Aurora Burning: The galactic perils of Squad 312

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsAurora Burning by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsAurora Burning by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Aurora Burning (2020), the second book in Amie Kaufman’s and Jay Kristoff’s young adult SF AURORA CYCLE series, follows the tension-filled, nonstop space adventures of the teenage crew of Squad 312, recent graduates of the Aurora Academy. In the first book, Aurora Rising, the crew visited the forbidden planet of Octavia III and discovered, to their horror, that an alien hivemind, called the Ra’haam, has taken over the planet and is bent, Borg-like, on assimilating all intelligent life in the galaxy (or, perhaps, more like the group consciousness alien in Isaac Asimov’s “Misbegotten Missionary,” aka “Green Patches”). In fact, the Ra’haam have already infiltrated the command of the Global Intelligence Agency.

Now the six remaining members of the Longbow’s crew are regrouping after losing one of their members to the Ra’haam and barely escaping Octavia III. As Tyler and Scarlett Jones try to sell their Longbow in a lawless space station, they see a media broadcast blaming their crew for a massacre of thousands of people. Instantly the crew is on the run again, trying to evade both the local crime gangs and the infected GIA agents who are trying to recapture Auri, their crewmate who has been gifted with some supernatural powers by another race of aliens who fought the Ra’haam long ago … powers that she hasn’t learned to control at all yet.

Life for Tyler and his crew only gets more exciting — in a not-so-stupendous way — when the sister of Kai (another crew member) tracks him down to insist that Kai rejoin their ultra-violent Syldrathi Warbreed Cabal. You know, the group responsible for blowing up the Syldrathi planet’s sun and killing ten billion of their people, led by the man called Starslayer. But the members of Squad 312 are determined to save the galaxy from the Ra’haam threat, even if the galaxy is being uncooperative.

Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsAurora Burning is a jet-propelled space adventure for young adult readers, as Tyler, Scarlett, Auri, Kai, Finian and Zila scramble from one crisis to the next. In the process, Auri finds out more about her powers as the Trigger who has the ability to stop the Ra’haam threat, her boyfriend Kai finds that it’s not so easy to escape his past as part of a Syldrathi Warbreed family, and Tyler gets up close and personal with Kai’s hardcore sister Saedii and her monstrous drakkan, a dragon-like beast that has all the odds in its favor when Tyler is forced into a death match with it. There are also some unexpectedly poignant flashbacks to Zila’s past, clarifying why she works so hard to suppress all her feelings.

In most ways, I liked Aurora Burning even better than Aurora Rising. The snarky humor is still present, but balanced by deeper emotions and insights into the pasts and the motivations of the crew. The plot felt a lot more cohesive and original, and there are a few fantastic twists of the kind I like: unexpected but consistent with the overall plot. And I was completely enthralled by some mysterious gifts that the crew receives from some secret helpers — bizarre but helpful gifts that seem to indicate that someone, somewhere, is either time-traveling or foreseeing their future. It’s a fascinating plot element and I can’t wait to get the full explanation for it.

On the flip side, I was never all that convinced by Auri’s and Kai’s romance, though it plays a central role in the plot, or by the crew’s overreaction (in my opinion) to a surprising and highly negative fact that surfaces very late in the story. I simply couldn’t believe that they would all react the way they did. And son of a biscuit (Auri’s favorite expression), Aurora Burning might just have the worst cliffhanger in the entire history of the universe. Kaufman and Kristoff must have worked really hard to come up with a cliffhanger of that scope and magnitude. It’s almost impressive, if I didn’t find it so vexing.

With or without maddening cliffhangers, I’m still definitely on board for book three of the AURORA CYCLE. It’s a fun, action-packed series and the books are quick reads that are hard to put down.

Published in May 2020. Our heroes are back . . . kind of. From the bestselling co-authors of the Illuminae Files comes the second book in the epic Aurora Cycle series about a squad of misfits, losers, and discipline cases who just might be the galaxy’s best hope for survival. First, the bad news: an ancient evil–you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal–is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first. Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces. And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri. Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted. When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV. Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes–and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.

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TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.

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4 comments

  1. Kelly Lasiter /

    These sound like ripping good fun.

  2. Regarding the cover: In the Future, We Will All Have Great Cheekbones.

    • And violet eyes! (yes, I’m serious. There’s a fair amount of talk about Kai’s violet eyes. He’s of an alien race, though, so I guess that makes it okay.)

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