Obsidio (Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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CONTENT WARNINGS: death, grief, loss of a loved one, murder of civilians and children, on-page murder of a child (pages 213-217), war


BRIEFING NOTE: This is a fantastic end to one of my favorite series ever, chum. This is a trilogy that is excellently plotted into three acts and is never ███████ boring. If you haven’t yet read Illuminae and Gemina , tread with caution as this review has spoilers for the first two books.
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“Every story needs its villain. And its hero. And its monster.”

I am so sad that this amazing series is over, chum. If I am being honest, it took me almost two months to read this book because I didn’t want it to end and was savoring every single page. I simply didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters I had come to love, especially Nik.

After the events of Gemina, the Mao is left without a jump station and is essentially stranded in space. They know that BeiTech has mobile jump technology and begins making its way towards Kerenza IV to commandeer it so they can get the truth out about what BeiTech did.

“I am not good. Nor am I evil.”

The main theme of the trilogy’s finale is good versus evil and how those lines get blurred. In Illuminae and Gemina it was clear who the enemy was because they had their black hats and BeiTech armor, but the morality of war and following unjust orders are forefront in Obsidio. The story follows the characters we have come to know and love as the Mao makes its way towards Kerenza IV as well as characters on the ground of occupied Kerenza IV seven months after the attack on the colony (Asha, a civilian, and Rhys, a BeiTech techie brought into rotation on the ground). I really appreciated the way that Kaufman and Kristoff used an “outsider” BeiTech soldier to discuss the issues of morality in war and the struggles he feels with being told to do things he didn’t agree with.

“I didn’t sign up for this. I’m just a fucking tech.[…] I’m just trying to explain how I got here! I didn’t see a poster on a wall that said ‘Join the corps! See the galaxy! Bomb the ██ out of innocent people!’ They forced me to go. And even if they hadn’t, you think the recruiters tell you what you’d be in for when you sign up? None of these pounders knew they’d be in ██ like this. You think people honestly sit back and say to themselves, ‘You know what? I think I’ll get myself involved in planetary genocide this week?'”

These issues on the ground pair well with the ethical dilemma that AIDAN presents time and time again throughout the trilogy. “AM I NOT MERCIFUL?’ AIDAN is an AI that is programmed to protect humanity no matter the cost – and those costs never being in line with morality of Kady & Co. But chum, the ███████ brilliant thing that Kaufman and Kristoff have done with this book is set Rhys and his unit be the BeiTech version of the morality debate. It can be argued that the pounders on Kerenza have the same protocols as AIDAN: soldiers are conditioned and programmed to follow orders above all else. Morality in times of war fall to the wayside because failing to follow Admiral Sun’s orders is not an option. The conversations that rhys has with his commanding officers mirror those kady has with AIDAN on the morality of the situation.

“This is war!” Oshiro roars. “‘Right’ is whatever the people who’re standing at the end say it is. ‘Right’ is decided by the people who win.”

Sorry this kind of turned into a philosophical analysis of the book, but I honestly just couldn’t help myself! I think a reason that I love this trilogy so much is how many parallels I see with my favorite show Battlestar Galactica, which was the subject of my honors thesis in university. Morality gets blurred in times of war and while it is never right to commit atrocities against humanity, it is important also to realize that history is written by the victors and it is the winning side who will assign blame.

“I have heard it said that evil is simply a point of view. The villain is always the hero in is own story. And the definitions of ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ ever shift on the inconstant tides of human morality.”

One of the things that amuses me when reading young adult SFF is that the teenagers receive no support or hesitation from the adults in the world. A lot of times the book seems to be devoid of adults, which is unrealistic. One of the things that I think is done so well is the pushback and tension from the adults aboard the Mao that think they know better than a bunch of teenagers. We all know that people generally feel like age and seniority automatically makes them the most experienced and knowledgeable person, disregarding the opinions and expertise of their younger counterparts. I see this all the time professionally and am treated like a child because of their preconceived notions, and it was incredibly realistic and powerful to see that power struggle among the crew of the Mao. Just like the lack or morality in war isn’t right, neither is ignoring the expertise of the Illuminae Group and it was exciting to see the main characters do their part and earn the respect of the others.

The characters all continue to grow in this final installment and I enjoyed learning about the process of pulling together the Illuminae Files — and the identities behind the analysts. It seems so obvious now that they’ve been unmasked for me. One of the most resonant parts of the book for me was Hanna grappling with the aftermath of what happened in Gemina. It is obvious that Kaufman and Kristoff took great care in crafting these characters and I am sad to see them go.

BRIEFING NOTE: As with Illuminae and GeminaI read along with the full-cast audiobook and it was perfection. I love the audiobook so much, but I definitely recommend reading this one with a physical copy so you don’t miss out on the beautiful of Marie Lu’s illustrations. Honestly, this book is a work of art and the audiobook is a masterpiece for the ears.
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Overall this was an incredibly satisfying end to an amazing trilogy. While the overarching plot is simple enough, this is a story about the characters. Ordinary people who are put into tough situations and do extraordinary things. No, not magical things chums! They sacrifice themselves for the greater good of others, determined to “live a life worth dying for.” That all people see themselves as the hero of their own story and that in war – as in life – the world is painted in shades of grey.

Review of Illuminae  Review of Gemina

🤝 This was a This Mortal Squad buddy read with the lovely Bex and Taylor!

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffGoodreads Synopsis

Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik narrowly escaped with their lives from the attacks on Heimdall station and now find themselves crammed with 2,000 refugees on the container ship, Mao. With the jump station destroyed and their resources scarce, the only option is to return to Kerenza—but who knows what they’ll find seven months after the invasion?

Meanwhile, Kady’s cousin, Asha, survived the initial BeiTech assault and has joined Kerenza’s ragtag underground resistance. When Rhys—an old flame from Asha’s past—reappears on Kerenza, the two find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict.

With time running out, a final battle will be waged on land and in space, heroes will fall, and hearts will be broken.


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Hi! I’m Kaleena: book lover, runner, wanderer, and philanthropist. Life is an adventurous gift: through the outdoors and books. I run Reader Voracious Blog, where I post spoiler-free book reviews of science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, and mystery & thriller.

27 thoughts on “Obsidio (Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

  1. Omg, THIS!!! I absolutely loved the trilogy and have been thinking about listening to the audiobooks (I knew it was a unique format so I picked up the physical copies first). I saw that there will be a novella and I think Aurora Rising takes place in the same “book universe” haha so weird to say that when it’s a sci-fi book! 😂 Fantastic review and I’m so excited you love it!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This trilogy is SO FREAKING GOOD OMG! I am really glad I got the physical books because the artwork and formatting is lovely, I really enjoyed reading along with the audiobook cast. I am so excited for Aurora Rising (I have an eARC and am fighting the urge to read it)! Did you see the pre-order incentive for Aurora is an Illuminae novella?! A PRINT NOVELLA

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Illuminae Files have been on my tbr for the longest time and I still haven’t managed to get around to it. But I’ve been hearing so many good things about it I’ll have to bump it up on my queue. I also heard many good things about the audiobook and the full-cast but this seems like one of those books where the physical copy has a unique format so now I’m not sure which to get.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely support you bumping this series up on your TBR a bit, they are honestly one of the coolest stories and reading experiences that I’ve had! If I am being honest, having the physical book is amazing because of the format and the artwork that just isn’t translated in the audiobook, but then again the actual lollipop song in Gemina and fullcast for the series is also top notch. I’d advocate for both and read along with the audio like I did, but I know that is not an option for everyone. If it’s one or the other, I think it comes down to if you generally love audiobooks or not?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I always love your reviews for the Illuminae Files, but I’m too scared to read this one because I’m about to read Obsidio soon! 🙈 But I’m so glad you loved it, Kaleena! 💕 Since you have such praise for the audiobooks as well, I think when I do my eventual reread of the series, I’ll use the audiobooks next time!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. THIS THIS THIS THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!! I absolutely love your reviews Kal, but this one probably is my favorite. The way you get so passionate about this story makes me want to re-read the series all over again. High key need a podcast of you just rambling about this series with an philosophical analysis of it too. Solid 10/10!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my gosh, thank you so much Sam! I am really glad this review is your favorite because I had a freaking BLAST writing it and honestly this book & series makes me think thoughts and feel feelings and I just need to yell about it. That would be a super fun podcast, hehehe! *plots*

      Like

  5. …..*Adds Illumnae Files to tbr* YOU ARE A DANGEROUS PERSON TO FOLLOW, KAL!!! But honestly your review just felt so passionate and all the things you shared about it from your opinion to the quotes just really sold this trilogy to me, I already was curious about it but really, you’ve just got a way of putting everything into your reviews and makes me want to read all the things. I aspire to someday have such kicka** reviews, can’t wait to read this trilogy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a nice review! And i’m happy to hear the last book is still awesome 🙂
    I totes agree with what you said about the teens vs adults. Sometimes i even forget the characters i’m reading about are supposed to be 16 – 17 years old… cuz they just behave like adults, and get their way just fine 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I also forget about the age of YA characters a lot because of the unrealistic interactions between teens and adults, or them acting older. There’s nothing wrong with acting older than your age – I was definitely an old soul in the womb – but it was really refreshing to have that sense of reality in the series. Thanks so much for your comment!

      Like

  7. I love this review so much, because it shed light to so many amazing aspects of the book I didn’t even talk about in my own review! The quote “Right’ is decided by the people who win.” really is so impactful (and so, so true). I was actually discussing this recently with my friends – about American movies who talk about World War I and II. It’s quite hilarious to me how the Germans are always, always portrayed as merciless villains and hardly ever the winners touch on the subject of atrocities being commited by both sides. Even though this is only a YA sci-fi book, it can still ignite a lot of meaningful discussions!
    I also loved the tension between the adults & teenagers in that book! It was something I liked a lot in the show The 100 too, because the teenagers were already so used to leading and being on charge of the situations that it caused a lot of awkwardness when the adults stepped in. It really shows how well these authors were able to write three-dimmensional characters all around – even the side-characters!
    And the last paragraph of this review: UGH! So stunning and so true! It’s definitely one of my favorite things about this series: how they’re not written to be heroes, but just ordinary people trying their bests! Amazing review, Kaleena! 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so glad that you enjoyed my review; thank you so much, Lais! I know exactly what you mean about the depiction of right and wrong really depends on who is telling the story — sometimes I think about what the world would be like / what history would say if wars ended differently. A failed revolution is nothing more than a coup, but one that wins lauded. You’re right though, Germans weren’t the only ones doing terrible things during WWII. That doesn’t mean the Nazis were right, but Americans really should be held accountable for Japanese internment, for instance, or for the racial profiling against Muslims in a post 9/11 world.

      I also loved the show The 100, and you are right that it really accurately depicts that struggle/conflict between the teens and adults in a way that mirrors society. I really should get back into the show, I think I only saw the first two or three seasons.

      Thanks so much for reading and leaving such an awesome comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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