Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Big winner from Liz again; this was just the absorbing, sci-fi-fantastical otherworld I needed in between heavier reads. Before finishing it I’d sat down and ordered the other two books in the trilogy (from my local online* bookstore, Gaslight), and I wish they were here already.

Aurora Rising is set in 2380, and begins at the Aurora Academy, where students graduate into the Aurora Legion – sort of a United Nations made up of both humans and alien species, to peacekeep throughout space. These teams are made up of teenagers, because the physiological challenges of deep-space Fold travel are only for the very young. (This will add to the drama.) Chapters are told from different points of view, but we begin with Tyler Jones, prettyboy and star student, top of his class in the Alpha track. Alphas will head up their squads; they are strategists and leaders. Tyler was poised to get to cherrypick his ideal squad and likely get the choicest mission assignment, but things went a little sideways, and he found himself saddled with odds and ends instead – happily, including his twin sister Scarlett and their shared best friend since childhood, Cat. (Scarlett is the squad’s Face, or diplomat, multilingual and people-skilled. Cat is their Ace, or pilot, as cocky and short-fused as Aces are stereotyped to be.) They get sent on a terrible mission to start their new careers: boring, distant, low-consequence. Or is it?

Tyler’s accidental misadventure, which cost him his pick-of-the-litter squad, was rescuing “the girl out of time”: Aurora (or Auri) has been in cryo-sleep for two hundred years. She was en route to the colony where her father lived, but the ship never arrived, and she is its sole survivor. Her father’s colony has been erased. And some very dangerous people seem to care very much what happens to Auri. Luckily, she falls in with this ragtag squad of losers: Tyler, Scarlett, Cat, Finian (nonhuman, the group’s differently abled Gearhead), Zila (socially awkward, or possibly sociopathic, Brain – responsible for scientific and medical expertise), and Kal (their Tank, or warrior, of a much-maligned alien species recently considered an enemy of the Terrans, or humans). Together they form “the strangest group of misfits that ever trekked across an abandoned alien planet beset with creeptastic plants and besieged by military forces,” which is a great line. I’m pretty intrigued by the intersection of plant life, beauty, and horror.

Thick greenery blooms from its eyes, its back is covered in a tangle of beautiful flowers, and when it opens its mouth to snarl its defiance at him, I see reddish-green leaves all the way down its throat.

What with sibling antics (Tyler and Scar), bestie vibes and hijinks (Scar and Cat), romantic and sexual tensions (several), awkward geekiness (several), and extreme danger and high stakes, this novel offers a charming blend of pathos, angst, and superlative, laugh-out-loud comedy. I stayed up to unhealthily late hours because I couldn’t put this book down; I was completely absorbed and in love with our dear, silly, impassioned young heroes. Also, check out this Princess Bride reference.

“Anyway, are you sure you’re not making them up? They sound ridiculous. I mean, hairy dirtchildren who fly spaceships and have almost identical DNA to you lot?” I scoff. “I don’t think they exist.”

And that’s when a snarling, furry pitch-black humanoid thing with jagged yellow teeth that would put an ultrasaur to shame comes screaming out of the undergrowth and straight for my face.

(Chimps, if you were wondering.)

There is so much to love here. The worldbuilding is on point (and if I recognize certain elements from The Expanse, what of it?). The characters are darling; who could resist such a motley band of misfits? The action is riveting. I’m hooked; give me more. This first installment ends a little cheesy, but I’m well hooked all the same. Stay tuned for book 2. I don’t think it will take me long. Thanks as ever, Liz!

Rating: 9 costume changes.

*local online? They’re working on a brick-and-mortar, which I badly want, so I buy all my books from them! Cheers, Justin and Ethan!

3 Responses

  1. […] thing I got on top of ordering books 2 and 3 in this series; I couldn’t wait long after Aurora Rising, could I! I raced through these 500 pages and I don’t think it’ll be long til I’m […]

  2. […] Aurora Rising, we met our cast of wacky characters, and saw them just begin to fit together. With Aurora Burning, […]

  3. […] Aurora Rising, and the series!, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – fiction […]

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