Illuminae & Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (Spoiler-Free) Book Review

Hi all!

This year I’ve decided to read and review books that I absolutely loved in 2017. They will be predominately YA (Young Adult Fiction) as this is my favourite genre of all time. My very first review on this blog will be of two books I was blown away by in February. It will also be spoiler-free so you can get a taste for what the books are about, without being exposed to the big twists and turns that will inevitably speed up your heart rate as they did mine. I’m also proud to write that these books were co-authored by  two incredibly imaginative, witty and intelligent writers from Melbourne, Australia (my home!). Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman are a formidable team that came together in 2015 to create The Illuminae Files. This series is a trilogy with the third and final book being released later this year. Needless to say, I cannot wait for it!



It’s pretty rare that I will read a book twice but when it came to  Illuminae, I couldn’t help myself and I strongly recommend all readers follow suit. When I say you should read it twice, I encourage you to pick up a physical copy of the book and also listen to the audio CD. The audio book is an experience in itself. With a cast of over twenty narrators and interstellar sound effects, you literally feel like you’re flying through space on an incredible journey with the characters. The physical book however, is also unique in the way it is presented. Despite it being nearly 600 pages long, you could easily read it in a day. Even my husband flew through it! The entire story is told in a series of dossiers, interviews, transcripts, images and more. See examples here:


The year is 2575 and teenagers Kady Grant and Ezra Mason have just broken up at school when their planet Kerenza, is invaded by an evil corporation named BeiTech Industries. Amidst the chaos of escape, Kady winds up on the Hypatia, a research vessel and Ezra on the Alexander, a fighter ship that responded to Kerenza’s distress call. Kady’s mother (who is a doctor) ends up on the Copernicus, a heavy engineering vessel. All 3 ships, filled with civilians, flee Kerenza with BeiTech’s dreadnought the Lincoln, pursuing them. Their only means of salvation is to reach the jump-station Heimdall which is 6 months away (where Kady’s father works) and the Lincoln is close to interception. Kady is a gifted systems hacker and Ezra is conscripted as a fighter pilot. Kady’s mother Helena, attends to the sick aboard the Copernicus who are ill with an airborne virus named Phobos.Through unobserved channels, Kady and Ezra begin communicating to discern what is going on. Their captains are incredibly secretive and the Alexander’s Artificial Intelligence, AIDAN, is suspected of corruption. Who’s side is AIDAN on and will the civilians reach Heimdall before the Lincoln or the Phobos virus kills them first?


This book is incredibly intense. There are so many moments I had to put it down, take some calming breaths and continue. Having said that, it is also extremely funny. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s witty, sarcastic tones come through in the characters back and forth interactions. Even AIDAN, an AI devoid of human emotion, is humorous in its observations and assessments. You will find yourself loving and hating characters simultaneously. You will mourn those that fall and you will root for the heroes. The story is endearing, captivating and stressful all at the same time. Prepare for lots of emotion and blindsiding twists.


Kady Grant: 17. Pink Hair. Sarcastic. Awkward. Hacker. Ezra Mason’s ex-girlfriend aboard the Hypatia.

Ezra Mason: 18. Tall. Gee-Ball Player. Hopeless Romantic. Kady Grant’s ex-boyfriend aboard the Alexander.

Byron Zhang: Chubby. Late-20’s. Asian. Hacker. Research Officer aboard the Hypatia.

Captain David Torrence: Commander of the Alexander. Brusque. Angry.

Captain Ann Chau: Commander of the Hypatia. Direct. Loyal.

Helena Grant: Kady’s mother. Doctor. Kind. Loving. Attending to injured aboard the Copernicus.

AIDAN: The Alexander’s AI. Intelligent. Cunning. Contemplative. Merciful.

Sergeant James McNulty: Funny. Loyal. Ezra Mason’s best friend and fellow conscript aboard the Alexander.




So the question is: which book did I love more? Illuminae or Gemina? I’m going to have to say I loved Gemina more than Illuminae but only slightly because they were both so mind-blowingly good. I have not yet listened to the audio book for Gemina but I plan to very soon so I can have the same double experience I had with Illuminae. Gemina is designed in the same way as Illuminae with dossiers, briefing notes, interviews and surveillance footage. This book however has a lot more illustrations which I absolutely loved. See examples here:



Without spoiling anything, all of the characters who survive in Illuminae are featured in Gemina. Gemina follows on from Illuminae however it introduces two new main characters Hanna Donnelly and Nik Malikov. Both are based aboard the station Heimdall unaware of what is coming towards them. Hanna is the station captain’s privileged daughter and Nik is an edgy member of a notorious crime family. When BeiTech attacks Heimdall, the pair work together to save everyone they love and their home from utter annihilation.


Similar to Illuminae, the writing is extremely witty, sarcastic and edgy. I love the two-page spread of the BeiTech Squad’s photographs and how you get to track their progress. Their agent names reminded me of Kill Bill but there is something very similar to Die Hard in this sequel. It is incredibly intense, action-packed and merciless. The first 100 pages are nice and normal but after that, you are gripping the pages like your life depends on them. I really loved the sexual tension between Hanna and Nik despite them being from opposite sides of the track. They are so different yet compatible. I also really enjoyed this novel being narrated from the Heimdall’s perspective. The ending definitely begs the question: how are they going to wrap up this trilogy? I was left dying for more.


Hanna Donnelly: 17. Privileged. Rebellious. Beautiful. Trained in Self-Defence. In a relationship with Jackson Merrick. Daughter of Station Captain, Charles Donnelly. 

Nik (Niklas) Malikov: 18. Russian. Flirtatious. Criminal. Youngest Member of the House of Knives Cartel (A.K.A Dom Najov). Interested in Hanna Donnelly. Drug-Dealer.

Jackson Merrick: Military Officer. In a relationship with Hanna Donnelly. Dreamy Accent. Romantic. Physically Strong & Fit. Handsome.

Ella Malikov – Pauchok (‘Little Spider’): Nik Malikov’s Cousin. Super Systems User & Hacker. Sassy. Intelligent.

Charles Donnelly: Station Captain. Hanna Donnelly’s Father. Respected. Kind. Friend of Isaac Grant.

Travis Faulk: BeiTech Lead Commander. Villain. Evil. Cunning.



    I hope you enjoyed this spoiler-free review of the first two books in the Illuminae Files Trilogy. Please let me know if you liked or disliked these books and why. Are they on your TBR list? Are you excited for Book 3? If you’re interested in buying your own copies, please click the links below.

Click here to order a copy of Illuminae!

Click here to order a copy of Gemina!

More book reviews to come on this blog!

Peace & Love xoxo

Disclaimer: This post contains links to my Book Depository Affiliate which helps fund my blog. I am not being paid or sponsored for this post/products – all my thoughts/opinions are my own 

14 thoughts

  1. It sounds like two very action packed books! The audio book component is very creative with different narrations and the sound effects, which must make the words and story come to life 🙂 Maybe one day you will be able to meet the authors since they are based in Melbourne.

    When I was younger, young adult fiction was my favourite genre. While today my favourite genre is non-fiction, YA still holds a special place in my heart. When I want inspiration to write creative non-fiction, that’s the genre I turn to x

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