Aurora’s End, the final book in the AURORA CYCLE YA science fiction trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, begins and finishes with a bang — literally, lots of them — and sandwiches all kinds of wild events in between. (Note: this review includes some spoilers for the prior books in this series.)
When we left Squad 312, a group of young adult space academy grads trying to save the galaxy, at the end of book #2, Aurora Burning, they were split into three groups, ALL of them on the verge of being murdered in one way or another. As I commented in my review of Aurora Burning, “Kaufman and Kristoff must have worked really hard to come up with a cliffhanger of that scope and magnitude.” They’re either on the verge of being blown up by space missiles or being assaulted by Caersan, the psychopathic leader of a warrior clan whose warmongering Squad 312 has been trying to foil.
Caersan has a spaceship armed with incredibly powerful alien technology that was supposed to be used to stop the evil Ra’haam, an alien species that is trying to assimilate everyone in the galaxy into their hive mind. It’s kind of a Borg-like group, except they use plant spores to assimilate people instead of technology. But instead of using the ship’s weapon to kill the Ra’haam’s planets, as intended by the ship’s makers, Caersan is using it to kill the stars and planets where his enemies live and generally terrorize the galaxy.
Spoiler alert: no one in Squad 312 dies (well, at least not permanently) as those cliffhangers from Aurora Burning are worked out in the initial chapters of this book. But three of our heroes get zapped a couple of hundred years into the past, where they get trapped in a destructive time loop with a hostile space pilot. Two others in the group (along with Caersan and his weapon ship) get bounced a few decades into the future, when the Ra’haam has nearly completed its goal of assimilating all the races in the galaxy that it can and wiping out the rest. Meanwhile, in the present, the group’s leader Tyler has hooked up with Saedii, the warrior daughter of Caersan who is nearly as scary and deadly as her father, and is working overtime to convince her and her crew to let him try to prevent the Ra’haam from blowing up a conclave where the leaders of all spacefaring races in the galaxy are gathering.
The pace of Aurora’s End is very quick, almost frantic at times, and it kept me glued to my chair for an entire evening and well into the night. The writing style is breezy and the humor snarky. It’s an exciting roller coaster ride of a read, though events push the boundaries of believability. In particular, I couldn’t really buy the somewhat simplistic way the massive conflict with the Ra’haam was ultimately resolved. Since that’s the primary conflict driving this entire series, that dissatisfaction was a problem for me with this concluding book.
But all in all it’s a pretty well put-together space trilogy. The plot is satisfyingly complex, especially once the time travel element is introduced. Several of the main characters have unusual backstories, enough that they’re not cardboard cutouts. They’re also a diverse crew; though most of the diversity arises from the fact that they’re from different planets, there are some characters with different sexual orientations.
If you’re looking for a fun YA science fiction series with adventure, humor and romance, I’d recommend the AURORA CYCLE.