TITLE: Aurora Rising
AUTHOR: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
SERIES: The Aurora Cycle
RELEASED: May 2019; Oneworld Publications
GENRE: YA Science Fiction
KEY INFO: space-adventure, military science fiction, squad goals, multiple POVs
REPRESENTATION: bisexual male (Finian) , women of color (Auri is half-Chinese and Zila is black), physically disabled (Finian) and neurodivergent (Zila)
death, war, body horror, being knocked unconscious multiple times, unresolved guilt/tension around a one-night stand, ableism
Synopsis: The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…
A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering
And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.
They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.
If The Illuminae Files, Mass Effect, Battlestar Galactica and Annihilation had a chaotic good baby, it would be Aurora Rising. This book is a classic Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff fun sci-fi romp featuring cool as heck characters, intergalactic space mysteries, found family, and an action-packed plot which is a wild ride from start to finish. I honestly could not believe when I received a physical ARC of Aurora Rising, one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, from the publisher and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you all!
✨ Welcome to Squad 312
“If your squad was hard to find, or you’re still looking, then this one is for you”
One of the thing’s I love the most about Aurora Rising, as well as The Illuminae Files, is that I feel like I’m hanging out with a group of friends whenever I pick up the book(s). Like TIF, Aurora Rising has a lot going on with its plot in terms of big overarching themes and intergalactic space mysteries, but at its heart is a found family which makes it an absolute joy to read. Aurora Rising is told through 7 perspectives, one for each main character. Usually I don’t love stories told through multiple POVs but each POV had such a distinct voice and each character was so lovable that I enjoyed spending time with each of the in turn; learning more about each character, how they view the universe and their place within it.
On our rag-tag squad of misfits, otherwise known as the “dregs” of the Aurora Academy, we have:
🧠 Zila Madran ‘The Brains’ – Our squads quiet, unsuspecting scientist who is an integral part of the team. She is on hand to anything and everything science related, offer important insights, and shoot things a lot with her disruptor gun.
🔝 Tyler Jones ‘The Alpha’ – Every team must have an Alpha to wrangle its members together and in this squad its Tyler aka ‘Goldenboys’ job. He was always top of his class and always followed the rules… until now.
🗣️ Scarlett Jones ‘The Face’ – No Alpha is complete without his Face, the diplomat of the team who can make any deal look sweet. Tyler’s twin Scarlett comes with her own brand of scarcasm and keen eye for hot boys, but don’t underestimate her. She can speak 5 different languages, knows when you need a pep talk and is one hell of a negotiator.
⏳ Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley – Auri is our girl out of time, discovered by Tyler on-board a destroyed vessel and stuck in cryosleep for over 200 years. Everyone she knew is gone and everything she thought she knew is about to be radically altered.
💥 Kaliis Idraban Gilwraeth ‘The Tank’ – Kal is one of the alien races in the Aurora Cycle, a Syldrathi or, as Aurora likes to call him, an alien elf. Incredibly tall, stoic and ~mysterious~, there’s more to Kal than first meets the eye.
🚀 Cat Brannock ‘The Ace’ – Heavily tattooed, all-round badass pilot. Cat is kicking ass, taking names and is loyal to those she loves.
⚙️ Finian de Kerran de Steel ‘The Gearhead’ – Finian is our resident smart-mouthed, engineering genius who always (ok, mostly…) has a witty comeback, even if he did have to stay up all night planning them.
I loved that Aurora Rising was dedicated to those of us who have found our squads or are still looking for one, and in many ways I did feel like this book was for ‘me’. It has a lot more diverse rep than TIF, which made my heart so happy to see, and I love being part of the Aurora Academy team.
🚀 TIF/BSG/ME/Annihilation = Aurora Rising
Seriously, if you love any of the above then I would highly recommend Aurora Rising to you. There were so many parts of this book which were particularly reminiscent of Mass Effect and Battlestar Galactica which helped to fill the little ME/BSG hole in my heart. It was interesting to see how Amie and Jay took killer elements of TIF and incorporated them into Aurora Rising with new spins. We still have a witty, lovable crew but this time it’s more diverse. Missing a smart-mouthed AI? That’s ok, this time we have Magellan, a sassy AI in the tiny body of a uniglass, who pipes up at inopportune moments to share his wisdom. Loved the weird, terrifying plague of Gemina? Aurora Rising has you covered with some fresh body horror to make your skin crawl.
I fell in love so hard with The Illuminae Files and wasn’t sure what to expect from Aurora Rising. Whilst it was nice to see beloved elements of TIF incorporated into Aurora Rising, I also really appreciated that it wasn’t The Illuminae Files. I’ve seen some reviews over the past week which have rated Aurora Rising down because they didn’t feel like it lived up to TIF, especially as it was told in a more traditional novel form rather than using the unique TIF format. While I respect those opinions, I do want to make a point that Aurora Rising is not The Illuminae Files and it doesn’t need to be. Do I think that Aurora Rising is as good as The Illuminae Files? Not quite. Is it still enjoyable? Hell yes. We need to let The Aurora Cycle have its own life and let it blossom into its own thing without constantly comparing it to TIF and being disappointed that it isn’t.
🌒 Little niggles
There was so much that I loved about Aurora Rising but there were just a few things that held it back from being a 5 star read for me:
🌌 Although we got some interesting insights into the universe that the Aurora Cycle is set in, I would have loved to have seen more. I felt like because Aurora Rising was such a light read in many respects, it gave me a pretty shallow understanding of the universe rather than something which delved a bit deeper. Another thing on a purely sci-fi level, I would have LOVED to have seen alien races which aren’t just… a bit different from humans?
🌌 There is an abundance of romance and flirtatious interactions between the different squad members, and I would loved to have just… not had this? Having the squad be a squad of people who love each other as family would have been so much more powerful, I think, than seeing people matching up and/or being overly flirtatious with each other all the time. I also felt that certain romance elements really detracted from a particular characters identity, development and growth and wish the romantic interest just didn’t exist. It reduced a very, very cool character down to their romantic attraction as all of their motivations revolved around the romantic interest.
🌌 Amie and Jay have definitely stepped up in regards to the diversity of their characters but I would love to see much more and characters which don’t veer as much towards particular tropes. Do I love Fin as a sassy little disabled bisexual? Yes, for sure. Would I like to see bisexual characters that aren’t sassy and flirtatious with everyone? Also yes. It would also be cool to see a squad of misfits come together who aren’t so perfect at everything they do!
Overall, Aurora Rising is a great way to kick off a brand new series from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it definitely left me wanting more. I’m excited to see what Amie and Jay have in store for us next time especially after that hell of a cliffhanger they left us with! Happy book birthday to Aurora Rising which is out today, I hope you come and join us ❤
A huge thank you to Oneworld Publications for sending me a copy of Aurora Rising in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way influenced my review.