Review: Aurora Rising

In case you haven’t heard the hype swirling around this book, Aurora Rising is the latest novel from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and a brilliantly strong start to their new sci-fi trilogy, The Aurora Cycle.

As you’d expect from an Amie and Jay novel (Aay? Jamie? Surely we’ve got a technical term for their co-authorship), it is dripping with banter and wit. You can barely read a page without coming across a remark or comeback that has you chuckling under your breath or full-out laughing on your tram. Fin and Cat nearly killed me with their repartee and Scarlett earns herself an honourable mention for her killer charm laced with sarcasm. The whole book was a back-and-forth of who I found funniest and who I loved the most (spoilers: it’s Fin, but I swear I tried to love them all equally!).

‘You can barely read a page without coming across a remark or comeback that has you chuckling under your breath or full-out laughing on your tram.’

Amie and Jay have swapped out the design-heavy pages of the Illuminae trilogy for a simpler style that is just as enjoyable. While Aurora Rising still has some cool graphics and wiki pages scattered throughout, the real stand-out of the narrative is the multiple perspectives. Each chapter is told by a different member of Squad 312.

The shifting perspectives meant I got into the heads of every character and through this, obviously got pretty attached to them. Their backstories were solid, with plenty of hinted material that I’m hoping will spill out across the next two books. There is plenty to be said about the characters, but one of my favourite things was how their characterisation was developed.

Having the multiple perspectives meant learning about the character’s not only through their own experiences but through the observations and interactions with the other characters. I learnt as much about Tyler through his chapters, as I did through the observations in Cat and Scarlett’s. You get to know them through what they do and say, as well as what everyone else notices they do and say, and finally through what is left unsaid.

‘You get to know them through what they do and say, as well as what everyone else notices they do and say, and finally through what is left unsaid. ‘

I was worried that jumping between characters would be hard to follow, but word wizards Amie and Jay didn’t disappoint and showed again how finely-tuned their collaborative writing style is. I won’t lie, there were some chapters where the narrative voices were a little weak or sounded too similar and I forgot who’s chapter we were in, but this wasn’t too frequent so I was able to forgive it.

The majority of the chapters were very strong and distinguishable, it was just a few that slipped through the cracks. This issue was most notable in the Aurora and Tyler chapters, and infrequently in Kal’s, but given that Aurora and Tyler have the bulk of the chapters and very similar story focuses, it doesn’t surprise me that I could get them confused. Given how late into the night I continued reading this book, I’ve also accepted sleep deprivation could have led to this confusion.  

My greatest criticism of this narrative style, and the book overall, is that some characters were considerably under-developed, with one character in particular, Zila, left very under-done. While I can only assume this was due to the limitations of this first book and so Amie and Jay had more scope to develop her in the following book (I sense a big backstory brewing) it was still disappointing. Given the mashed up style and the brilliant development of the other characters, this wasn’t an issue I expected to arise.

For the most part, it felt like the book (and potentially the crew) could have gone without her and her role. I think the Brain role realistically could’ve been absorbed into the Gearhead role and overall, Zila’s actions for the most part could’ve been completed by other squad members.

‘I was insanely curious about her for the whole book (which maybe was the point) and was incredibly disappointed by her lack of development (again, perhaps tortuously intentional). ‘

This is not to say I think she should’ve been written out. I think there was so much potential and scope for her character and her role that I felt she wasn’t complete as a three-dimensional character. On the few occasions I flipped to a Zila chapter I was desperate to know more, but wasn’t given enough to develop a meaningful connection with her character, in the same way I did with the others. I was insanely curious about her for the whole book (which maybe was the point) and was incredibly disappointed by her lack of development (again, perhaps tortuously intentional).

I’m not a huge romance fan so when some flirtations started to flourish
I was a little worried about my interest levels. My biggest fear was that the characters were going to start pairing off or end up in a cringey love triangle/square/heptagon, but luckily these did not come to pass. There were a few things that I wish were a little different or a little more original, but again, they weren’t distracting enough to stop me from enjoying the book. For fans of romance, there is enough for you to enjoy, but for those of us reading for the adventure plot, don’t worry, the romance plays second fiddle to the sci-fi the whole way through.

‘For fans of romance, there is enough for you to enjoy, but for those of us reading for the adventure plot, don’t worry, the romance plays second fiddle to the sci-fi the whole way through.’

Having seen all the hype around how emotional this book was, I was hesitant about how emotionally sucked-in I would actually get. As I read through, I felt attached to the characters but not to the level that I anticipated based on the hype. I liked them all and didn’t want any of them in mortal peril, but also, perhaps it’s the writer in me, I was happy for Amie and Jay to sacrifice one or two, (or maybe even three) for the sake of the plot and the other characters.

Fifty pages from the end, Amie and Jay were well into building their beautiful crescendo and I was still convinced that 1. Something terrible was going to happen. And 2. That I wasn’t going to be all that emotionally distraught about it. My mind was running through all the potential outcomes and none of them left me devastated.

As always, Amie and Jay showed their extensive writing prowess and without my even knowing it, their climax had been gently plucking at my heartstrings the whole time. The build was so subtle that once they brought in the big guns and started really pulling at my insides, I was floored. The feels got me. To create such an emotional moment for a scene I had already imagined shows how good Amie and Jay really are. At one point I was holding my book so tight that sadly I’ve worn away some of the beautiful silver foil from my front cover. But alas, this is what happens when you love your books too hard.  

I’ll 100% be reading the sequel and can’t wait to see what adventure Amie and Jay have for us next.

Title: Aurora Rising : The Aurora Cycle #1
Authors: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Extent: 470 pp.
RRP: $19.99 (paperback), $34.99 (hardcover)
Read If You Like: The Illuminae Files (obviously), Four Dead Queens, The Divergent trilogy.

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