Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff | a space adventure with an underdeveloped ensemble cast

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Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

April 30, 2019, from Knopf Books for Young Readers
YA science fiction
Goodreads | Amazon

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.


3 stars

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Aurora Rising. I’ve been working my way through the Illuminae series and honestly wasn’t super impressed, but I enjoyed it, so I decided to give Aurora Rising a try and see if the more traditional style of narration worked for me. Aurora Rising is entertaining enough, but the mess of POVs and wonky pacing meant that it didn’t stand out to me.

I usually love ensemble casts and their dynamics, and the synopsis of the book drew me in because it reminded me of Six of Crows, and I’m a sucker for anything that reminds me of Six of Crows. (Has anyone noticed how many synopses are doing That now?) Even though I did find the group dynamics fun occasionally, I also didn’t care about half the cast, which made it very hard for me to enjoy the group as a whole. I didn’t find the “witty banter” witty; instead, it felt forced and awkward. This should be a very character-focused book; it has to be, with seven protagonists, and when all seven of the characters aren’t all strongly developed, with distinct voices, and solid relationships, having this many doesn’t work. Unfortunately, none of the characters were very well-developed. Most of the characters I liked took a backseat in the action, and there was such a tangle of relationships that I couldn’t foresee who was going to end up with who for a lot of the book–and it turned out what I was hoping for didn’t happen. 

Another thing I disliked was that all the POVs were in first person, and there were seven of them, and some, like Zila’s, had very little importance to the story. I couldn’t tell whose POVs was whose and frequently got confused because they all had the same voice. I feel like the writing would have worked far better in third person at the very least, but half the POVs could have been cut and it would have made the book a lot less confusing and a lot more engaging.

The plot is fun, and I liked the worldbuilding well enough. It’s another take on a science-fiction universe where humans have expanded beyond our solar system and met different species of aliens. It’s definitely interesting to see this take, but ultimately it doesn’t add anything new or different to the concept and struck me as just another science-fiction story with aliens. A lot of the plot is a slow, unravelling mystery of What Is Going On, with a lot of action, but it felt like the book was going at breakneck speed sometimes, and then slowing down to a crawl. I feel like Aurora Rising was trying to be too many things at once, and it didn’t work for me.

If you loved Illuminae, though, or any of Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman’s other books I definitely think you’ll like this–it has similar vibes and themes. But if, like me, Illuminae wasn’t for you, then I’d say Aurora Rising is just your average sci-fi book.


representation | chinese-american mc, black mc, bi mc


have you read aurora rising?? any other good ensemble space books??


2 thoughts on “Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff | a space adventure with an underdeveloped ensemble cast

  1. I felt exactly the same way! I struggled too with the fact there are many characters and I didn’t care much for them. It was just an entertaining book that only got super interesting at the end. I did like that part because I like seeing what the authors came up with, but overall, I know they can do much better!

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