Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

This is the first book in the The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, a young adult sci-fi trilogy.


This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations 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, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. 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’s really 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.

BRIEFING NOTE: 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.

I feel like I normally do okay with getting my thoughts and words out to write reviews but this one is so hard because all I can think is “oh my god oh my god omgomgomg so good so so so good you should read it and go, omg, too”.  Which isn’t very insightful despite how accurate.

I think the most obvious and important thing to point out first is the way it’s written.  Just like the description said, it’s a dossier of hacked files mainly surrounding the two lead characters Kady and Ezra.  This is probably the most unique book format I’ve ever read.  I was definitely intimidated by this when I first looked into this book.  However, the narrative and plot are not disjointed or negatively impacted at all and it actually makes the book extremely fast paced and immersive.  The world building and character development show through in a writing style where they could have easily been lost.  Though, because this is a series, I did very much pick up that this is just the tip of the iceberg for both character development and world building.  I left wanting more of both Kady and Ezra but also wanting much much much more world building, not because the story felt lacking but because I enjoyed it so much I want to know more.

Kady is our heroine and she has more character development than Ezra, who I can’t really say had much other than learning to adapt to their new situation after the invasion. But I love how even through the unique story layout, you get a sense of how smart, snarky, and loving both of these characters are. Shipping them was easy but with the stakes being so high, it was also very nail biting and nerve wracking. Also Kady is a really independent badass hacker chick and I was all for it.

The spaceship’s AI plays a huge role and definitely gave me feels of 2001 A Space Odysessy and iRobot. The whole story is so crazy: your planet is invaded, you evacuate, the AI might be against you, the bad guys are still out for you, families are separated, there are conspiracies afoot, and a freaking insane plague outbreak?! The plague really just elevated this story to the next level, and if done any other way could have made the story too over the top and convoluted but was so well written that it was believable and made the story better.

I’m a big romance fan so I loved the added element of the Kady/Ezra ship but I felt it did take a backseat to all the action.  Also because the story is not in either of the character’s actual POV due to the nature of the story telling and layout, the romance is more removed.  It was also more about Kady and Ezra really only having each other left and how the tragedy of the events affected their feelings for each other.  Basically it’s still really good, but not overwhelming for those not looking for a full on romance.

This was the best book I’ve read all year (probably tied with A Court of Mist and Fury – but for very different reasons).  I feel like my review is not doing it at all the justice of  “OMG SO GOOD” that I feel.  It’s such a cool story, very sensory, and literally had me flying through it so fast – insanity after insanity kept happening and there was never really a break in the action. I am beyond excited to read the next two books and I hope they live up to how fantastic this first book has been.

Also the book censors the swear words which I actually LOVE because 1) it was fun guessing what the words are and 2) it felt way more realistic because, while I get YA is censored, when shit goes south in stories I ALWAYS think to myself that the characters would be swearing their faces off in real life. Like you could never convince me in war, space invasions, battle games to the death etc etc they wouldn’t be throwing around the F word left and right. So although the words are marked out, you know they were actually there and the characters said them.

Anyways, read this book, it’s really really great. It is technically a YA novel but I feel like anyone can enjoy it, even those who don’t typically read YA.

Recommend to fans of science fiction, AI, and stories set in space, with some romance. Also recommend to everyone.

5 stars!


  1. I’ve always been so intimidated by this book because of the size and format – I just didn’t know what to expect from all the different mediums in one book! But you’ve convinced me – your review has made me so jealous I haven’t read this yet! I need to get on it!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Part of the size has to do with the formatting, so like a couple of pages will be spaced out IM conversations, so it looks bigger than it really is and I read it super fast. I’m so glad my review convinced you to give it a try!! Please come back and tell me what you think! And/or I’ll keep an eye out for your review!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I think the hype and the format had me weary for a while but I’m SO glad I gave it a go and loved it. I’d be excited to get your thoughts on it if you decide to pick it up!


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