Title: Aurora Rising
Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Format: Hardback – 470 pages
“I look around the bridge at my crew. Squad 312. This pack of losers and discipline cases and sociopaths, these misfits nobody in the whole of Aurora Academy wanted to get paired with. And I realize the magnitude of what we just pulled off. I think about the fact that I just asked every single one of them to walk into the mouth of the beast because they believed in me. The fact that none of them blinked. And the fact that they didn’t just walk in. They flew.” – Aurora Rising
Hello Hello! How are you?
I’m back with a long-awaited book review and boy have I been excited to write this one! Last year, I picked up Illuminae with the intention of just skimming the first pages because I was in a reading slump and didn’t know what I fancied reading, but I was so engrossed that I had to put it down after 100 pages because I knew that I needed the two other books in the series to be able to binge it all in one day. I haven’t gotten around to picking up Gemina and Obsidio yet, but when this book was picked as one of the books of the month for my Goodreads book club, I knew I had to read it!
Science fiction is not really a genre I’m overly comfortable with. I’ll either adore it, like the Firebird series by Claudia Gray, one of my favourite series from 2017, and maybe of all time (this is a recommendation, go read it… now 😊), or I’ll absolutely hate it and not be able to get more than 10 pages in before giving up. I think that one of the reasons that I’m “afraid” or “uncomfortable” reading science fiction is that, I don’t find it is written in the same way as fantasy in regard to the unknown things. I can deal with a fantasy world with strange customs, languages, battles, foods, people, etc, but as soon as it starts talking about science, space, aliens, I’m totally out of my depth and it loses a bit of the appeal. It’s quite strange, but I’m hoping that this book has changed it for me, keep on reading to find out what I thought about Aurora Rising.
It’s 2380 and the graduating students of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Tyler Jones has been a star pupil who hopes to recruit the squad of his dreams but ends up with a mixed and volatile crew.
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.
Vividly told in the seven voices of the team members, this is fast-paced, action-packed, wickedly humorous and fabulously entertaining. Described by one online fan as ‘a mystery with tons of action. A kind of thriller on steroids with a fantasy feel.’
Aurora Rising is the first book in the YA, science fiction trilogy The Aurora Cycle by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. We follow multiple points of view from the members in Tyler Jones’s squad, all graduates from Aurora Academy. The story is set in 2380, in space. We start with Tyler’s POV the night before he graduates from the Academy and will be able to pick his squad members during the Draft, but he is sleepless and decides to go out for a fly through the Fold, but he comes across a ship, goes to investigate and finds a girl in cryo, who has been in a deep sleep aboard the vessel for a very long time. He is able to save her and when he brings her back to the Academy, his world is quickly turned upside down. There are 7 different points of view in this book, along with a few pages of mixed media, so if that is not your thing, I wouldn’t recommend you read this because the POV changes at every chapter. However, if you don’t know whether this would bother you or not, I would give this one a go because it didn’t bother me in the slightest, I actually really enjoyed the multiple POVs.
As you can obviously tell, Aurora Rising is set in space, and in the future. This is one of the things that can really bother me in a book, I’m rubbish at science and really struggle to grasp how things work in space. I also struggle with books set in the future because you never know what could happen and it worries me a bit not knowing. I think it’s also one of the reasons why I love historical fiction because the events have already taken place and are written in stone. But this one didn’t bother me at all, you don’t really get a feeling that you are 200 years in the future and although some of the language is scientific and complicated, it isn’t overly advanced and “futuristic”. By the end of the book I had even forgotten that it was set in the future because it just felt like a parallel universe to me.
The first we see of space is actually through Aurora Academy, a school to train cadets in space, circling around the Aurora Star in the Milky Way. A lot of the story actually unfolds aboard the Longbow, Squad 312’s space ship. You get a real feeling of this ship as the squad’s “place”, it is especially Cat’s wheelhouse because she is the pilot, even though Tyler is the Alpha of the group. You don’t learn much about the ship, but you do get a sense of just how big it is, and just how infinite space seems for these people.
Another important place in space is the Fold. It is a “part” of space in which you can travel from one area in the galaxy to another in barely any time at all, where basically light-years are reduced as if someone actually folds a piece of paper in half. In the Fold, there are no colours, so everything is in black, white and shades of grey. Although this place could seem monotonous and barren, we learn a lot about the characters’ personalities while they are in the Fold.
One of the last places I want to talk about is the World Ship, where the squad goes towards the middle of the book. I don’t want to say too much in case I give anything away, but in essence, it is an enormous space station where hundreds and hundreds of ships have come to attach themselves over the years, it is a type of country in space.
I wouldn’t say there is actually a “main character” in this book, obviously, the story evolves around Aurora, and also Tyler’s squad, but to me, it felt like every character was just too important to be considered a secondary character.
Aurora, “Auri”: She is the girl that Tyler finds on the space ship, the Hadfield, on the first night we meet him. She has been in cryo-sleep ever since she left earth, 200 years before, supposedly heading to Octavia III, a colony set up in space and on which her father was already stationed. While she was on earth she learned about this colony and her specialised subject was geography. Aurora is a strange girl, she has some special powers that the whole squad fail to understand for a very long time and even she doesn’t understand what has happened to her. She seems fragile to start with, but that is because she is very confused and is still struggling to come to terms with everything, but overall she was a likeable and I’m really interested to learn more about her in the second book.
Tyler: He is the leader of Squad 312. For all intents and purposes he is the best at everything and one of the best students and cadets at Aurora Academy. He comes across as extremely serious, but he does have a soft side and I really liked seeing that part of him towards the end of the story. He is funny, witty, charming, apparently gorgeous and he is Terran, meaning that his ancestors came from Earth, so naturally, he gets on very well with Aurora because he is able to understand her feelings and help her overcome her fears. I really liked Tyler as a character.
Scarlett: She is Tyler’s twin sister and she is definitely the trouble-maker and joker of the two. She is the squad’s Face, in other terms, the person who liaises with every other person the squad come into contact with. Because of her easy-going manner and obvious good contact and communication skills, she comes across as a very understanding character, always looking out for the other squad members and always motivating people when things get tough. Even though she is serious, she knows how to have a good time and is a proper girly-girl with her long, flaming hair and desire to be fashionable and dressed to impress!
Cat: She is Tyler and Scarlett’s best friend and Squad 312’s Ace. She is the ship’s pilot and is nicknamed Zero because in her piloting simulation test she never missed a single target, making her the best pilot of Aurora Academy. She has quite a snide, snarky, rude personality, but as the story goes on, you understand that she is like that because she is trying to stop her emotions getting to her and she also has to come across as the mean one in the bunch. I really enjoyed reading from her perspective and a few times there were some really heartfelt moments.
Zila: She is the member of the team that I appreciated the least, and I think that it was actually intended that way by the authors. She is the squad’s Brain, that is to say, the scientific and medical part of the team. She has an extremely high IQ, however, she is very socially awkward and that really came across in her chapters, because right up to the last quarter of the book, we only get a few lines from her whenever she speaks, whereas all the other POVs are at least 5 pages long. I don’t really know what to think of Zila so hopefully, the second book will give me a bit more to work with.
Kal: I think that I fell in love with Kal right from the very first of his chapters. He is the Tank of the group and his field is combat and tactics. He is Syldrathi, a species of alien who had been at war with the Terrans until only recently and he is one of the last Syldrathis to join Aurora Academy. He has a bit of a bad reputation and a lot of people are scared of him because he is part of the Warbreed of his species, also associated with the person who has been at war with the Terrans ever since they came into contact which each other. He is very misunderstood, but deep down he has an immense sense of duty, of right and wrong and he is just such an interesting character. He is charismatic, strong, funny at times, and just generally very well developed. I really liked learning about his background and some snippets from his past and I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book to learn more about him!
Finian: He is the last member of the squad and also the Gearhead, the one in charge of repairs, maintenance and all things mechanic. He is another species of alien and has stark white skin with huge dark black eyes. He has to wear an exosuit because of a muscle disease stopping him from moving properly on his own. At the start, I didn’t really like Finian because I found him to be a bit too cynical and just the type of person to say things for the sake of it, but as the story evolved, he grew on me a bit. I’m still not sure about him, so I’ll have to see what I think in the next book.
Magellan: He isn’t actually a character in the book but he is the like tablet device that Tyler gives to Auri when she wakes up in the Academy infirmary. He gives Auri a lot of information about the world in which she has landed and at multiple times, he speaks up and is silenced directly, making me laugh every single time. He is the “one” providing the mixed material explaining who people are and what their roles are, I thought that it was a clever addition to the plot.
As I have already said, I struggle to understand and “picture” books set in space because I just don’t understand all the scientific language and other things that happen and appear to be totally understandable to other people, but I’m going to try to do my best to explain some of the themes.
Space: Obviously, the book is set in space, and as such, we only ever get a tiny glimpse of earth right at the start in one of Auri’s chapters. If you don’t like space, I don’t think that it would bother you too much in this book because once I got into the story, I nearly forgot that it wasn’t set on earth/in a world I know. It takes a while to get used to some of the language and information about space and the ships, the laws and the way people act, but overall, I didn’t find that space came to intrude into the story, you can tell that it is in space, but it’s not centre stage and omnipresent, so I really enjoyed this sort of “introduction” to science fiction and space.
Aliens/different species: In the Academy but also in other places the squad go to, there are different species of “beings”. The Terrans are obviously descendants of the last people who came from earth, but they are no longer pure-humans. The only pure-human is Auri and I think that through a lot of the book she struggled to come to terms with this. I enjoyed how these different species actually made this book feel really inclusive, there is a bit of everything and because they don’t know anything different to this mix of “beings”, there isn’t any “racism” as such. Although I struggled to grasp some of the moments when other aliens were being described, I enjoyed reading about it because it made them come alive a bit more.
Group of friends/growth: One of the things I really like to read about in books is when a ragtag group of people come together for some mission, to save the world or defeat an evil tyrant, and this is the exact same vibe I got from this book. I really appreciated how, as the book went on, the characters’ relations to one another changed and they actually became a very solid team. At the start I couldn’t really tell if they would be able to work together, I kept imagining that one of them was going to jump ship and abandon the others, but they stayed together through it all and I can’t wait to see how they work together in the next book. There is also a lot of growth because of this banding together between the squad members. They seem very individualistic at the start, but by the end, you can tell that they make up a team and that they each have their own place in it.
Confusion/betrayal: I don’t want to go too in-depth about this one because I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is quite a lot of confusion in this book. Right from the start, you get the feeling that things aren’t what they seem and I was confused about what was happening until right the last page, but not in an “I don’t understand” confusion way, more in a WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING, confusion way. The main confusion comes from Auri because we don’t know why she was in cryo-sleep for so long, why she was the sole survivor on her ship and why such weird stuff is happening to her. She is also extremely confused about herself and the new world she has been thrust into, the people around her, and she is very confused about her feelings and emotions. There is also a bit of betrayal/tension/ARGH, but I’m expecting a lot more of all of this in the next book and it’s frustrating me that I have to wait another 3 months until I can learn more.
Mysteries: The main mystery in this book is Aurora, who she actually is, why she was in cryo-sleep for so long, how she survived, the powers she is experiencing and also why she is on the ship with the other squad members. All throughout this book, she is portrayed as very important, but there is no inkling of a reason why that is the case, right until the end. Another mystery is what happened to the Octavia III colony and her family, and I really hope to learn more about this soon!
Grief: Because Auri was in cryo-sleep for such a long time, all the people she knew before leaving earth are now dead, and even though it doesn’t seem so at the start of the story, she grieves for her family, and at some points, it is quite pronounced. A lot of times she wonders why she is still alive, she thinks back on the last things she told her father and the fact that her mother never even got on a ship to go to space. It isn’t overly present, but you can tell that she is suffering and she doesn’t know how to speak about what she is feeling.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
I’ve said this for the past 3 books I’ve reviewed, but I really enjoyed this one, aha, broken record or what? I’m so happy that I genuinely loved this book because before I started it I was quite sceptical about the whole “futuristic space” setting, but I’m really happy I actually went through with it!
I gave Aurora Rising 4 stars because a few times I didn’t exactly “lose track” of what was happening, but a few chapters just felt a bit “meh” to me, I don’t know if it was because I don’t really know if I like Zila and Finian yet, or if it was a bit slow to get started… but I didn’t feel totally engrossed the whole way through. Around the middle of the book, there was a sort of shift where the story became really interesting and things started to happen and I liked how it sped up a bit. I also want to keep my 5 stars for the next books in the series, as you can probably tell, I don’t often give books 5 stars, not unless they leave me on my butt looking out into the void wondering what just happened to me and pining after all the characters!
I’ve come to really appreciate Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s writing style and I think that they work extremely well together. I’m excited to read Aurora Burning, but also The Illuminae Files because I just can’t get enough of the writing style and the mixed media, I love how this book is just DIFFERENT and it really appealed to me!
If you have any recommendations for books like this one and The Illuminae Files, comment down below so I can discover more science fiction and hopefully get rid of my apparent aversion of it!
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed my review, see you soon,