3.75 out of 5 stars
Excellent series, strong finish, but I still hate time loops.
I love The Aurora Cycle, and as a series, I’d give the whole thing 4.25 stars. It started out whiz-bang in Aurora Burning (4.5 stars), sunk it’s teeth into Aurora Burning (4 stars), and gave a graceful, if overly practiced, bow in Aurora’s End.
Spoilers ahead for Books 1 and 2 only. What would you be doing here if you hadn’t read those anyway?
In this series finale, our beloved Squad 312 make their final attempt to defeat the planet-eating hive mind alien species Ra’haam from consuming the galaxy. Tyler has gone from head bitch on campus to public enemy number one. Scarlett, Fin, and Zila are attempting to science the shit out of, well, everything. Auri and Kal battle the Starslayer, the Ra’haam, and the space-time continuum while be’shmai-ing each other every thirty seconds. In true Kaudfmann x Kristoff fashion, everything has gone to hell and destruction is moments away.
Aurora’s End beautifully ties up the storylines left floating by the first two books. What are the rest of the items from the bank vault? How did they end up left for our heroes in the past? Time bends and warps in this book, satisfying without being too confusing, and offering more than one a-ha! moment. The history and future of Aurora Academy, along with the many races of the galaxy, unfold simultaneously. We’re thrilled to learn that Squad 312 integral to them all.
The misfit cast’s signature selves pay off to a man. Everyone has been a star in this series, and those who’ve had less screen time get their big days here. Loveable sidekicks Fin and Zila step to the front, and you realize the authors have probably loved them best all along. Tyler gets gravitas, Scarlett sees her value. Kal goes to the mattresses for Auri, and Auri does the same for all live in the ‘verse. Even Saedii, whose one-dimensionality was my only real qualm with Aurora Rising, is better here. There’s still a wearying and repetitive amount of belligerence every time the Warbreed get to talk, but it’s not entirely her character’s burden to bear anymore.
Despite all that, and to my chagrin, Aurora’s End uses a plot device I generally depside: the time loop. Cool in theory, very difficult to pull off without boring me to tears. [Not a spoiler, this is how the book opens.] In this case, Fin, Scarlett, and Zila get stuck in one. It takes a few times for them to notice, then to start affecting their reality, then to form a plan, then to… by this point, it’s been going on forever. Disclaimer: This was likely a much bigger problem for me because I listened to the audiobook. On the page, I would have skimmed, eliminating some of my frustration. But the fact that a time loop trope requires repetition makes listening to each word, read at the same speed, over and over again, agony. If Amie & Jay can’t do this, no one can. And I think if they’ve listened to their work read aloud before submitting final edits, they’d have shaved a lot off the first quarter of this book just to save us listeners.
Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not quite The Illuminae Files, but it’s close. The Aurora Cycle has never been a series where the main characters are presumed safe. The perils that abound engaged me most in this installment, sure that with so many favorites, at least one would be sacrificed. And with Squad 312, you know they’d each take that for their team. Just about everyone gets a chance to try in Aurora’s End, and it makes that end very satisfying.