Review: “Obsidio” (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

***Warning: This review contains unmarked spoilers from “Illuminae”, “Gemina” and “Obsidio”. I highly recommend you read all three lest you miss a wonderful reading experience.***

It’s the final installment of Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff’s highly praised, highly original and highly anticipated “Illuminae Files” trilogy, and boy have I been waiting for this for a while. If you’re wondering why I’ve stalled with reviewing this, it’s because my life’s been a bit busy. However, there is no way I would ever forget about reading this novel and not give my two cents for everyone who watches Reader’s Boulevard.

Anyway, let’s discuss “Obsidio” and whether or not it brings closure to one of my favorite science fiction trilogies of all time. Does it succeed like its predecessors?

After the events of both “Illuminae” and “Gemina”, the Heimdall Jump Station is destroyed and the universe is still intact, leaving the survivors of Kerenza’s invasion on the Hypathia with zero chance of returning to Earth and not enough oxygen to return back to the war-torn planet. Determined to testify against BeiTech Industries for their attempted genocide and various war crimes committed by the mega-corporation, our four main characters—Kady Grant, Ezra Mason, Hanna Donnelley, Nik Malikov and the reformed artificial intelligence companion, AIDAN—must find a way to save themselves and the Hypathia’s survivors while drifting between from remains of the Heimdall back to what remains on Kerenza IV.

And this time, they have the Mao, Cerberus Falk’s fighter ship. Now theirs.

Meanwhile, there are remaining Kerenzan citizens still alive from the colony’s destruction, as well as BeiTech soldiers stranded and occupying the desolate planet. Enter Asha Grant, Kady’s cousin and member of the resistance moment trying to take

The Kerenzan revolution will not be televised, everyone.

back the colony from BeiTech. Unfortunately, Rhys Lindstrom, her ex-boyfriend from Earth, is among the BeiTech mercenaries who helped destroy her home-away-from-home. Now they’re both trapped between bitter reunion and hostile coexistence on the icy planet.

However, their drama is the least of their problems. Using the Kerenzan civilians as forced labor to extract fuel for their stranded ship, BeiTech’s mercenaries intend to remove every trace of their invasion once and for all. Will all the sacrifices and tribulations faced by our heroes be for nothing, and will BeiTech succeed in their war crimes? Do Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff have an obsession with forcing young adult romances where there doesn’t need to be?

Despite how much I’ve been praising this trilogy for its ambition and creative storytelling, there is one aspect of this which can be distracting for some readers: it is visibly repetitive when it comes to plot points and characters. I mean, think about it: we have a male and female teenager who are trying to survive the consequences of Kerenza’s destruction, both of whom seemingly don’t like each other, but are forced to work together for the rest of the galaxy to hear their story.

In the first two books they were more tolerable because of their situations: Kady and Ezra broke up not long before the invasion happened, were separated on different ships and depended on each other to survive before they got back together (plus, I felt her believing Ezra to be dead in the last third of “Illuminae” helped make her highly appreciate him in her life even more). In “Gemina”, Hanna and Nik came from two different worlds living on the same spacecraft, with her a bored commander’s daughter and him a mobster’s kid exiled on the Heimdall. They rarely—if ever—talked to each other outside of dealing drugs, which made it compelling when they needed each other as well in order to survive BeiTech’s attempted cover-up.

With “Obsidio”, it’s essentially Kady and Ezra again but with the ex-boyfriend working for the enemy (how big is this infinite universe of theirs again?). Why not switch it up a bit? If it’s the far future, why not have it be a couple you’ve never seen before? Maybe have them LGBT, two estranged family members, former friends, or have them be together early on?

While we’re at it, why not have it be where the two protagonists don’t fall in love by the end of the book? I know this is a strange thing to have in young adult novels given Ripley_sees_Bishop's_bloodthe specific demographic, but there doesn’t always need to be a romantic subplot involved. In “Aliens”, Ripley didn’t need to fall in love with Bishop or Hudson by the end of the film.

Alright, I’m done ranting. What do I think of this now? Honestly, despite this little pet peeve, this has to be the most intense and well-choreographed novel I’ve read recently. Say what you will about the previous two novels and how many characters there are, but Kaufman and Kristoff knew to keep the narrative fixated on the two protagonists. With “Obsidio”, there’s the four previous main characters plus AIDAN and the two heroes on Kerenza, all packed in 600 pages. And EVERYBODY gets equal focus.

When I finished reading “Gemina”, I remember wanting to see more interactions between all of the protagonists, and we get plenty of great scenes like Ezra & Nik discussing strategy and their love lives, complete with quips about their accomplishments. Followed by that’s another great scene where Hanna, Nik’s tech-savvy cousin Ella and Kady talk about their plans to leave SOMETHING for their story to be told in case of the worst, leading to the latter saying this book’s most poignant line, “Live a life worth dying for.”

Much like a Marvel fan seeing the Avengers onscreen for the first time, I didn’t get bored listening to them interact and work off of each other. My favorite scene of them (aside from the second-to-last chapter) has to be when Ezra, Kady, Ella, Nik and Hanna are formulating a plan to take back the Mao from Garver’s mutiny—in comic-form drawn by Marie Lu no less. My third favorite also has to be with every moment involving


AIDAN still being an inhuman treasure, turning from HAL 9000 into GLaDOS (seriously, that scene with Nik’s cigarette had me laughing!).

The other two main characters are interesting as well. Rhys Lindstrom is clearly not happy about his position. He’s ethically sound yet quiet with himself and wants to do the right thing even though he’s on the side that wants to commit genocide. Even though the trope of the boyfriend being with the bad guys has been done to death, it’s still fascinating to see him juggle with being humane and knowing he’s placed himself on the side that is ethically wrong. Rhys isn’t a monster, but he knows speaking out against his comrades & superiors will risk him his life. He kind of reminds me of Elias from “An Ember in the Ashes” (and yes I’m going to review Reaper at the Gates soon!).

The same can be said for Asha Grant. At first, I felt like she was basically a second version of her cousin Kady, and yes you can sometimes find it hard to distinguish the two, but there are distinguished differences that separate them from their relatives. For one, Asha isn’t a teen hacker with a prodigal mind, but instead a normal teenage girl who made mistake and adjusts to them. Granted I think we could’ve used more dialogue of her and her sister, since it is a driving factor in why she’s on Kerenza, but it is refreshing to have a protagonist who isn’t prodigal or perfect.

I also like the addition of realism and consequence, such as some members of the Heimdall questioning why they should listen to the kids, while at the same time you know they only care about their survival. In my first review of the trilogy, I mentioned these books having elements of a creepypasta and “Aliens”, but there’s also nods towards “Starship Troopers”, anime, “Interstellar”, etc. This world may have familiarities, but it definitely knows how to stand on its own.

Once again, the format of classified documents and files makes the center stage of this space opera. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff still know how to craft a story from this unique style that makes each page feel like a government dossier. Recovered emails, transcripts, notes and video footage descriptions paint a futuristic world that is harsh, realistic and awfully familiar in how immoral some humans can be in certain situations. Reading this blurs the line between what you’ve seen on the news and what you’re reading. You are with the characters every step of the way. The stakes of what’s about to be lost are clearer than before, and it feels like real lives are on the line based on each choice made.


If I had to choose one other big problem, I felt the reveal of Ezra’s mother being a member of BeiTech responsible for the Attack on Kerenza didn’t add much to the story. Let me rephrase that, I felt the authors didn’t explore it enough to warrant being an addition. Maybe it would’ve helped if we learned more about their past as a family, it might have made the final confrontation more powerful?

Regardless, that doesn’t change my stance on this book. “Obsidio” is a finale that does not disappoint hardcore fans. It isn’t hesitating to push you out of your comfort zone into the darkest aspects of horror humanity is capable of, you didn’t know was capable of, and pull you back out of that cosmic Hell before ending on a perfect note. If you’re an average reader looking for adrenaline-rushed novels that take tropes to either subvert or use them to an advantage, then the “Illuminae Files” is a trilogy that takes you across the cosmos of human willpower.

Here is a link for those interested:


Thank you for taking your time here! 🙂 Please leave a reply or comment below. Knowing that someone is reading this is what keeps me going, and I’d love to know everyone else’s opinion is on these books or any recommendations for future reviews.

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Review: “Pax” by Sara Pennypacker

What makes the bond of an owner and a pet so special? What makes that bond so inseparable in someone’s youth and adulthood? These are questions I’ve asked ever since my first dog died over a decade ago, and I’ve learned the answer to as I grew up.

“Pax” is a novel I initially noticed while visiting a local bookstore, and was drawn to how simple yet detailed Jon Klassen’s illustration of the cover showed. Add Sara Pennypacker’s heartwarming and poignantly timeless writing style similar to “Coraline”, and you get s novel that left me yearning for a good ending.

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Top 10 LGBT YA Novels I Recommend

Before you read, I’d like to dedicate this post to all the families and victims hurt in this morning’s tragedy. For those who for some reason haven’t heard, a lone shooter mercilessly massacred fifty people and injured just as many at a gay nightclub (called Pulse) in Orlando, Florida. Police are still investigating into further detail, but it is a known fact that this wasn’t just a random shooting. This was a hate-fueled attack meant to kill and harm innocent people.

If anyone is reading this, don’t pray for repentance or hate, but pray for the families and friends that have been affected by what many are calling the worst mass shooting in United States history. Do not call for gun control. Reports are coming in that the gunman was posing as a security guard and guns were not allowed in the club. If there is anything we should call for, it’s for the acceptance of LGBTQA+ people everywhere, and to fight homophobic attacks like this with love and understanding.

To everyone affected by the shooting, everyone is hearing your cries. And to everyone else, I have a quote for you from a Holocaust survivor named Henry Golde, “Hate is nothing, and love is everything.”


          Gay literature is an iconic part of the LGBTQA+ community, especially towards teenagers and young adults, so in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, I’ve decided to make a Top 10 list for the best gay young adult novels I wholly recommend. Now, there are a few rules to this for anyone who’s reading. The first rule is that these entries have to have an LGBT person as the protagonist and not just as a side character. Second, it cannot be explicit and must be readable for anyone from fourteen to even nineteen years of age. And third, having no more than two of an authors’ works is acceptable by my standards because granted, I haven’t read every gay book for young adults; heck I’m even including ones I’ve reviewed on here already. And keep in mind that this is a recommendation list and not a list of the greatest LGBT young adult novels.

With that said, here’s the Top 10 List of LGBT YA Novels I Recommend.

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Thoughts on ‘The Boy and the Beast’

For anyone who doesn’t know the name Mamoru Hosoda, he’s a critically acclaimed Japanese director whose written and made recent but wonderful anime classics such as “Wolf Children”, “Summer Wars”, and the wonderfully titled and well-known anime film “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time”, all three of which I have seen and hold dearly to my heart. “Wolf Children” is a touching story of family and coming of age (as well as a fan-favorite for furries such as yours truly), “Summer Wars” is a science fiction adventure great for watching on July evenings, and “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” is a cult classic for time-travel stories. And later last year, Hosoda released another potentially timeless classic for anime fans called “The Boy and the Beast”.

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Review: “Breaking Sky” by Cori McCarthy

If you ever grew up in the 90’s and early 2000’s like I have, you might also look at fighter-jet/plane action movies like “Top Gun”, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” or even a bad Michael Bay film like “Pearl Harbor” the same way I do. They are fun and seem like okay films, but there comes certain times where you want to see yourself in a jet or fighter plane like an action hero. With “Top Gun” I remember the video game more than the movie, since it focused more on interactions with characters rather than dogfights.

In Cori McCarthy’s “Breaking Sky”, it feels more like a futuristic “Top Gun” if the setting and characters were more interesting. Is it a good young adult book though, as well as a good thrill for literary thrill-seekers?

In the far future, it is the Second Cold War (technically aren’t we in one right now?) and  Continue reading

Creative Types

Anyone who writes, draws, sings, or makes people laugh should read this. Not only is the animation good, but the video itself will make the average creator shed a tear…

Credited to AnimatedJames on YouTube.

Review: ‘Forest Gods’ by Ryan Campbell

At last! At long, long last! After waiting for a couple years, I’ve read the latest instalment of Ryan Campbell’s ‘Firebearers trilogy’, confusingly called ‘Forest Gods’. I’m telling you that ever since I finished reading ‘God of Clay’ some months ago, I have been itching to know what happened in the cliffhanger I was left on, and what will happen to our main character. Is it better than the first book, and can Ryan Campbell continue making a romantic relationship between a leopard deity and a young human man less uncomfortable than it would sound at first? Read on to find out.

In the wake of the last book, the god of the forest Kwaee has turned his entire domain against the human villagers outside his jungle, killing anyone whom he believes to be allied with the demonic fire god Ogya. And after running for the savanna in the wake of all this, Kwaee’s son Doto and his human lover Clay must embark into the neighboring savannas in search of a god whom they believe will help them find out the truth. Both will have to sacrifice their morals, risk their lives, and maybe even the happiness they may or may not be able to have.

Meanwhile, back in Clay’s home, Laughing Dog has returned in ways too different to explain. His and Clay’s father, King First Claw, has died under mysterious circumstances, and their grieving but slow-minded brother Great Ram has taken the throne in these dark times. Little does anyone know however, that Ogya has taken possession of Laughing Dog, and is using the agnostic believer’s naïveté to cause tension among the other villagers through acts of framing, hoping to rile them into attacking the forest and finally reignite the ancient war with Kwaee.

The only two people who see through the young prince’s actions are the tribe’s elderly healer named Cloud, and the prince’s promised fiancé named Ant With a Leaf. Determined to save their people from unknowingly killing themselves, Any and Cloud must throw aside their status as women and challenge the prince and puppet king before it’s too late. Will they both succeed and save humanity, or will Ogya’s fire consume the village and everything in its path?

It’s very clear in the first several that real shit will go down as the book progresses, and Ryan Campbell brilliantly allows the scenery and emotions to drip together with the narrative. There’s more drama, much darker moments between the line, and I had to stop myself from skipping ahead several times to keep reading each page. As you guess, I absolutely loved it.

The best thing about this book is both the theme and how it has heavily impacted the characters, and it is change. From the last book to this one’s cliffhanger, ‘Forest Gods’ does the right balance of commenting on change while we read about our characters’ journeys. Everyone in the novel talks about how they miss the old days, and feel like an impending doom is coming to their way of life. It is an understandable feeling, as many people in today’s world have the same feeling whether they’re religious or not. However, the novel isn’t preaching to abandon beliefs, but to adapt to the change in order to survive.

Doto and Clay go through a similar situation on their new journey, except it starts to turn into a romantic relationship between a god and a mortal. You might remember from my review of the last book that they both had a sex scene, and I must inform you there are a few in ‘Forest Gods’ as well. However, the book doesn’t go into intimate detail, and focuses more on the story and relationship between the two. Granted, the idea of a human and anthropomorphic leopard being in a sexual relationship sounds very disturbing still, but then again if authors can get away with werewolf romances, why not this? Besides, werewolf romances these days are crap compared to this.

Clay is still the optimistic human from the first book, but learns how the gods have abused their power. He’s emotional, but quick on his feet while keeping good morals. He’s noble, but will challenge kindness when it is needed. And despite his devotion to Doto (both spiritually and romantically), Clay has limits to how far the leopard would go to hurt others in their way.

In ‘God of Clay’, Doto originally treated his human companion as though he’s nothing more than a subordinate worshipper. In ‘Forest Gods’, he still cares for Clay, but slowly learns to consider him an equal. He’s still impatient and serious, but will protect Clay from anything. He’s determined, but learns humility from Clay. He also learns how to have emotions, and doesn’t know how to feel about them, especially in dramatic scenes. The one that tugs at my heartstrings is when Doto finds out someone about his legacy he never know, and how it ties him into the war between Kwaee and Ogya. I won’t give anything away, but you feel the weight that Doto feels once it’s discovered.

Aside from the two couple, but I was strangely surprised to have Cloud and Ant, two minor characters from the first book, become the secondary characters in the novel. I barely even remembered them in ‘God of Clay’, but reading the newest book and getting to know them better has made me wonder why Ryan Campbell didn’t give them more focus? I absolutely love them, as they remind me of some people I knew growing up in my family. Cloud is an elderly woman that’s strong and has a clever wit despite her old age, is independent but knows when to ask for help, and she perfectly mirrors Ant’s will to do what is right for the village. In fact, I remember ‘Bookworm Reviews’ on Youtube mentioning that his only problem with the first book as that Ant didn’t have a personality. This highly makes up for it, and she’s thoroughly entertaining (and David Popovich, if you’re reading this, I highly recommend this for a future review).

That reminds me. The only complain I have regarding characters is this one that popped out of nowhere and wasn’t mentioned again in detail. It was Adanko, the God of Hares and Lies who seemed too amusing to be a background character. At first it seems like he’ll be the comic relief of the story, but he comes and goes without a second though.

Then we have Laughing Dog, who has turned from an agnostic child who whines and complains in the last book into an unpredictable beast with his older brother’s kingly position wrapped around his finger. I love and fear how he manipulates the King so easily just by being related to him, showcasing how Laughing Dog isn’t just a tough guy with a knife. He’s a conniver and a plotter, trying to keep a façade of honor and charisma to his people while willingly working for Ogya. The way he puts blame on Kwaee, frames Cloud, twists others words against them, it’s like you’ve entered the infamous McCarthy Trials!

I find aspects like this the most terrifying in a villain, because it makes us wonder when they can be threatening, whether they’re about to strike you down or not. Both are unpredictable, overconfident in their goals, and will not hesitate to kill anyone, even family and loved ones, in their way of success.

Once again, Ryan Campbell astounds me in a fantastic novel of family, beliefs, and love. Enriched with African culture, vast in journeys across landscapes, and seeded with an addictive plot, I highly recommend reading this after taking a gander at the first book.


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