I love stories that are mash-ups of two ideas. Like Pride and Prejudice and zombies or Cinderella as a cyborg. The possibilities of these kinds of stories are endless and I’m always up for a good combination of two different ideas. Thus when I heard that Ashley Poston (author of Geekerella) was publishing a book that’s a retelling of Anastasia but set in outer space I was more than excited. I was ecstatic.
As a child, Ana was found drifting through space with only her sentient android D09. Rescued by a space captain, she’s spent her life on the wrong side of the law as a scoundrel. But when D09 starts glitching, she’ll do whatever it takes to fix him, even steal the coordinates to a lost ship. But Ana isn’t the only one after the coordinates, and the lost ship holds many secrets that just might threaten to rip apart Ana’s galaxy and her bond with D09.
The idea behind Heart of Iron is spectacular. Anastasia in space. Illegal androids, kingdoms built on iron blood, and a world of aliens and planets that go beyond the far reaches of most YA space operas. The downside of such an impressive world, however, is in the execution. At times, I felt confused by the Ironblood kingdom and how it fit into the scope of the world. There was a lot packed into this story since the religious system intertwines with the government system. There were also several world-building details that felt like they were dropped into the story without any thorough explanation. I don’t feel like I ever truly grasped the scope that Ashley Poston was aiming for.
The book also was very unsurprising. Maybe it’s because I knew going into it that it’s an Anastasia retelling so of course I can guess who Ana really is. If that was supposed to be a plot twist, it wasn’t executed well by advertising this book as a retelling. Also, the story is only, in my opinion, loosely based on the Anastasia story since it kind of peters out about halfway through. But there were several other moments of the book that felt like they were supposed to be shocking but they weren’t.
I also never quite connected with any one character. There are a lot of characters in this book, and a lot of them don’t get a whole lot of room to breathe on the page. I almost wish the first half of the book had been paced differently, breaking this book into two books (one before the not-so-surprising revelation and one after Ana realizes what she needs to do) so those characters and the world had a chance to truly take off.
That, however, doesn’t make this a bad book. The story is chock full of exciting and daring moments, from hurtling through the outreaches of space to battling evil robots and more in between. The concept is absolutely fabulous and I’m excited to see what any sequel books reveal. In addition, the descriptions throughout are beautiful and I can definitely see the strengths of Ashley Poston’s writing style shining through. Plus, that cover design is just gorgeous.
Overall, Heart of Iron didn’t quite live up to my (high) expectations for an Anastasia retelling in space. But I think there are a lot of people who will read this book and will enjoy it. It’s a decent story set in an extraordinary world that I can’t wait to revisit in the future.
Until then, “may the stars keep you steady and the iron keep you safe.”
~I received a copy of Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston in the March Owlcrate box, which I purchased of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~