I am going to say this right now: this review will contain all the spoilery content! so! be! warned!

CW: character death, instances of bullying, racism (alien racism?), soulmate insta-love (is that a trigger warning? in this case, possibly yes).

G’day friends! As I’m writing this, I am in my pyjamas, on a kind-of sunny Melbourne day that still is incredibly cold. And I want to talk to you about one of my most anticipated books of the year.

If you have read my mini Goodreads review, you already know my ‘issues’ with this book and the reason why I now rate rate it 3.5 stars. I initially said 4.5 stars coming off the high of reading, but upon thinking about the characters and the story and also in conversation with a few others on instagram, I realised that this book was not one that I continued for the enjoyment or emotional investment in the characters, but to see how the story continued. Which isn’t a bad thing, but I need that connection with characters to fall in love with the story.

Fundamentally, I didn’t really like any of the characters, to the point that I cared for them. For instance, when Cat died I actually didn’t give a fuck? She was a one-dimensional character who I felt was defined by her unrequited love of Tyler and her friendship with both Tyler and Scarlett. But I’m getting ahead of myself here, let me just give y’all the blurb of Aurora Rising before I pop off with this review:

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 touchโ€ฆ

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 galaxyโ€™s biggest chip on his shoulder

An alien warrior with anger management issues

A tomboy pilot whoโ€™s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Tyโ€™s squad isnโ€™t even his biggest problemโ€”thatโ€™d be Aurora Jie-Lin Oโ€™Malley, the girl heโ€™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 Tylerโ€™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. 

Well, my little space cadets, let’s talk about the narrative.

I can’t fault the writing itself. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman write wonderfully well. That’s why I am so confused as to how Aurora Rising came about. In the sense that the Illuminae Files fucking slayed; the characters, the plot, the action, FUCKING AIDEN. But Aurora Rising lacked the slayage element that was present in their previous novels together.

In terms of the storyline, it was good. When I initially finished it, I was like OMG IT WAS A GREAT UNPUTDOWNABLE READ YAS. And yes, it did keep me engaged and I wasn’t able to put it down, because I wanted to know what happened in the story. The story is what kept me going. The action-packed nature of this book was a plus, in the sense that it made you, as the reader, not really notice about how you’re not really enabled the space to create emotional connections with the characters. Not even like deep emotional connections, even just a superficial caring for the characters – I didn’t really notice it until the end and then I realised that I didn’t feel that I knew the characters, and even had the capacity to like them. But that’s for the next section, back to the narrative!

Okay, the overall storyline was good. The locus of the narrative is the finding of Aurora, a 237 year-old young woman (haha) who was found in the Hadfield ship which became lost in a fold (which is like when ‘time’ in spaces is folded so you get to places in the galaxy in less time) some 200 years ago. Tyler, on a quick little jaunt with his little space craft, becomes aware that a ship is raising a signal for help and lo and behold, it’s the Hadfield.

What follows is a strange sense of ‘conspiracy’, wherein Aurora goes back to Aurora Academy and finds that the people that she meets, even the person in charge of the space station where the Academy is based on, Greater Clan Battle Leader Danil de Verra de Stoy, is claiming that 220 years ago, Aurora was headed to another colony called Lei Gong and not Octavia III. A sense of the re-writing of history, and understandably, Aurora is hella confused.

In the aftermath of that, and then of Battle Leader de Stoy implying to Aurora to get the fuck out of dodge and leave with Tyler’s crew; it becomes a cat and mouse-like story of running away from the bad guys (who are actually the Global Intelligence Agency, a human government organisation) and trying to figure out whether Aurora is actually insane, or if she is psychically powerful and what her visions are trying to tell them.

There isn’t a moment where you can take a breath. The nature of the narrative is very much go go go. That is what kept me engaged – I loved the action, the suspence, the what’s-going-to-happen-next that I felt also when reading the Illuminae Files. I bloody fucking loved it. There was always something happening within the backdrop of trying to figure out what Aurora’s deal was.

You are then told that Aurora is psychically connected (i think? not really sure) with an ancient race of space peoples, called the Eshvaren. An ancient peoples who, all of a sudden, disappeared off the face of the universe, with noone knowing why. And through Aurora, they are trying to warn them of something.

In terms of actual plot, we don’t really get anything. And I know this review will be slightly controversial because this book has recieved such mixed reviews, but I found that at its core, it lacked a lot of substance. The premise was amazing, but I felt that there was no real point to most of it as the climax, the ending, of the story felt so disappointing! You realise that all they have risked in literally running away from the GIA – who are actually alien-infested humans so BAD PEOPLE – and are now like, fugitives in the universe, in order to go back to the Octavia III settlement because Aurora thought that’s what the ancient people were telling her to do, when in actuality it was to warn her NOT TO GO THERE.

Basically, the narrative ends with us finding out that the Octavia III settlement was overtaken by a Flower-like alien creature which acts like an infectious parasite where literal flowers sprout from the body of the Host and the Host lose themselves entirely to this bee-hive like mentality of the Alien creature. It is sentient in its own way. This creature wants to destroy the entire galaxy by eating its way through, I guess, by infecting everyone it can. But we are not told why. We are not told whether it’s only humans it can effect – I’m guessing it can effect any species in the universe though. But it begs the question as to why the governments wanted to hide the planet – whether the Alien creature had already infected itself throughout the GIA and thus, protected itself from outside invasion and thus, could heal its wounds and flourish without fear. As you find out also that the Eshvaren people were slayed in a battle to kill this creature. These people knew that the future races of the universe would need help to exterminate this creature, and that is what you get in Aurora, a Trigger.

To what, you ask?

Well, I don’t really think we know just yet.

I think the strongest aspect of this book was the storyline, it had panache and a whole lot of action scenes and twists and turns. But what it gave us in terms of the narrative, it lacked in effective characterisation.

when the story is good but the characters…not so much…

The biggest issue I had with this book were the characters.

Typically, Jay and Amie deliver in terms of writing three-dimensional characters who are unique and specifically individual, with their own personality and authentic voice. In this case, I found the characters to kind of blend into each other, in terms of their voices. Sometimes, I would have to go back to the start of the chapter to remember which perspective the chapter was in, because it would be indistinguishable.

The synopsis of the Aurora Rising provides little character snippets:

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 galaxyโ€™s biggest chip on his shoulder

An alien warrior with anger management issues

A tomboy pilot whoโ€™s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

With Tyler the designated ‘Alpha’ and star pupil, and Aurora the mystery girl who is out of her time and out of her depth.

These mini snippets become the characters defining traits. And that’s literally the characters. Add a bit of snarky dialogue and that’s the story.

What I would have absolutely loved is more chapters from the perspective of Zila, ‘the sociopath’. Because of this definition of her personality, we literally get next-to-nothing in terms of understand who she actually is as a person – she is just the sociopath who is incredily intelligent. Cat, the ‘tomboy pilot’ is literally the poster-gal for unrequited love and jealousy. She really annoyed me, and I disliked her character from the moment I met her. I felt that she had little personality outside of her love for Tyler and loyalty to Tyler and his sister, Scarlett. She was boring. There, I said it.

Scarlett could have been super fucking badass, but again, because of the constant shifts in perspective throughout the novel, we don’t really get to see her as her own person. I didn’t care very much for them.

I think the only character who I actually enjoyed was Finian because he seemed the one with the most personality. Even Aurora, who is quite pivotal to the entire story, isn’t really given enough space to develop, not only in the story but to connect with readers.

Kalil is the one character who I immediately connected with because he’s voice, alongisde Finian’s, were the most unique. However, was it just me or did anyone else find the whole insta-love-soulmates thing that Kal had with Aurora kind of weird and out of place? Just me? Okay.

I think for me it felt like an unifinished book. And before you all come at me, I know this is the first book in a series, but I think it could have been stronger. The ending especially is where it kind of went downhill – we’ll actually say the last 150 pages.

However, I will be reading the sequel because a lot needs to be answered.

I hope you enjoyed this review! Sorry for how long it is – and I apologise if I’ve offended you with my opinions, especially if this is a book you absolutely adored.

Until next time, friends! Happy reading!

All the love,




  1. I think that you totally got Cat wrong. She was honestly, one of the best characters. You were able to feel her. She was primal, driven by her instincts of love, jealousy, faith (and lack of), loyalty, etc. She was so… *human*. No different from you and I and how we have and can feel. And your instincts and actions and thoughts define you. What she thought and what she felt drove her. It wasn’t her obligation as an Ace that drove her to care for the others, even though that was her excuse. It was her love. And in the end, she overcame her “hate” for Aurora and helped her understand. She sacrificed so much based on a whim and her love. And her love for Tyler was not, in any way, unrequited. It was his bullheaded Goldenboy-ness that made him push her away. And anyone would feel bitter about that. And like what Kal said when he spoke to Aurora about the Pull, she didn’t choose who she loved. Finally, hating on a main character is doing so much disservice to the authors. They put heart into Cat. They put thought into her death. And if it made you feel nothing, then I believe you need to reread the story.

    Liked by 1 person

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