At long last, I have finished another book series! I’ve known about this series for a long time and it’s super hyped, but it wasn’t love at first sight for me. It took me 3 tries until I finished Illuminae. The mixed media was hard to follow at times with the first one and I wondered if I would ever finish it. But with being at home a lot more, I started falling down a YA sci-fi rabbit hole and this was on my library’s Overdrive app. So now I can say that I have completed this popular series!
Disclaimer: Spoilers ahead for all 3 books in this trilogy. Since this is a popular series and has been finished for a couple years, I wanted to talk about some spoilers! Be warned if you haven’t finished this trilogy!
Title: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Release Date: October 15th 2015 from Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Library audio book & ebook
Narrators: Olivia Taylor-Dudley, Jonathan McClain, Lincoln Hoppe and a full cast
Listening Time: 11 hours, 40 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she’d ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more–Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
So as I mentioned up above, this wasn’t the easiest book for me to get into. I had actually bought this book when it came out nearly 5 years ago and didn’t finish it. I thought the graphics and fun layouts of the pages were cool, but fully connect to the characters. So luckily, the audio books are the way to go for this series! I got both the audio book and the ebook to make sure I saw important maps, notes and other things for more context. This first book follows solely Ezra and Kady, whose home planet gets blows up and assaulted by BeiTech Industries. Then, the game of cat and mouse begins in space as the Alexander and Hiaptia ships try to out run the BeiTech dread naught ship the Lincoln. Things get absolute bonkers as not only the two ships try to reach jumps station Heimdall, but there’s also other problems lurking.
The reason why I finished this book is because of the brilliant audio production! From beeps, lasers, rumblings, screaming and other sound effects blend in perfectly with the camera footage, IMs, reports, etc. The people behind this production really want at length to make this sound like a sci-fi movie through your speakers. It’s been great to see audio books get such great treatment these days with great quality, top notch voice actors and sounds to make it fully immersive. I feel like SO much of the emotion is added to the audio book that I simply didn’t feel when physically reading it.
As far as characters, I don’t care much for Kady Grant. I liked Ezra’s personality and humor much more than our heroine. Kady is smart and determined for sure, but she still felt very emotionally detached and a little too good at her hacking skills. She hardly ever faced a challenge in this book with all she did with the A.I., helping Ezra and other things. On the other hand, I loved how Ezra was scared but still fought for survival. Plus he had a lot of charm. He felt more human to me than Kady did and I think that’s a personal preference. The other side characters though were done flawlessly. You have General Torrence, head of the Alexander ship, who ignores a lot of red flags in order to have victory or just escape. Then you have Captain Chau of the Hipatia, a medical ship, whose the voice of reason but also a hard person who gets things done. Then, there’s AIDEN, the A.I. who goes crazy! He was done great, with his dry attempt at humor and ruthless nature with him killing so many lives. AIDEN’s interactions with Kady Grant were fun and well done as well.
The main thing, besides the quality of the audio book production, that kept me going was the plot. By the halfway point, things go to crap real fast and I had to know who was going to survive. There’s the virus that makes people go psychotic that spreads on the ships, AIDEN also killing people through his twisted reasoning, Torrence and other leaders keeping secret and the countdown to when the Lincoln was going to be able to fire on both ships. The last half was much more entertaining and I kept my headphones in to see how Kady and Ezra would save the day, let alone live. There a couple of good twists that really had me floored! Then there’s the great ending that shows how the Illuminae Group is after BeiTech for what they’ve done. The ending was a slight cliffhanger, but this first book acts as a solo story for the two ships and I liked how the first book ended.
Overall: Despite having a rough start with the mixed media, Kady’s personality, the silly aspect of bleeped swearing, this was a fun sci-fi book! I’m glad I finally finished it and the narrators are fantastic. The last half provides a very satisfying thrill ride of death, action and plenty of uncertainty of where people will live or die.
Rating: .5 stars
Title: Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2)
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Release Date: October 18th 2016 from Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Library audio book & ebook
Narrators: Carla Corvo, MacLeod Andrews, Lincoln Hoppe, Steve West and a full cast
Listening Time: 12 hours, 33 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.
Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.
When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.
But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
After the cliffhanger that was in the first book, I was happy to see that this sequel was already available on Overdrive. So I jumped right in and MAN this book made me stay up late to finish listening to it. This was such an epic sequel and for me, a major improvement from the first book. We follow different primary characters on the jump station Heimdall, Hanna Donnelly and Nik Malikov. Hanna’s father is the commander of the jump station and Nik is apart of the House of Knives, a family run gang. Plus, other key players from book one still play a role and CRAP hit the fan so much in this book.
First off, I really liked Hanna and Nik more than Ezra and Kady. Hanna is a girly girl, but also was trained in fighting and strategy, since her father is military leader. She was a fun, sassy but very capable girl who was more interesting than Kady. Then, we have our charming troublemaker Nik who has come serious baggage from his past. He has rough edges but him and Hanna work really well together as they’re forced to team up when a group of highly trained, elite BeiTech groups assaults the jump station. Not only do both of them have chemistry, but also great banter and truly become a team together. This made the plot of this sequel more compelling with how much I cared for both of them.
Next, we have this C-R-A-Z-Y plot! Not only are we waiting to see what’s happened to the Hypatia ship after the first book, but also seeing how this trained group of killers are wiping out this jump station. These guys know what they’re doing and both the authors are not afraid to kill off characters and do evil things for the sake of a great plot. I loved how I don’t know whose going to live or die by the end and that tension was all over this book. I was never bored or waiting for the next revelation to occur. The overarching story is expanded on even more and I liked that this sequel didn’t have a “second book syndrome,” which can happen. Instead, we dive even more into this conspiracy and fight to survive. I don’t stay up late much anymore, but I kept my headphones in to finish the last hour and a half into the late night and that speaks to how great this sequel was. The real killer for me was how the book was wrapping up with a very convincing file saying that certain main characters had died and that the bad guys had won. Convincing the reader for a minute that the good guys lost is a HUGE plus in storytelling skills. But of course, the rug is pulled out from under you and I was so shocked but satisfied by the ending.
Finally, the quality of the narrators and overall production continues to delight me! It was great hearing my favorite narrator Steve West (who does Strange the Dreamer, An Ember in the Ashes series and more) have an important side character role in this. These narrators really give this characters the snark, emotion, chemistry and banter throughout and I truly think that I wouldn’t have finished this series if the audio books weren’t available. Adding even more character through voice alone is an achievement.
Overall: While I wasn’t quite sure how the “fixing the wormhole” worked in the end, but this a rare gem of a sequel! I loved Hanna, Ella, Nik and more of AIDEN’s POVs in this story. The plot was intense, scary at times (gross space worms…), intense and really becomes a white knuckled adventure. If you weren’t sure about the first book, try this sequel. I’m sure glad that I did. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year so far.
Title: Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3)
Authors: Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Release Date: March 13th 2018 from Knopf Books for Young Readers
Format: Library audio book & eBook
Narrators: Erin Spencer, Lincoln Hoppe, Jonathan McClain, Olivia Taylor-Dudley and a full cast
Listening Time: 13 hours
Goodreads Synopsis: From bestselling author duo Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff comes the exciting finale in the trilogy that broke the mold and has been called “stylistically mesmerizing” and “out-of-this-world-awesome.”
Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza–but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion? Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys–an old flame from Asha’s past–reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict. With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heros will fall, and hearts will be broken.
So with how much I loved Gemina, I immediately downloaded the ebook and audio book of this finale to see how it all ended! But I knew that some of my friends were disappointed with this last book, so I was a little nervous going in. There’s also a lot to wrap up in this last book. To put it simply, I feel complicated about this finale. The pacing that made Gemina so great wasn’t here in the finale. The pacing was more like the first book with this last one, with a long build up to the final section. I also think there’s always a gamble with introducing new characters in the last book of a trilogy and this gamble almost never pays off for me and it didn’t really pay off this time.
I will start with my cons first, so that my review for Obsidio will end on a high note. My first and biggest con was the introduction of two more protagonists in the last book of a series. This gamble didn’t pay off for me very well. I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about Asha Grant and Rhys being our couple in this last book. While I see how Asha’s role was important, they do feel underdeveloped compared to how much we’ve gotten to know Ezra, Kady, Hanna and Nik. Rhys especially felt like a background character instead of a main player like the other male characters. I was surprised at how much I didn’t care as much for Asha and Rhys; their romance didn’t get much time to develop like the other two couples.
My next con is the pacing of this book. The reason I loved Gemina so much was becuase things kept happening throughout, never leaving you bored. I was hoping the last book would be like that, but there were major chunks where things were so slow to build up that I was a little bored during some parts. There was a lot of talking, camera footage that tells you a lot of things and also the fact that it takes forever for our heroes to face off against BeiTech. The final showdown doesn’t happen until the last 2 and a half hours of this 13 hour audio book! The LONG build up was not worth saving the best stuff for the final 2 hours. I feel like the last HALF should’ve been the heroes facing down BeiTech, not at the 80% mark. I still don’t really understand why the authors did it this way.
The next thing that I wasn’t the biggest fan of was how AIDEN kinda became human and had a thing for Kady?! He was an A.I. that broke protocol and has murdered thousands of people! Yet he develops human like emotions for a girl? I feel like this was a weird angle that kinda distracted the story. The morals that were discussed on whether what AIDEN did was necessary or still horrible was interesting but they didn’t have to make the A.I. act human. Plus the fact that he was still functional after all that happened…this a thing that can bug me with some books. With a huge war, there’s gonna be casualties and I think AIDEN needed to have been permanently shut down to make his sacrifice worth it.
Finally, the last con that I have is that I didn’t understand what was up with Ben Garver, a guy who was the Chief of Security on Heimdall Station, but was the head of the mutiny aboard the Mao. He KILLED people and took over the ship by fear and yet they STILL let him help fight?! I get that the guy thought that his credentials made him more “worthy” than others, but I cannot believe the crew trusted him and his men to help them fight BeiTech after what they did. For me personally, that was swept under the rug and ignored.
But I do have a few positives about Obsidio. The first thing I liked was of course the audio production. The main reason I finished this series is because of the audio books, with amazing voice actors, sound effects and emotion. Things don’t stop here and all the voice actors bring everything to the table. The second pro is that I cared for Kady Grant more than I did. With all she’s been through, she had some great moments in Obsidio before I realized that I was wrong about her. I’m glad that my thoughts about her turned around. I liked how she came to light and showed her importance and her skills.
The next pro is the tension in a few sections; there were moments that make you uncertain of what’s going to happen or who to trust. One moment worthy of note is how mutiny and distrust forms on the Mao as Kady and everyone come closer to Kerenza. That build up to the major blow up of mutiny and death was insane and I didn’t expect it to turn out the way it did. These authors do a great job at surprising you at the drop of a hat. The final pro was a fantastic moment where Ezra, Kady, Ella, Nik and Hanna fight against some of the mutineers on the Mao and there’s funny action music and sound effects. This moment is from Hanna’s POV and I was giggling throughout the whole thing.
The final pro is the theme that humans are the worst monsters. We see how even though AIDEN did some awful stuff, we do see the humans are the worst monsters with what BeiTech did, got away with and also what some other people did. Especially with some of the BeiTech people on Kerenza, who followed orders with shooting innocents like children and punishing those who spoke up. Some of those soldiers really thought they were doing the right thing. Ben Garver and his men from Heimdall were the same way when they did the mutiny on the Mao. They didn’t like being ignored and didn’t remember that they had better things to do, so they satisfied those horrible egos and people died for it. But the moment where Katya was shot and Asha screamed at everyone present, asking them if they’re even human anymore…such a great moment to see how one fatal moment can make people freeze and doubt what they’ve done or thought. That theme in this series is done very well and was carried out to emotional depths in this tone.
Overall: This was just an okay finale. Some of the plot points and the pacing felt recycled from the first book and I’ll admit, not enough consequence happened with the war that happened at the end. Things were still a little too easy for our protagonists. Things took a long time to finally go down. But I still think this series is a solid science fiction adventure that needs to be a movie. The audio books were fantastic and I will remember characters like Ezra, Nik, Kady, Ella and Hanna. I recommend this series if you love audio books and YA sci-fi, but I’ll admit that I’ve read some better sci-fi out there.
Overall Series Rating: .5 stars
I get why this series is so popular, with its humor, tension and good, memorable characters. I could’ve rounded my ratings of books 1 and 3 to include the audio book quality, but all 3 of these ratings are based on the novel aspects alone. While the mixed media made me have a rough start with the first one, there’s some real highlights, especially in book 2. The second book was a perfect example of a science fiction thriller that made me keep listening. While it did take me time to warm up to Kady Grant, I did like her more in the end. I hope this series get a TV or movie treatment to bring it even more to life. It’s not my favorite series out there and I don’t know if I’ll come back to it, but I’m glad I did finish the series. It was a fun enough ride, but I’m not fully on the hype train for this one. But I’ll keep reading books from this duo of course.
What do you think of this series? Which book was your favorite? Do you agree or disagree with these thoughts? Let me know in the comments!