Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – Review

It’s been a few days now since I finished Illuminae. Maybe a week. I’ve been trying to write a review ever since I flipped the last page, and the words just don’t come.


Illuminae blew me away.

It’s one of those books that leaves you slightly breathless, and well, speechless too.

I’m hoping a week is long enough to let the book settle and fade so I can write a mildly coherent review. Though it’ll probably just sound like vague screaming anyway. THIS IS GOING TO BE A MESSY REVIEW, JUST SAYING.



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.

my thoughts

“The universe owes you nothing, Kady. It has already given you everything, after all. It was here long before you, and it will go on long after you. The only way it will remember you is to do something worth remembrance.”

Okay, so looking back, the synopsis for this sounds totally superficial. A girl and her ex have to talk to each other or the WORLD WOULD END—like that’s totally over-the-top dramatic and so cliché right?


I put Illuminae on my TBR months ago when I had practically first discovered it. There was so much hype over the series and I was so excited to start it you have no idea. (Remember my rant? I was THAT excited.)

It often happens that a book as hyped-up as Illumiane falls flat often and quickly. When something is built up that high, it’s really easy to create unrealistic expectations that the book can’t deliver. It wasn’t that way with Illuminae. It not only lived up to the hype, it surpassed it. It thrived on it.

It’s books like this I want to throw at people who say that “reading is boring.” BECAUSE GOODNESS GRACIOUS HOW DARE YOU. Read Illuminae. I promise you it’s anything but boring. It gripped me from the start and never let go. It was exhilarating to get lost in, for a little while.

Originally, I wasn’t too sure I’d like the format. Illuminae is basically a “file” of various documents: security footage transcripts (the closest to our dear old narrative), interviews (in script form), online articles, emails, diary entries, and code (sort of). I felt like it might not flow—that it might feel choppy. But it wasn’t. There was a unique feel to reading a compilation of documents like that—as if I was let in on a secret research project or something. (That probably sounds strange, but if you read it, I bet you’ll understand. ;)) It was fascinating.

Now, if you’ve read any of my reviews at all, you know I’m crazy about worldbuilding. CRAZY. So to you vets, yes, it’s that time again….muhahahaha.

Due simply to the format of the novel, it would (reasonably) be very difficult to develop a good sense of the world involved. And for me, knowing the setting of a scene is critical. Strangely enough, though, in spite of there being no direct focus on worldbuilding anywhere, I had a very clear image in my head of every setting in every scene. Weird right? Good worldbuilding is effortless; the best shouldn’t even be noticed—the transition should be that smooth. And with Illuminae? It’s totally on-point. One of the best I’ve read, honestly.

So I’ve talked about worldbuilding. I’ve done my crazy book-nerd duty. We can move on now… You’re welcome.

The plot itself was fantastic and pretty complex. There were so many twists and turns I almost couldn’t keep up with it. It was thrilling; in the best way. I was left reeling more than one time, not to mention being out for an hour in my nerdy grief… When a book makes me feel that much, well, it’s instantly one of my favorites. ;) (To be honest, it was locked in to a five star rating from basically the first chapter.)

What really made it soar, though, was the characters. From our main two to the supporting characters to the villain himself (itself?)—they all shined with authenticity and were so very memorable. The relationships and tensions between them were realistic, all the characters actually acted their age (which happens a lot less often than one would think), and all their actions made sense considering who the characters were. Everything was in line. There was never a moment when I caught a character acting unlike themselves. (Not to say that they were predictable, either.) Every character grabbed my heart in a unique way…almost surpassing my precious Six of Crows squad (but that could never happen on this earth. ;)) In any case, I think it’s fair to say that Ms. Kaufman and Mr. Kristoff are characterization masters. ;)

One of my favorite parts of the book, though, was the villain. I love developed villains that break the typical pattern of just being “the bad guy” with practically no reason at all for being that way except for “not liking the hero.” It gets old, honestly. But Illuminae’s villain was nothing like that. Instead, it had to be one of the best, most well-written villains I’ve ever read in YA. The villain had considerable depth and was the hero of its own story, which is always the best combination for a scary villain, in my opinion. ;) There was an intense dedication that the villain had to its mission that was actually pretty frightening. Very well done, if I do say so myself.

Illuminae was one of the most—if not the most—creative books I’ve ever read. From the format, to the story, to the villain itself. I’ve never read anything like it and I don’t think I ever will again. It was enthralling in its own special way. Illuminae has made its way on to my favorites shelf (and for a girl who doesn’t like sci-fi all that much, that’s saying something).

dirty talk


The language in Illuminae was “censored,” so prolific profanity is blacked out. (That was really nice!) However, not all cursing is censored, which was strange. G**d**n was used more than a dozen times (over 600 pages, don’t let the “dozen” number fool you, it’s not all that frequent), h**l was used about two dozen times, and d**n and its variants 10 times.

Violence • • • • •

A plague (and its side effects) gets pretty intense; characters are killed and injured. Action sequences aren’t very frightening, and only a few are described vividly. They’re relatively frequent, though.

Sensuality • • • •

Lots of innuendo, some suggestive conversations. The sensuality is mainly verbal, however, as there is only one kiss in the entire book.

Substances  • • • • •

None that I can recall.

For more about my content ratings and what they mean, click here.