Fighting & Kissing Review: Aurora Rising

Aurora Rising is Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's latest scifi collab and much like the Illuminae Files, it has a fun cast of teenage troublemakers, lots of space and fun nods to famous scifi stories, and plenty of banter (the best part, honestly).

I really enjoyed this book. It's not quite as heavy as the Illuminae Files is and it plays on some fun tropes. Oh, a disclaimer: I read much too fast and often skim bits of books so if you feel like my take on something is off, it very well could be. Feel free to call me out. I probably won't read any slower but I'll readily admit if I missed something vital or important in a flurry to finish a chapter. (Seriously, I am like the worst type of reader.)

Anyway, on to the fighting and kissing bits!

Overall, the fight scenes in Aurora Rising are well-written and I wouldn't expect any less from these two powerhouse. (I loooooove Nevernight and These Broken Stars, so I might be a liiiittle biased to these authors.)

Let's break down one of the later fight scenes (no real spoilers here, so don't panic).

This scene is in a bar in a what is pretty much a hard borrow from Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. (Side note, if that movie hadn't just come out, the similarities might not bother me as much. That being said, the hard borrowing from other scifi stories was almost too much for me. There was the space ship city and there was a dude who was pretty much the Collector from MCU. But I digress...we're here for the fighting.)

It opens with:
"Kal’s open palm collides with her stomach, his elbow with her jaw, sending her backward with a spray of spit and blood. He springs from our booth, lashing out at another two Syldrathi and sending them stumbling away with bloody lips and broken noses."
Obviously, I have no qualms with the writing style at all. Present tense is great for fight scenes and really puts the reader in the moment. Open palms are not my favorite strike of choice but that is generally because I am small and have less-than-desirable wrist strength. However, Kal is described as a big, Syldrathi (alien-race) dude. So, open palm for a big-framed guy well over six feet? Totally acceptable. And I'm all about the elbows. Always, always effective no matter the size of the fighter.
"Kal’s still holding his glass, and he swings it in a lightning-quick arc against another Syldrathi’s head."
Well, this line sort of snagged me up. If one of his hands was open-palmed, then that one didn't have the glass. And it's not....impossible to elbow someone while still holding a glass but I really wouldn't recommend it.
1. It would definitely make it harder to get your elbow/forearm in the right position.
2. I have no idea how it would actually work trying to elbow and hold onto something breakable at the same time. Maybe I'll try it at the gym tomorrow with a water bottle. See how it fares. All in the name of book fight science!
"For such a big guy, he’s perfectly fluid, and as he fends off a return punch, then delivers a haymaker of his own, it’s like every movement is choreographed in a perfect deadly dance."
Ah, the haymaker. Generally, a punch used by drunk people or people who don't know how to fight and swing for the fences. Trained fighters do use them but I wouldn't say they use them often. It's important to note that there are different kinds of fighters - those trained for combat in the ring/cage and those trained for disarming opponents in any situation / John Wick type stuff. Similar skills but utilized differently. In a cage fight, a haymaker might be a good way to get past someone's guard or set up for another move or connect with a taller opponent.

Now, if you're John Wick...I just don't see you using a haymaker in a bar fight when you've got a wide array of killer skills that are better. The punch puts you open for retaliation from either the dude you're fighting, or his friends nearby. It's a wide open hook-type punch that, personally, I feel ust wouldn't be the smartest move by a trained fighter in a bar. But again, that's just me. *Generally, my write-the-fight advice, would be to save the haymakers for your dumb thugs and guys who need to get beat by your MC.

Last bit:
"Ty’s trading blows with his opponent, dancing back and forth like a boxer. Kal is swaying and weaving, saying something to his adversary that draws a snarl from the man, which Kal promptly ends by knocking out his teeth."
I love this paragraph. It's visual but not overly descriptive that it takes away from the action. I also really like it when authors leave gaps in the narrative so that my imagination can take over. The last line doesn't say how Kal knocked his opponent's teeth out -- just that he did. So, now my fun fight brain gets to imagine whatever exciting way that happened. Push kick to the face? A straight cross? This is good writing advice for fight scenes - less can be more when phrased well.

So, to recap the fight writing tips:
1. Check to make sure the moves you want your characters to do are moves that are appropriate for their size.
2. When in doubt, test moves! (Excuse me while I go elbow things whilest holding a cup.)
3. Haymakers are better for untrained fighters
4. Less can be more aka leave room for reader imagination.

Onto the kissing....

This book has a lot of romantic tropes that I fully support and love. A strong, silent warrior type who doesn't exactly handle his feelings well? Yes, please!!!

Okay Spoilers from here on out - read at your own risk!
Seriously, very spoilery.
I have mixed feelings about the whole 'mates' thing and this book actually clarified those feelings for me. Which I was not expecting from a scifi or from this book at all! Surprise!

In this story, the warrior alien character feels what is essentially like a mating bond with one of the main girl characters. Now, this was set up in SUCH a good way that I definitely ship this sooo hard now and will probably buy the next book solely for this relationship.

Kristoff & Kaufman call their mating bond the Pull. And it's only something that this one elfish-like alien race experiences. It is fae-like in essence (down to the pointy ears) but not as much in practice.

First of all, its not a main plot line at all. Second, instead of being kept secret from the female character, he pretty much tells her shortly after we find out what he's experiencing. Yay, honesty!

The other thing that works really well here is that the female character woke up after 100+ years of cryosleep. She has nothing to tie her to this time or place other than this ragtag group of forced (at first) friends. This Pull gives her something tangible, something that she can grasp onto. So, it fits very well for her character.

Now, after he tells her, she (of course) is slightly freaked out and totally blindsided. But as the story unfolds (it's told from various POVs so it takes a bit to circle back to the relationship. Yes, I was crying and impatient the whole time. Who cares about plot? ARE THEY GOING TO KISS?), she approaches him with the idea that she'd like to try and see where it might go. Not that she's gonna love him immediately forever and forever in some much-too-intense way. But she's willing to feel it out.
"I look up sidelong at him for a moment, wishing he’d meet my eyes, but he’s steadfastly concentrating on our surroundings. And as the silence stretches and I consider his words, it strikes me that he’s not the only one who needs to find a way to walk his path."
I looooove this. They're both in a similar place - both lost from their homes and unsure of where they fit in the universe. Please kiss now.

She even hates that this whole Pull thing was beyond his control.
“I’m sorry,” I finally say. “That you don’t get to choose for yourself.” 
He glances up to the sky briefly, sunlight glinting in those violet eyes.  
“Do moons choose the planets they orbit? Do planets choose their stars? Who am I to deny gravity, Aurora? When you shine brighter than any constellation in the sky?”
Uhhhh, I'm melting soooo hard right now. PLEASE KISS HIM! There's some more talking and thinking and the writers reminding me that they're on a hostile planet in space suits so there is ZERO chance of kissing right now and I'm very sad and then she says this:
“Would you consider letting me make up my own mind about you? I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep, but did it ever occur to you that if you let me get to know you, I might like you back?”
So great!!!! To reduce the whole mating bond to this -- 'I might like you back. 'And I'm being serious, not sarcastic. So many of the books with mates don't really give this a chance. They're either straight into the sex and then they sort of get to know each other/like each other (and sometimes I'm in the mood for that.) Or its just a little too intense or too stalker-ish for me (not usually in the mood for that.)

But this whole scene made me realize that when done properly, the fated/mated trope can be so powerful. (It probably helps that the characters and the writers are poking a little fun at the whole idea.)

And also there's this amazing line:
"It's not an easy question. I'm asking him to let an already-lifelong bond strengthen so that it will hurt even more if he leaves, and I don’t know what I’ll be able to offer in return."
Because now this whole idea is less about some inexplicable bond bringing two random people together. It's about being in a relationship. That's what relationships are, opening your heart to someone who might be more than you ever thought. Or not. They might be less than you ever thought. It's risky! But also beautiful and I think the authors captured that so well right here. Fated/mated is all well and good if the characters are given a chance to actually like each other first. (Plus that gets you into the sloooow burn territory!)

Which leads kissing in this book. SO DEVASTATING!!!!

But there is a super fun kiss between the alien warrior and the cocky team leader in order to throw off suspicion which was HILARIOUS. Talk about flipping tropes upside down. So, so great. And I'll just have to live with that for now until the sequel comes out...

...There better be more kissing.


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