Review — Aurora Rising

Rating — 2.5 stars (sorry for the inclusion of so many negative reviews on this blog, but I find it easier to write longer, more constructive negative reviews than positive ones. If you want to read more of my positive reviews, you can shoot me a friend requests on my Goodreads.)

Warning — this review contains slight spoilers

I’ve been struggling with what to rate this book — mainly because, to be honest, this isn’t the worst book I’ve ever read (far from it), but it’s far from the best. As a successor to the Illuminae Files it was certainly disappointing, but a lot of the book was actually pretty solid. I liked the found family elements, and the representation (it featured disabled rep as well as limited LGBT rep, but more on that later). The plot was… fine. I found the heist elements fun, and I was already interested in the space opera style of the overarching plot considering that I already love sci-fi, but other than that it didn’t elicit any sort of strong reaction from me, other than making me think that this book was mildly looking up. And I suppose the worldbuilding was interesting enough too — but that may just be my vested interest in sci-fi talking.

The problem with this book, then, is the people who have to interact with the plot and the universe created. The problem is the characters and their relationships, and most of all that stuff infuriated me and pushed my rating down from what could have been 3.5 stars, or maybe even 4 stars if I was feeling generous. 

I’ll start with the characters, and by saying that I think the authors really shot themselves in the foot here by including seven different POVs. One or two I can understand, of course, even 3 or 4 to some extent, but any more than that is just too many POVs for a reader to handle. It limits the writer’s ability to develop a unique voice for each character to help their readers identify and form opinions on their characters. 

The problem, therefore, with including seven POVs means that most of them just blended together, and since their voices were all the same it was difficult for me to pick apart their unique personality traits, if they even had any — I think there were about three different personality traits spread between the seven characters. Finian was my favourite of these characters (mostly because I related to his whole thing of being the funny one who hides their vulnerabilities with sarcastic quips) and I think he should go to the doctor to get his shoulders checked, as they must be strained from carrying the weight of this entire cast.

However, the rest of the cast was either completely flat or defined by a hint of a personality trait; it made it very hard for me to care about them. Cat was just what would happen if you mixed Scarlett and Finian’s personalities, Scarlett was also a stereotypical femme fatale, Aurora was an Eleven knockoff who’s only personality trait was being confused, Zila was an Entrapta knockoff, Tyler was just blandly heroic, and I don’t even know where to start with Kal. Most of their voices all blended into one after a while.

Furthermore, all the relationships between the characters were underdeveloped and bland. You know what the writing of the romantic subplots reminded me of? When you’re writing a fanfic based on something with an ensemble cast, and you have your main pairing which you’re putting at least an iota of effort into, but then you have to pair off the rest of the cast into side pairings with characters they’ve spoken to twice in canon. In this book the main relationship was maybe Cat and Tyler, but all three pairings were written like side pairings. In fact, one of the relationships only happened because of some kind of mating bond, which I suspect was added in to avoid having to write any sort of chemistry between those two characters. 

There is also the issue of rep, in that Finian is heavily implied to be bi or pan (this is never stated outright, though). You’d think, considering the two M/F relationships already present in the story, that he would end up with a male character, but nope! If you were hoping for proper LGBT representation instead of just crumbs, this is not the book for you. Of course I understand that bi/pan people can be in M/F relationships, but considering the ensemble cast of seven and the two other M/F pairings, there were plenty of opportunities to make more than one LGBT character and to pair Finian with a man. Instead, we got another rushed M/F relationship that came out of nowhere and had barely any believable build up or chemistry. In fact, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure Finian and Scarlett only had one one-on-one conversation together before it turned romantic. That’s just lazy, bad writing.

There were other, smaller things that bothered me too — the girl-on-girl hate, which should really have no place in a book published in 2019, as well as the fake swear words. Aurora’s constant use of “son of a biscuit” and “mothercustard” drove me up the fucking wall. I get that you can’t include swear words in YA on the same level as you can in adult books, but editing Aurora’s speech around that instead of making up these infuriating swear words for her to use would have been so much easier! Aurora’s powers were also used as a deus ex machina at some points, as it seems awfully convenient that her powers would kick in whenever the group was in trouble and that she somehow got control over her powers right before the climax.

In conclusion, this book had a lot of potential but that potential was squandered by terrible romantic relationships and bland characters. I wanted to like it, but sadly 2.5 stars was as high as I could go.

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