Aurora Rising by Amy Kauffman and Jay Kristoff
Published: May 7th 2019 by Rock the Boat
“Squad 312. This pack of losers and discapline cases and sociopaths, these misfits that nobody in the whole of Aurora Academy wanted to get paired with.”
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.
So if you’ve been reading my blog at all for the past year you’ll already be very well acquainted with this book and just how beyond excited I’ve been for its release. If you’re new here, welcome! Amie and Jay, the authors of Aurora Rising wrote a series of books called The Illuminae Files which are my favourite series of books, at the end of the last one they teased a new series of books in space with hot space elves. I have been excited ever since. We got a title, we got more details and we got art for each of the Squad members and Aurora herself and I have just been getting more and more excited. This is my most anticipated book release this year and I was lucky enough to get to read one of these gorgeous arc copies!
I went into this book rather unsure of how to feel, the first time I held it and realised I was about to actually read this book that I’d been so excited for I realised I felt some hesitation. I wanted to love it just as much as the books of the Illuminae files series and I was worried that it might end up feeling too samey or that it would be so different I wouldn’t enjoy it, but I’m pleased to report I need not of worried. Aurora Rising absolutely holds its own, being written by Amie and Jay it still has that brilliant banter suffused with action and emotion that we see throughout their own books as well as the ones they’ve worked on together and thus it contains the same essence at its core that the Illuminae Files do while still being its own entity. Much like The Illuminae Files, Aurora Rising is also set in space but that my friends, is where the similarities end and we strap in for a whole different kind of ride.
Aurora Rising is told from seven different POV’s and that may sound like a lot but it’s done spectacularly and is, in my opinion, one of the many reasons it’s so very easy to absolutely fall head over heels in love with Squad 312. Each POV has its own distinct voice and quirks and I am still taken aback at just how easy it is to recognise each of them from that alone as I often have trouble keeping track of who’s who in books with even two or three POV’s on occasion so this was huge for me. The characters themselves are fantastic and not since the Mass Effect games have I felt such an attachment to fictional characters as I have to squad 312, my squad. Each character feels completely unique and detailed, full of habits and flaws, intriguing backstory and overflowing with their individual personalities so vibrant and rich that honestly, I could talk about them all day.
Tyler Jones: Alpha – All round golden boy, goodie two shoes, wielder of dimples, squad leader and Captain hotness. Tyler goes through some stuff, as do the rest of the crew but I loved how he changed and moulded with the circumstances as they occurred. A brilliant leader and certainly one I would follow.
Scarlett Jones: Face – The cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm, Tyler’s slightly more charismatic, sweet talking, red-headed twin sister. Older twin sister don’t you forget! Scarlett is an absolute queen and really holds the whole team together. She knows when to flash a smile, a simple nod or a kind word which isn’t unusual perhaps for a face, those who are considered the peacemakers and fast talkers of the Aurora Legion but Scarlett really has an innate gift for it. Not to mention she’s sassy, confident and is well aware of how hot she is.
Zila Madran: Brain – A sociopath scientist with a fondness for her disrupter and shooting her bunkmates. Zila is cool, calculating and doesn’t mince her words, she’s no-nonsense, smart as hell and absolutely brilliant. Like Tyler, Zila had a brilliant character arc that you can really see change as time goes on, her particular quirks were especially interesting and I just loved her so much.
Finian de Karren de Seel: Gearhead – A smart ass techwizz with the galaxies biggest chip on his shoulder. Fin is a member of a pale-skinned humanoid species called the Betraskan who have to wear dark contacts above ground to protect their eyes. Fin is fantastic, he’s incredibly funny, witty and clever, he’s bi/pansexual and disabled, needing to wear an exo-suit to help with his mobility which I think was done particularly well in that it was something that was just accepted and no one tried to ‘fix him’ but he also had realistic limits. I would almost certainly die for him.
Kallis Gilwraeth: Tank – Kal is a hot, angsty space elf known as a Syldrathi, some say he has anger management issues but as the team’s tank, responsible for all things fighty this might be a good thing? Right?? Kal is utterly swoon-worthy, managing to be angry and hostile as well as the sweetest bean in the universe. I love him to pieces.
Catherine Brannock: Ace – Cat, also known at the Aurora Legion Academy as Zero, is fast flying, no crap taking, tattooed, hot-headed and absolutely not into Tyler. Cat was a hard character at times, occasionally repetitive and the one I felt least invested in for quite a while which I think may have actually been on purpose, to be honest. She pulls some damn punches throughout the story though that really gave her an extra dimension and really endeared her to me.
Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley: Girl out of time – Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries Aurora feels not only out of her time but out of her depth as well, as one might when you awaken to find everyone you ever knew has almost certainly died over a hundred years ago. I found Aurora one the harder characters to get into, not so much as Cat who I initially didn’t like and although this wasn’t the exact case with Aurora who I did like from the get-go, it just took me a lot longer to click with her like I did all of the others. I think this has more to do with Aurora trying to find herself, which isn’t a bad thing, it just meant it took me a while to find her as well which I think, especially if intentional was an extra fantastic layer to her character.
Everyone changes throughout the story and watching everyone adapt is fantastic, you really get to know someone when you see how they make decisions in tough moments and Aurora Rising is no different despite being a work of fiction. It makes me so happy to see such diversity throughout the Squad too, I loved this book to pieces and I’ll get into the rest of it but my favourite part is definitely these band of misfits.
I briefly want to mention the romance elements to this book, I won’t go into huge detail because of spoilers and this review is getting to already be huge but I wanted to put a mention in any way. Romance isn’t a huge thing in Aurora Rising but it is present, there is a ton of cute flirty language and moments which I love and there are some emotions flying around as there often is in YA novels. There is some tension that I found a little annoying at times but found easy to get over but there is also a whole other kettle of fish going on that I found absolutely fantastic and I’m not always that into the romance side of things. I’ll go into more depth when I hopefully film my spoiler-filled book talk in the next couple of days but I just want to say there are some real, pure good moments that melted even my little cold black heart.
There’s not an enormous amount of world-building here but as it is some large amount of time in the future we do get a bit of an update on what he missed thanks to Aurora needing the information, it coming up in general conversation and some handy info pages before each chapter which all felt super organic and natural instead of an overload of info which I feel can sometimes happen in sci-fi. We didn’t have to go into huge amounts of detail for any of the future tech as most of it such as artificial gravity, mag-boots the uniglass systems the team uses etc are all pretty self-explanatory and make sense at a pretty simple level meaning I don’t need to try and wrap my head around crazy new technology to understand a scene, always a bonus.
I found the plot a little slow going at times but not hugely so although there are moments when there is little to no exact direction which again, I feel is on purpose and fits with the mood of the story at the time but it irked the ‘must have a plan for everything’ part of me, I’m not a great risk taker and certainly not good with leaps of faith but that’s more of a personal issue and no real mark against the plot itself. I liked how it all came together over time and that we had a lot of different aspects throughout, we got space fights, we got a crazy heist, bar fights, creepy beyond belief aliens, an entire space station that is basically a jacked up Mos Eisley, crazy awesome mind powers and so much more. For me, this book has.it.all.
Aurora Rising is a brilliant mish-mash of The Breakfast Club meets Guardians of the Galaxy (as claimed by Jay Kristoff himself) but also has (for me at least) huge Mass Effect undertones which has firmly placed this in my favourite book category.
This book is out for general release May 7th (TOMORROW!) and I honestly cannot recommend it higher. If you’re still not sure you can check out the first chapter and a clip of the audiobook (with a fantastic cast!) right here now and take the Aurora Legion Academy test here to see which role you would play in your own squad, I’m an Alpha like Tyler which makes sense as I over plan, am a bit of a stickler for rules and am far too bossy for my own good. Let me know which you end up as?