Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are back at it again with Aurora Rising, the first in a new young adult (YA) sci-fi series titled The Aurora Cycle. I’m a sucker for ragtag groups of unlikely heroes coming together, especially when it’s executed brilliantly. Most times it can be a recipe for disaster. Things can go horribly wrong while juggling multiple POVs, crafting a compelling story, and dealing with larger-than-life personalities. But sometimes the author or in this case, authors, get it oh, so right.
In Aurora Rising, Earth as we know it has expanded its reach into space. It’s the year 2380 and humans are living amongst the stars while creating alliances and enemies with several alien species. We first meet a cadet named Tyler Jones on the cusp of graduation into the Terran Defense Force. This Golden Boy sits at the top of his class, but before he can select the crew of his dreams at graduation, Tyler gets caught up in an impromptu rescue mission and saves Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley from an overly long cryo-sleep. Tyler misses the ceremony and discovers that the class rejects will now serve under him in Squad 312. Lost dreams and bruised egos are quickly ejected into space when the squad’s first mission becomes intertwined with Aurora’s unknown past and complicated future. And as the story goes, the fate of the galaxy now resides in the hands of this intergalactic band of misfits featuring:
- Tyler on point as dashing leader,
- Scarlett, the sarcastic twin sister and diplomat,
- Catherine, serving as feisty best friend and pilot,
- Finian, the genius gearhead,
- Zila, the reserved scientist,
- and Kaliis, a brooding weapons and military expert.
If you’re looking for complicated schemes or a technical breakdown of how Finian can literally hack into anything, you will not find it here. Aurora Rising is all about the plot, baby. There’s no time for details which will only cause space friction (a totally real thing) and slow our heroes down. I admire the simplistic touch with which the authors created each scene, with most of the action taking place on floating space stations or aboard Squad 312’s Longbow. They give enough detail for the reader to understand where our characters are without getting inundated with the complexities of life in space. Reading this book was good ole futuristic fun and any exhaustive explanations would’ve been a black hole sucking the life force out of the story.
The characters are out of this world. At first glance, they seem to fit into neat tropes, but I was surprised by their depth and the subtle ways they rejected cliches. I found myself moving through each POV easily and genuinely cared to understand how each character was participating in the story. The POVs were crafted with purpose and featured engaging dialogue that kept the plot moving ever forward. Somehow the placement of Scarlett’s sarcastic comments or Kaliis’ somber promises hit the mark each time. My one and only real complaint is that I wanted more Zila. Our adorable introvert is ever-present, but her dialogue is minimal even in her dedicated chapters. This was probably done to portray Zila’s lack of emotional depth by limiting her personality. However, I felt the void left behind from her limited perspective. As one of our diverse characters, I hope to see her shine brighter in the sequel.
The quality of the YA genre varies so wildly that I never know what I’m getting into, but Aurora Rising stands out. The level of care that crafted each character was astonishing. The sequence of events flowed without lulls or miscellaneous information weighing down the adventure. I can only describe my entire reading experience as enjoyable and effortless. I put myself on guard, expecting the worst, and instead ended up with one of the best.
The book’s secret sauce has to be the tag-team effort put forth by dynamic duo Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Their minds must be connected on an intergalactic plane with an otherworldly muse. While I can’t unravel these authors’ secrets, I can tell you this book is worth the time. Squad 312 created an adventure that adults won’t want to miss out on. So don’t delay and grab an open seat on the Longbow’s next departure.
Rating: Aurora Rising – 9.0/10