Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff


Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: October 20, 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 1760113808
Pages: 608
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The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, exes Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to fight their way onto the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship is 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 enemy; and nobody in charge will say what the hell is going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

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.


4 stars

Illuminae is an imaginative, epic and intense first instalment to a new sci-fi trilogy by Aussie authors, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. #LoveOzYA. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the book launch in Sydney and have my copy signed and personalised by Amie and Jay! I’m so happy to have this beautiful book in my possession.

The formatting and graphics of the book were definitely the standout aspect of Illuminae. It’s very creative and is a feast for the eyes. This book is written completely as a series of classified materials, including email exchanges, dossiers, radio transcripts, ASCII art, and the inner thoughts of an artificial intelligence system. It’s an extremely unique book with lots to look at! I really appreciated how much thought and work went into creating graphics that made sense with what was happening in the story. I wish I could show you some of my favourite pages but copyright issues… You’ll just have to pick up your own copy 🙂

Despite being very impressed with the visual aspect of the book from the very beginning, I was less impressed with the plot. I had a very hard time getting into the book. The first couple of scenes were a bit confusing because names were just being dropped everywhere and I had no idea what was going on. Luckily there were a few pages that summarised everything that happened in the opening scene and I was able to immerse myself into the action. The following 150 pages were quite slow with nothing much happening, and I just found it to be a bit boring and underwhelming. During these first 200 pages, the most interesting aspect, for me, was the romance. The book picked up for me at about the 200 page mark, and that was when I started seeing what the hype was about.

The last half of the book was definitely more impressive. There’s a lot more action and intensity, and it had my heart racing because I never knew what was going to happen next. It was so thrilling and action-packed, and the last 150 pages of the book had some of my favourite pages to look at. Having said that, I felt like the book was just a bit too long. The plot felt very drawn out and I think the book could have been 100 pages shorter. We were getting a play by play of everything that happened and I think some of it could have been cut out. As I was reading, I kept wondering how this was going to be a trilogy because there’s so much that happens in just this first book. But the ending was tied up really neatly and there’s definitely potential for more books – I just have no idea what will happen next.

Despite being written in such a impersonal format, I had a really good sense of who the characters were. I felt a little bit disconnected from them at the beginning, but as we got to see more of them, I started to really like our two main characters, Kady and Ezra. Kady was a fighter and I loved her strength and determination. It was also apparent what a good person she is, and I felt the same way about Ezra. But while I liked them separately, I loved them together. The romance between the two of them was what got me through the first third of the book. I thought they were adorable together and the banter between the two characters was really fun to read.

I wonder if she is the kind to dream of happy endings and never risk tragedy. The kind to close her eyes and hope, rather than force them open and see the truth, wonderful and terrible as it is.

There are some pretty gruesome things that happen on the spaceships – the authors definitely don’t hold back. There’s lots of blood and guts, and headless dead bodies lying on the ground. There’s a lot of death, and a lot of the characters that we get to know, end up dying in pretty sad and grotesque ways. It was interesting and scary to see how people act in life or death situations. There’s also an artificial intelligence system (AIDAN) that may or may not be psycho and it was actually kind of terrifying to be able to hear the inner thoughts of a machine – especially one who won’t stop introspecting about everything. At first I thought AIDAN was really weird, but he/it really grew on me and I ended up loving his sections the most. They were the most interesting to read and I liked that the last third of the book was dominated by AIDAN passages.

The one aspect that I found lacking was the world building. Because Illuminae is set almost entirely on spaceships, there’s not much information given about the planet they came from, or any of their potential destinations. We get to see blueprints of these spaceships (which was really cool!), but we don’t know very much about the workings of these spaceships, or what’s out there in space. I guess this really allows the authors to do whatever they want with the next two books, and introduce things that weren’t mentioned in Illuminae, but I would have liked to have known more about the world and what the authors think space is like in 2575.

So just to recap, I loved the formatting and the design of Illuminae, and thought it was the most noteworthy aspect of the book. I enjoyed the characters and the relationships between them, but I thought the plot was a bit too slow and draggy in parts. The beginning of the book left me quite underwhelmed but the last 150 pages were really epic and fun to read.


39 thoughts on “Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

  1. aentee @ read at midnight says:

    As you know, the only thing I enjoyed about this book was pretty much the beautiful formatting! The first part bored me a little, and it picked up in the latter half but never enough for me to love it. I will still buy all the future instalments due to the pretties though. Thanks so much for nabbing me a signed copy ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Samantha Reed says:

    This book killed me! I loved it so much 😱 I really loved the infected, I just called them zombies – they were terrifying. I had never read a book like this before and it completely rocked my world.

    This is a beautiful review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lydia Tewkesbury says:

    Great review. I have heard a lot of interesting things about this book. I just finished reading Dracula, which is all made up of diary entries and letters. I really enjoyed that style, so I’m looking to read more of it. This sounds like it would be perfect. The dystopia genre has been desperately in need of some creative story telling for a while. Maybe this book will make way for more interesting dystopian reads in the future. I’m also really intrigued by the idea of a romance being played out without our being in the mind of one half of the couple. I will definitely get this one when it comes out in the UK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      I didn’t know Dracula was written that way. Hmm maybe I’ll pick it up and give it a go (except I have about 40 unread classics on my shelf so I should probably tackle those first).

      The romance was definitely interesting. We do get to read email/messaging conversations between the two main characters but we don’t get their inner thoughts and feelings. Oh no, I’m sad that it’s not out in the UK yet. The whole world should have access to this book! It’s beautiful.


      • Lydia Tewkesbury says:

        I think it comes out soon. I am the same with classics. I have an endless list I am planning to get to eventually. Dracula was okay. It wasn’t amazing – there are parts that drag – but it was interesting and I’m glad I read it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nicolette Elzie says:

    I’m super interested in this book now for both the aesthetics and the writing style. Since I’m always trying to find books that were successful at world building/ and ones that lacked, I am interested in seeing how this one missed the mark. Also, I was wondering, do you have any rec’s for fantasies that are just fantastic, that just sort of blew your mind in all categories: plot, character, pacing, world building etc? Reading books like that helps me write better because I see the example. Any rec’s you have would be amazing Jenna!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      A lot of people liked the world building in Illuminae (or how much they got to know about the world despite the format of the book). But I wanted to know more about the planets and stuff, instead of just the big black void of space that I already know about.

      I’m actually more of a contemporary reader, and I’m still slowly getting into fantasy and catching up on series that I should have read so I don’t have that many recommendations. I really liked Snow Like Ashes (it’s one of my favourite books of all time and I have a review). I didn’t like the sequel as much but I thought the world was still great in that book. I also love The Infernal Devices. And of course, Miss Peregrine’s blew my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nicolette Elzie says:

        Thank you so much! I know that was a tough thing for me to ask bc I know that you mainly read contemporaries but I wanted to know bc I really value your opinion! So thank you a million times for this rec’s! I also love the infernal devices! ❤️ Will Herondale forever! And Miss Peregrine has been on my TBR forever and I am realizing I need to re-prioritize!!!! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

          Haha giving recommendations isn’t tough! It’s one of my favourite things to do. But I feel like with fantasy, I’ve just read series that everybody else has already read. I really recommend Miss Peregrine’s! It really took me by surprise. It’s got a great cast of characters, an awesome time-loopy world, lots of historical elements and a great plot overall. I can’t wait to see the movie!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Aila @ One Way Or An Author says:

    Glad you liked it, even though it didn’t WOW you or anything! Isn’t the romance just swoooooon? ❤ I agree that we're suddenly thrust into tons of action, and very little explanations in regards to what's happening in the world. I do believe on Goodreads' page for the whole series, each book will be about a different couple continuing the story, which would be interesting. But then again, we can't really trust GR haha.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Trisha Ann says:

    Love love love your detailed review, Jenna!

    When you said something about names being dropped anywhere and thus, became slightly confusing, Illuminae sorta reminded me of The Maze Runner. That series was a struggle but I have positive hopes Illuminae will be more than that 😀😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      Oh it was really only the first 20-30 pages that was confusing because it jumps right into the action, without explanation of all the planets and spaceships and stuff. But you get like 3 pages from a ‘Unipedia’ page, which explains the whole opening scene in detail. The rest of the book is a bit easier to understand. I haven’t read The Maze Runner but I’ve been told to just watch the movies because they’re better.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Amy says:

    I am so excited to get my copy!! I didn’t know Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff were Australian! YAY Australian YA! I know you said you found the formatting a little impersonal but I’m super keen to see how the unique formatting flows in the book! I don’t really have a problem with long books – the longer the better!! Everyone seems to be raving about this book and I am so keen to get aboard the hype train! Great review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Zoe says:

    “Am I not merciful?”


    So glad you liked this as much as I did Jenna. I completely agree with what you’ve said here. The romance, the characterization, and the writing all combined to make such a unique and spellbinding book. Can’t wait for book 2! Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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