I wasn’t sure I could enjoy a space adventure like I did The Illuminae Files but Kaufman and Kristoff have captured my heart and imagination all over again. I can hardly wait to start the second book and continue the adventure.
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.
When the authors of a series that you love have new stories the conundrum of how to approach them is ever-present. I loved The Illuminae Files so much. It was my favorite series of 2019 and, if you don’t remember, I set out in a snow storm to my local bookstore to pick up Book Two because I just couldn’t wait to keep reading (which honestly sounds like an amazing adventure right now). It was also my favorite fiction audiobook of 2019. Hence the conundrum – how do I fairly approach The Aurora Rising series without comparing every page to Illuminae?
I did what I always do when I doubt a book: I put it on my shelf for a good long time. Long enough for the second in the series to arrive and join it. This approach has worked for me in the past and, happily, it was successful again. With time in-between the series I managed to enjoy Aurora Rising without making a direct comparison to The Illuminae Files, a mindset I am going to try and apply right now for the review.
This book does not review easily. In the world of Aurora Rising there is the Aurora Legion and the Aurora Academy and now, a girl named Aurora who has been rescued by none other than Tyler Jones. Tyler has finished his time at the Academy but has missed the Draft, his moment to pick his squad. As such, he is left with the dregs of the Academy. Well, some dregs and his sister and childhood best friend. The six of them are now are part of a squad. If you include Aurora, that is a lot of people (certainly one too many Auroras).
The authors have chosen to allow each of the members of the squad to have a slice of the narrative. Once again, there are six of them plus Aurora. Numerous times, I had to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to see who was talking because I struggled to keep them separated in my mind.
This is also a fully flushed out world that we don’t fully understand. The authors have created races of aliens and a huge history that encompasses hundreds of years between now and the moment we meet the squad. But, our narrators don’t really know what is going on. Which means that the reader is left confused and curious.
Furthermore, the authors used far more than shifting perspectives to tell this story. The number of writing tricks is numerous and, as much as I want to talk about them, disclosing them might take away the joy of reading them firsthand. Suffice to say, these authors take risks.
And all of it worked for me.
This is a trilogy (at a minimum). We aren’t supposed to finish the first book with a total understanding of what is going on in the story. We are on a space ride that hasn’t reached its destination. I don’t need to know what is going on yet, I just need the second book!
And while this many characters is a lot to juggle I enjoyed trying. Most of the time. The shifting perspectives of seven people certainly give each one less time to show themselves or their thoughts. To balance this, the authors took the opportunity to let personalities and habits shine through the eyes of the squad-mates just as much as the first person narrative. I had to pay attention to pick up clues all over about these characters and, for certain characters, I still have no idea who they are yet.
Perhaps that is why, in the end, all I can say is that it worked for me. I couldn’t stop reading it, I can’t wait for the next book to be in my hands, and I want more of this story. I didn’t like every character. I didn’t adore every trick the authors used. But, taking their story apart piece by piece would destroy the integrity of the whole. I certainly loved this book. I need to know what happens next. I’m invested. And is there anything more wonderful in a trilogy than the anticipation of what comes next?
Tell me, please!
Have you ever read a book that you loved as a whole but struggled with in part?