UK Publisher: Rock the Boat
Genre: Science fiction, YA
See Also: Aurora Rising
Our heroes are back. Kind of.
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 cadre of illegit GIA who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri. Or 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.
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.
I have been waiting for this book pretty much since I finished Aurora Rising. I was a little shell shocked by how much I loved the first book in the series, and felt a bit breathless after finishing it. I had to wait a few months for book two to come out, but that’s going to be nothing on the (at a minimum) year I’ll have to wait until book three.
It begins barely a couple of weeks after the end of book one, which means the characters are still pretty new to each other, and still reeling from the events of book one. There will probably be some spoilers in this review, although I’ll do my best to keep them as vague as possible.
The tone is frantic from the very beginning, with it opening on a high-speed chase an a record-scratch, freeze-frame moment than an early 2000s teen movie would admire. These books have that exact same energy and drive which makes them giddy, breathless fun to read. It also means that, with this book, when things go bad they go bad very quickly.
Aside from being on the run from both the GIA, the Aurora Legion and the killer alien race that wants to subsume the whole galazy into its hive mind, squad 312 also find themselves being chased down by an unstoppable band of Syldrathi warriors, led by Kal’s sister, who has a very limited concept of “reasonable force”, except perhaps in the sense of “it’s reasonable for me to use a lot of force”.
It feels like this book is a lot more brutal than book one, physically so, and naturally with the revelations of the end of book one the tone is darker. There’s a real sense of what’s at stake, and that these are the only people in the galaxy who can do anything about it. And there are only six of them, and no-one older than 19, and they only finished their training less than a month ago. The sense of stress is immense, which is why it came as a relief to me that they were given space to breathe a couple of times within the narrative. For me, as much as the characters, that pause gives me a chance to recalibrate and process everything that has happened.
This book also introduces the potential for time travel, but we only see the effects of it, not the how or why, and I suspect that’s going to be introduced in the next volume. This volume felt a lot like prep – the first book is a mystery story, trying to solve a conspiracy, a clue. This one feels like it’s the run up to the actual story now the conspiracy has been revealed, and there’s space for each of the characters to try and work out how they fit both within the team and the wider story in which they find themselves.
I was really pleased to see Zila getting developed more in this book, as I had hoped after finishing Aurora Rising, and there were some neat backstory developments for characters that I’m looking forward to being explored in the next volume.
There were other things which I was less keen on, in particular regarding a character’s family history. While I hadn’t entirely expected it from the beginning, I felt it was clearly foreshadowed in this version, so I don’t know whether it’s fully a spoiler, but I’ll try and keep it as vague as possible. Essentially, one of the team’s parents is revealed, and the others are betrayed by this revelation. The betrayal really bothered me – why does a character’s parentage negate everything that character has done for their teammates? If they’ve distanced themselves so far from their parent as to change their name and break contact with them for so many years, maybe – just maybe – they’ve got no responsibility for their parent’s actions and perhaps it doesn’t actually matter at all who their parents are?
Also – when were they supposed to reveal this to the rest of the team? Everyone is cross that it’s been kept a secret, but I’d love to know when would have been a good time for this information to come out. They changed their name to be able to join the academy, and you’ve all known each other for a few weeks, during which the end of the galaxy has been mooted and people keep trying to kill you. You all at once don’t really know each other, and have been dealing with a lot of other stuff. At what point was this character supposed to sit everyone down and go “By the way…”
I think this is just a pet peeve plot point of mine, because it’s done so often and I mildly resent how it plays out nearly every time. Unless they’re working as a spy on behalf of their parent, it’s irrelevant who their parents are! And we know this character isn’t, because they’ve done literally everything in their power to cut ties with their parent. I think for me it just seemed slightly lazy as a way of building tension between characters, and that didn’t fit with the quality of the rest of the two books in the series. Surely there were other ways this could have played out?
To give them the benefit of the doubt, the other side of the argument is that all the characters are, as previously mentioned, teenagers, and they’re all under an awful lot of stress, and possibly their reactions are a reflection of that, and there may be more nuance put to the situation in the next book. But man, I wish it hadn’t happened.
I’d characterise this as a traditional second instalment, the one with the training montage where all the characters are shuffled into place for the final showdown. It’s The Empire Strikes Back, setting us up for Return of the Jedi. I’m really looking forward to the next part, and I did really enjoy this one, it’s just that it managed to clock one of my pet peeves on its way past.
- Following almost immediately on from Aurora Rising, this is a solid second-novel, where the stakes are raised and the characters are positioned for the endgame portion of the story.
- There was a plot point that I was less than keen on, although this is entirely personal. It does work in the book, I just think that it could have been done in a more interesting way.
- I do still love the ensemble cast, though, and there is potential for new additions after this instalment that could be really interesting in the way they impact the team’s dynamic.
Rating: 4/5 – it’s a good book, and I’m loving this series, but man that parent thing was a niggle for me.