YA Fantasy, YA Sci Fi

My Review: Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle #1): by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Publish Date: May 7th, 2019
Number of Pages: 473 Pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA Sci-Fi, YA Fantasy

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of this series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Do moons choose the planets they orbit? Do planets choose their stars? Who am I to deny gravity, Aurora? When you shine brighter than an constellation in the sky?”

— Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff, “Aurora Rising”

Think “Guardians of the Galaxy” + “The Breakfast Club” + “Ocean’s Eleven” + a single character who’s no longer in Kansas, and you’ve got a basic idea of the vibes of this YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy novel thats by the dynamic duo who’ve also written the popular Illuminae Files series. I personally have not read them myself, but the hardcover designs are simply gorgeous, and I’ve heard only great things from those who have read them!

I think not having read the previous series actually allowed me to enjoy this book more, as from what I’ve read from other reviewers on Goodreads, a lot of them who’ve read the Illuminae Files were actually pretty disappointed with this book. The most complaints I saw were about how the characters didn’t feel fully developed, how they were too cliché, or how the plot and conflict wasn’t exciting enough. What I can argue with all that is how we need to remember that this is only the first book in a new trilogy, and like the curse that a lot of other more well known Sci-Fi/Fantasy trilogies/series have is how the first book is like the tip of the iceberg: you glimpse the top of it that’s above the surface, but underneath is SOOOO much more waiting to be found! Can we all agree that we shouldn’t judge a series based off just the first book? I can name several books/series off the top of my head that suffer the first book being the weakest, but then it massively improves: The Hunger Games trilogy, the Harry Potter series, the Throne of Glass series, A Court of Thorns and Roses series, The Folk of the Air trilogy, and even the Captive Prince Trilogy.

I will say this book had a magnificent beginning and end, but the middle was slower than I’d hoped for. I feel like maybe there weren’t a whole lot of twists after the call to action with the main character joining the rest of the crew, and then not really until the last small chunk of the book as well. Sure, you get to know the characters a little more and get to hear from all their point of views—some more than others—but you do start to enjoy them and their dynamic like any other “found family” aesthetic that was what drew me into the story in the first place.

I’d say the main highlight for me was the main characters and their group dynamic. Sure, they’re all kind of cliché and nothing too original, but that was what both the authors intended for in the story, and it’s not like they don’t develop and start to veer away from their original stereotypical character arcs. They all had some sort of development throughout the story, and learn that just because they’re a group of misfits and outcasts, doesn’t mean they aren’t a ride or die crew that would fight for each other until the very end! There also wasn’t as much background info/backstory on all of them revealed, but let’s be honest… if the authors did include all that right away, I’m sure people would’ve complained and said it was all info-dumps. I say, there’s two more books that are supposed to follow for this series, let’s space out this information because we don’t need all this revealed to us at once, and it’s not like the characters won’t continue to grow and change as these books go on.

Overall, this book was definitely one of the more fun books to read in the genre; the two authors obviously work well together to create a captivating story, and I really wish I knew what their process was like. Who wrote what exactly, or what part did either of them play in the development of this story? If anyone knows the answers, or has a link to help, please feel free to send it my way! I’m always curious to see what prominent authors’s writing processes are like.

What It’s About:

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…

Image courtesy of Instagram artist: @kiranight_art

A cocky diplomat named Scarlett with a black belt in sarcasm…
A sociopath scientist named Zila with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates…
A smart-ass techwiz named Fin with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder…
An alien warrior named Kal with anger management issues…
A tomboy pilot named Cat 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.

They’re not the heroes we deserve, they’re just the ones we could find… Nobody panic.

Believe me, handsome, one of me is way more than you can handle.

‘I think… I’m gonna be sick,’ Lachlan declares.

‘I know the feeling,’ Cat sighs.

‘No, seriously,’ he burps. ‘Where’s the… bathroom?

Inside said bathroom, the five of us exchange a brief, horrified glance.”

— Amie Kaufman, “Aurora Rising”

What I Liked:

  1. The Found Family Trope! Like many other books/series I’ve reviewed on my blog, this is a fiction trope that I never get tired of! I still love the stories with outcasts who’ve all had society overlook them, toss them together and they all develop a deep bond and form a chosen family aesthetic. I live for these stories.
  2. The Banter & Humor! It was a little immature at certain times, but the overall humor and banter that occurs in Aurora Rising does make it a more light and fun story amongst the many within the genre that try to take themselves too seriously. Fin is the biggest character that surrounds this, and he’s a fan favorite for sure!
  3. It’s Just Fun! Kind of going off the previous point made, I just liked the lighter tone and humor this book had to offer. There were just a few instances and one-liners that I couldn’t help but chuckle at, which honestly doesn’t happen as often as I’d like when reading. The book doesn’t take itself so seriously, and that’s totally fine! Not everything needs to be Grimmdark in order for it to be an affective story.
  4. Tyler Jones! The Captain of the crew who was so obviously inspired off of Steve Rogers—just try and convince me otherwise—and the main reason I’m including him on here is because I liked his development from doing everything by the books to ordering his crew to shoot at the officers sharp on their tails, and of course because of that one scene with our broody, muscle-bound tank, Kal. I honestly didn’t see it coming, but loved it all the same!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Many POV’s?…So, part of the reason I was drawn to this book was because I’m planning out my own Fantasy genre tale with a found family aesthetic told through multiple perspectives, and with how this book was more highly rated than a ton of other titles and for research purposes, I wanted to see how those aspects were executed. All I can really say is that while having seven POV’s in this story may have worked alright for the plot, it didn’t really allow the characters to develop as much as a lot of readers would’ve hoped for. Personally, I think 3 or 4 characters got a lot more attention in terms of the POV’s rotating around, while the others didn’t really get as much to make them stand out. Maybe that’ll change for the next books in the trilogy? I’ll admit, not all the characters need massive development all at the same time; space it out and give the weaker characters more attention in the later books!
  2. First Book Only Sets the Scene…Like I’d mentioned above, but this book suffers the “first book curse” as I’d like to call it. What I mean is how the plot seems too simple, not large enough, and the characters aren’t as developed, and all we get in the end is a mere hint of how big things will become. Essentially, the first book merely sets the scene for the whole rest of the series. This was especially apparent in the Throne of Glass series and The Hunger Games, where the plot really doesn’t thicken until at least the second book in, but not a whole lot a lot actually happens in the first. With that in mind, if this is going to be the weakest book of the set, that means the others could be absolutely amazing!


Aurora Rising is a fun, adventurous, entertaining start to a new series in the YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre that infuses “The Breakfast Club” and “Guardians of The Galaxy” into its main frame. The characters are stereotypical arcs that we’re all familiar with, but there’s hope that they’ll continue to grow and veer away from the familiarity that was initially placed upon them. The plot was fast-paced, yet simple, but again there’s the hope that so much more is going to happen! We glimpsed the tip of this iceberg, but there’s so much more below the surface.

I recommend this title to anyone else who loves the found family trope I keep talking about, who enjoy humorous & immature banter with awkward situations, and those who especially enjoy “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

As I share this review, I know the second book, Aurora Burning, has just been released recently and features our favorite moody, broody space elf, Kal (who’s totally a carbon copy of Rowan Whitethorn from the Throne of Glass series, not that that’s a bad thing)! I can definitely say I will be seeking out a copy for myself soon enough to place it next to this book on my personal library shelf.

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA Sci Fi

My Review: Scythe (Arc of the Scythe #1): by Neal Shusterman

Publish Date: November 22nd 2016
Number of Pages: 435 Pages
Publisher: Simon Shuster for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA Sci-Fi, Dystopian,

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

What It’s About:

In the not too distant future, science has achieved the ultimate discovery; we have finally achieved immortality. With an advanced database named the Thunderhead, humanity has discovered every way in which to conquer disease, illness and even death. Humans have nanites in their bloodstream to keep cells from dying out, control pain and emotions, can allow humans to stay at whatever age they like, and even revives anyone from death, which even leads to suicide as a side hobby, strange as that sounds…Of course, this causes the planet to soon become overpopulated.

To combat this situation, a police-like force named the “Scythe” was created. Like grim reapers, these robed individuals have a code they follow to keep the world from being overpopulated, so they kill or “glean” their selected targets; the method that they choose who lives and dies is entirely up to them. They are the only people not monitored by the Thunderhead, and so are the only people that are legally allowed to kill others, and have them stay permanently dead.

Rowan and Citra, two teens, are chosen to become Scythe apprentices under the older and wise Scythe Faraday, and to eventually be tested to see if they have what it takes to survive and become master’s of death. At the end of their training, they will be tested amongst the Scythe elite, and the loser will be permanently gleaned by the victor.

What I Liked:

  1. The Originality! The concept was absolutely astounding; it really makes you think about mortality, death, and if humanity will ever actually be like this. It was perhaps one of the most original novels I have ever read; It’s hard to really compare this to any other story I’ve read or even watched on screen. But as I get into the next aspect that I enjoyed, I can add that while this book is incredibly enjoyable and entertaining, its not a light read, and had an incredibly dark tone, especially for a YA Sci-Fi/ Fantasy novel. It was completely unexpected, but oh did it make the book that much more amazing in my eyes!
  2. The Social Commentary! This story really makes you stop and think about deeper subjects that are involved with the overall themes of it. Death, of course, is a huge theme in the story, but it also raised the question of how people will use power when it’s in their grasp. Do people break under the pressure, do they keep a highroad sense of responsibility, or do they let the power go to their heads, lose their humanity and become psychopaths? It also explores the idea of technology and when it goes too far, and actually causes society to go backwards. Humanity has always been about innovation and progression; creating the most high tech equipment, finding cures for diseases, ending world hunger, solving environmental issues; but what if we solve these things and it doesn’t actually fix the issue? What if it just creates a new set of issues? This idea is even seen through mankind and it’s many fallbacks. Human Nature is an incredibly complex thing, and really comes through despite all these changes technology brings to our everyday lives. The author presents a hypothesis that humans, no matter what, will fall through the cracks and that there will always those who only find ways to bend the rules and find loopholes, and can good always triumph over evil? Humans are flawed, and technology can help us reach a higher standard of perfection, but should we even go there? Should we play God in a sense, and reach levels that maybe we shouldn’t have even been able to reach in the first place? Like I said, this book really makes you stop and think; it’s more of a mind fuck than you’d ever expect.
  3. The Major Character Development! Rowan and Citra didn’t seem like much at first, but as the story develops into their training, they change immensely and it was so great to read their inner turmoil when they are brought down completely different roads of becoming a Scythe. All the while, both constantly questions themselves and wonder not just whether they want to be there, but also if they deserve to be there. They have a great relationship too; they have easy banter and quickly become close. Their interactions are actually lighter moments of the book, adding humor and some light on the dark, somber tone that this story presents. The relationship is greatly tested when the Scythe society decides that only one of them will become a full fledged officer, and must kill the loser. It’s a dark cloud that hangs over them, despite their growing attraction for each other.
  4. The Slow Building Romance. There is romance, but similar to the book versions of The Hunger Games, but it doesn’t detract from the main story or overpower it in any major way, which I can also appreciate. It’s present, but it doesn’t make the characters not see what else is important going on in the story.

What I didn’t Like:

  1. The Length of the Book…There are some moments in the story that seemed too drawn out, and dragged on for way too long. It’s a 450 page book, and it is pretty slow moving for a big chunk of it, so it could have been condensed in some areas to possibly liven it up a bit more, at least for the slower parts.
  2. The Black/White Heroes and Villains Mindset…While the book is excellent in terms of social commentary and thoughtfulness behind the ideas it presents about progression and death, the heroes and villains don’t exactly have the same attention to detail. specifically, the villains are bad and there’s not too much more given as to why they are that way. They’re bad just to be bad, and I wished that there was more depth to their methods, and more exploration on how their minds worked. I just wanted a little more explanation than what we got.


Overall, what an enjoyable read, and achieves what any piece of art is supposed to accomplish; its causes you to stop and think. It draws you in, and changes you, whether that be in a small or major way. You feel like you may see things differently and either understand or question something more now after viewing whatever work of art did this. While maybe some character work with the villains is needed, it’s still such a thought provoking work of fiction, and one of my top choices to recommend to anyone!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell