#SciFiMonth Book Review: Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Romance, Science Fiction
Series: Book 2 of Consortium Rebellion
Publisher: Harper Voyager (October 1, 2019)
Length: 400 pages
I won’t lie, these are the types of romances I can only take once in a while and in small doses, but when I do, damned if I don’t have a lot of fun with them. The first book Polaris Rising served up so much entertainment, I was beyond excited and curious to check out the next installment, a standalone follow-up featuring Ada’s sister Bianca.
Bianca von Hasenberg might not be the action hero like her little sister, but she has her own bag tricks, even if they came at a steep price. No one really knew it, but for years she was trapped in a deeply unhappy marriage. Her husband was essentially this mad scientist who experimented on her against her will, injecting her with nanotechnology that altered her brain structure and endowed her with the ability to intercept communications. This secret made Bianca a very powerful intelligence gatherer, but her health and life was never the same again, and following the death of her husband, she vowed she would never remarry.
Nevertheless, Bianca finds it impossible to deny an attraction to Ian Bishop, the head of security for House von Hasenberg, even though the two of them share a complicated romantic past. But then one day, following an attack, Bianca’s eldest bother and their house’s heir is taken by mysterious kidnappers, sending the entire place into lockdown mode. Knowing that she alone has the unique capabilities to get her brother back, Bianca defies orders and embarks upon a rescue mission to go find him. In response to her disobedience, her father sends Ian on her trail to stop her and bring her home. Bianca, however, believes that she and the security director would make a great team, if only she can look past their history and convince him that working together will mean a greater chance at saving her brother.
You’d think given the background details of her history and all that her character has gone through, Bianca would be a very different protagonist than her sister Ada, but the are actually very similar in the ways that count. Yes, while Bianca is more of a thinker than a fighter, she can still certainly crack a few skulls when the situation calls for it. And of course, as evidenced by her inclinations to break rules and take off on her own, Bianca also has the same rebel spirit as her sister. While I appreciated that her weariness and trauma had to be downplayed in order to make her character come across as stronger in this book, I think I would have liked to see them factored into her emotional depth. Anyway, I don’t want to make it sound like the two characters are the same because they’re not, but I confess I had hoped for a little more to set Bianca and Ada’s personalities and voices apart, especially since there could have been so many possible directions to take Bianca’s spymistress/master hacker/ information broker persona, which would have been way more interesting.
I guess it also didn’t help that like Ada, Bianca ends up falling for a man who’s kind of an asshole. Like Loch, Ian is on the possessive and domineering side, but because he lacks the former’s swagger and sheer force of personality, the way he comes across is much less appealing, if that makes sense. Something about Ian just did not sit right with me, and I didn’t feel like he had as much chemistry with Bianca as Ada did with Loch. To be fair though, we know relatively less about Ian in this book, since he is kept at a distance for so much of the story, and we don’t even get know the true extent of his feeling for Bianca until close to the end, at which point the romance gets dialed up from 1 to 10 in like no time flat. Don’t get me wrong, I love a slow-burn romance as much as the next reader, but I have to say the payoff here was slightly lacking, and I suspect the reason for this is because we were never given a chance to really know Ian.
But at the end of the day, I suppose what I’m trying to get at here is that in many ways, Aurora Blazing feels like a retread of a lot of the ideas in Polaris Rising (and from countless other romance novels, if I’m to be honest). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you enjoyed the first book. In fact, if you did, you’re pretty much guaranteed to like this sequel, which I did too, despite my gripes. My only criticisms stem from mainly two things: 1) the fact that Ian was not as great as Loch, and 2) the story had less action, and while things could have improved with the addition of more intrigue, instead the pacing just felt slower overall. Everything else—like the lighter world-building elements or the flimsier aspects of the plot—I didn’t mind at all, as it’s all sort of a given when it comes to a book like this that makes no claims to be anything but a romance first and foremost, and a sci-fi novel second. It’s why I picked it up, after all.
To sum up, I had a good time with Aurora Blazing, despite it being not as strong as the first book. But like I said, every once in a while it’s great to kick back with a book like this—an unapologetic and deliciously self-indulgent romance whose only aim is delivering a fun sexy read. I look forward to Jessie Mihalik’s next book in the Consortium Rebellion sequence, which I hear will focus on the third sister in the House von Hasenberg clan, Catarina.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Polaris Rising (Book 1)