
This is made even worse by obvious villain reveals. Listen, anyone who has seen the widely popular movie Anastasia or knows Literally Anything About Anastasia knows perfectly well that Dude Whose Name Sounds Like Rasputin is a villain. And even worse, you could know that from page two without any knowledge of Anastasia or basic Romanov history. It is just that fucking obvious. We do not care. Skip to the end.
AND THEN there is that stupid trope with Di developing feelings because he Meets A GirlTM. Listen. This trope is getting so old. We get it, robots falling in love and developing feelings is something you like, but it’s sort of boring when the falling-in-love part is the main part of that storyline. You could, I don’t know, show friendship or shit like that and do something new for once. [Revolutionary concept, right?] Personally, I think this would have been way better if Di felt things from the beginning and we just couldn’t see it. Can you imagine the amazing buildup? The tension?
→ let’s discuss why this was actually fun ←
I know I’ve complained a lot, but it’s worth noting that I did enjoy this. Even when plot twists were obvious, I found myself turning pages pretty quickly and enjoying the buildup to said plot twists. And wanting to find out what happened with these characters. Maybe there’s something to be said for being so fast-paced the reader doesn’t notice the crap?
Honestly, the main reason I liked this book was because I got fairly invested these characters and their relationships. The dynamic between Ana and Di didn’t do anything for me at the beginning of the book, but I ended up shipping them a lot – their dynamic is just inherently compelling in its broad concept, okay? [Also, fun fact, I just sort of am obsessed with the idea of touching foreheads.] Ana, as a character, is somehow really lovable despite being kind of whiny. And Robb and Jax have some major instalove, but they’re really cute. I admit it. Bottom line: if you like the book you will like it for the characters.
Really major bonus points for Going There with the ending.I’m actually kind of shocked at how Not Okay I was with that.
BONUS ROUND OF POSITIVES: Found family. Space pirate ship run by Ana’s adoptive mom and her wife. [I think her wife might be an alien.] Literally half the characters are queer and/or people of color. This review was a mess. Thank you for listening.