November 17, 2016
Gemina Book Cover Gemina
The Illuminae Files, #2
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Science Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers
October 18th, 2016
Marie Lu

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy's most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station's wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They've totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

(via Goodreads)


As you might or might not remember, I read Illuminae at the beginning of the year. It blew my mind. I already knew I loved epistolary novels, but this cemented epistolary as one of my favorite genres (not a genre, you say? A format? I don’t care. Still favorite). gemina-journalA fast-paced, gut-wrenching, super sciency, conspiracy theory filled roller coaster through space– I couldn’t get enough of Gemina and its characters.

Warning: Spoilers for Illuminae will follow. If you haven’t read it, check out my review here, or just go out and read it immediately. It’s sooo worth it. Then scroll to the bottom and read my last statement.

It’s not about what I say, right? It’s what I do that matters here.

Gemina starts during the Kerenza Trials, as the Executive Director of BeiTech has taken the stand to provide testimony about the events on Space Station Heimdall. As you might recall, Kady and the crew of Hypatia are heading to Heimdall Station to escape the carnage and get the word out that BeiTech attacked the mining colony Kerenza. gemina-air-ductsEvents in Gemina pick up at the end of Illuminae.

As with Illuminae there is a lot going on. Only this time, things feel more mature from the beginning. The Space Station Commander’s daughter, Hanna, is dating the perfect man. Yet, she is still leading on Nik because, well, he’s her drug dealer. Anything to get a better deal, right? Other than a crime syndicate doing business on the space station, things seem to be pretty smooth on Heimdall. Only as the big Terra Day celebration looms closer, so does the Hypatia on the other side of the jump station. And, obviously, then things begin to spiral out of control.

You get no more because spoilers.

Then let Operation Termopylae commence.

There are many similarities between Illuminae and Gemina. Both are epistolary in nature, feature strong female protagonists who won’t take crap from anyone (SQUEE!), require protagonists to do crazy things which beat all the odds to try to survive (DO THEY SURVIVE?!), contain a ton of humor, and are at the same time surprisingly subtle. gemina-deathHowever, everything Illuminae did Gemina did better.

In my opinion, we have stronger characterization, stronger relationships, a better story, better use of epistolary elements, and well, everything. Expanding upon the epistolary elements, Kaufman and Kristoff have now enlisted the artistic talents of Marie Lu to provide illustrations in Hanna’s physical journal. The word art is a bit less in this book, but the use of art as an epistolary element is much more prominent. In fact, it even provides more tension in many cases. The art is used to provide foreshadowing for the text, which I found brilliant, as these documents are all part of the case file for the Kerenza Trials. We are reading them long after the events occurred.

And now, born from the ashes, she’s a warrior in bloodied black.  

There was more narrative in this book that the previous. Lots of times a third party observer is describing video footage they are watching. This provides a narrative element we were missing in the first book. Honestly, I felt like it slowed things down sometimes, but it did provide a better image of what was going on. gemina-emailThis avenue provided stronger world building as most other character interactions are described through instant message, walkie talkie channel transcripts, and journal entries. I certainly had a better vision of what was going on this time, but it lessened the pacing.

My favorite character is easily Ella. Trapped in a wheelchair after contracting a deadly disease, Ella taught herself to be a computer prodigy just so she could have some form of independence. She is snarky and fun and her existence created tension and drama like I wouldn’t believe.

That’s all you get. Because spoilers.

As with the last book, I will sign off before I share all my opinions. This book is amazing. It’s hard to describe anything without giving away something– every movement, word, image, and moment in this book is critical to driving the story forward. I’ll just leave you with this:


| \
[ |_/” “


6 Stars

What do you think?

  • Have you read either of The Illuminae Files books? Do you like them? Who are your favorite characters?
  • What do you think of epistolary novels?
  • Any read-alike recommendations you have for YA science fiction or epistolary novels? Any actual sci-fi epsitolary novels you can think of?


  • LizScanlon November 17, 2016 at 9:15 am

    Well, I for one, learned a new word here- epistolary! I feel smarter now 🙂

    I haven’t read the books yet… I’m on the fence. I’ve seen reviews where the structure of the book annoyed people and started thinking I may fall into the same slot… but then I read a review that portrayed the characters really fantastically that I started thinking about changing my mind.. and after your review I think I need to just grab the bull by the horns and read these suckers some time! 🙂

    • Jackie B November 17, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      I’m glad you learned something! I just adore epistolary novels. In fact, I should put together a post about then… Thanks for inspiring me, Liz!
      I can understand how the structure of the book can annoy people. The idea is that these are all the evidence documents for a trial, hence the reason the format changes a lot and it jumps around. If you even slightly like science fiction and you enjoy YA I would definitely encourage you to read it. The characters are wonderful. Particularly in the fist book! I definitely would encourage you to read it. Illuminae took me about 60 pages to get into it, but that was only about 30 minutes of my time, if that. It’s a quick read! Once you read page 294 if you aren’t hooked, you can consider stopping. 😉

      • LizScanlon November 17, 2016 at 2:20 pm

        Me too! and I think a post about epistolatory novels would be awesome!!!

        oooh, page 294 sounds… like huge! yeah, I shall defo check the books out thanks for convincing me

        • Jackie B November 17, 2016 at 4:19 pm

          Haha– they are huge. Illuminae is 599 pages. But you have to remember a lot of the pages are take up with images and pretty formatting. An IM conversation might only be 150 words on a page. Or an email might only have 50 words on it, like the last image in this post. It’s a quick read.

  • ChicNerdReads November 17, 2016 at 9:48 am

    I am so happy with this review and your rating lol. Ugh it was amazing!!! However, I do agree with you that there is definitely more narrative in Gemina than Illuminae which was pretty slow sometimes but I still enjoyed. I felt like it gave us a more indepth view of the story as a whole, I hope that makes sense. I cannot wait for the third book. I’m hoping the cover will be a highlighter Green or Purple lol.

    • Jackie B November 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

      If I had to guess, I’d go with highlighter green. I feel like unless we have a SUPER neon purple the set wouldn’t look as good together. And we all know this should be all about how my completed set looks on the shelf. Obviously. Can it come out tomorrow?! I need the next book NAO.

  • Birdie November 17, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Great review! I thought Ella was pretty awesome myself. Ella and Nik together I think made this one really good. Plus I love the dynamic of the criminal and the princess.

    I’m really excited for the next one!

    • Jackie B November 17, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Ohmigosh– me too! I broke one of my cardinal rules when I read Illuminae earlier this year: Thou shall not start reading a series unless the last book will come out in the next quarter. I am really struggling with the wait for the final book! The wait for this one was hard enough. I love seeing how they pull these characters together– it’s not something I’m used to, but I really enjoy it.

      • Birdie November 17, 2016 at 11:51 am

        I wish I had that level of will power. By the time I’ve waited a year for the new book I’m incapable of holding back and not reading immediately. 🙂

        • Jackie B November 18, 2016 at 12:34 pm

          It’s not hard to wait for a series to be fully published if you never start the series. But, it does mean sometimes I don’t read really important series until many months or years after all the books are published. I just forget about them as the hype for the first book dies down, particularly if the series looses hype overall as consecutive books follow their release.

  • Jasmine November 17, 2016 at 10:27 am

    So glad to hear that Illuminae and Gemina are good reads! Is that 6 stars there? hehe.. I will have to come back to your review after I read the books.

    • Jackie B November 17, 2016 at 10:52 am

      Oh yeah– totally 6 star reads. Both of them are! They seem daunting, but they due to the nature of the content presented they are quick reads. I can’t wait to hear that you think about them!

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea November 17, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    I couldn’t read all of this because I am still waiting to start Illuminae. Thank you for the warning <3 I still skimmed through, because I couldn't help it haha.

    • Jackie B November 18, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      I do that all the time! I see spoiler warnings, but I skim anyway. Oops. Sometimes I feel like I’m peeking at the pages ahead of time. But I don’t ever remember anything in the end when I get to reading these for real. I look forward to reading your post about Illuminae when you get to it!

      P.S. Once I clicked to reply on your comment the Kingdom Hearts main theme started playing from my shuffle. Perfect! I really need to do that tag!

  • Greg Hill November 17, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    I like that we’re getting a look at case files, and that this all happened before (months? or longer?) Interesting to do it with a trial. And I think it’s interesting too that bad stuff happens on Heimdall, which is where Kady & Ezra were hoping to find sanctuary. Something tells me it ain’t gonna be that easy lol! Curious to see the Lu art also.

    • Jackie B November 18, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      The timeline isn’t really clear; as in how long after the events we are reading about this trial has occurred. There are probably hints throughout the files we are reading, but I haven’t paid that close of attention… O_o
      Did you click on that first image I posted above? You can zoom in and get an idea for Lu’s art. She does a great job illustrating Hanna’s journal, completely with hilarious and sarcastic notes. Will you be reading Gemina?

  • Brendon November 18, 2016 at 10:18 am

    The epistolary fomat/genre sounds really awesome and unique. I did not read the review because you said spoilers!! 🙂

    • Jackie B November 18, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Haha. That’s totally legit. I don’t blame you at all! I thought about using my spoiler plug in, but then I might have to hide the whole thing. That would be silly. Thanks for at least touching my post a bit. 🙂 Have you ever read any epistolary novels?

      • Brendon November 19, 2016 at 10:59 am

        I tried to start House of Leaves once. I think it has epistolary elements. Maybe some letters but a lot of papers and entries (maybe journal entries?) and overall weird formats. It’s on my list to tackle in 2017.

        • Jackie B November 19, 2016 at 11:14 pm

          House of Leaves!! Oh man. I would define that more as ergodic literature– literature where it requires a lot of effort on your part to follow the path set by the author. There are certainly epistolary elements, but there is also quite a bit of narrative, is my understanding. Honestly, it’s on my TBR, but I don’t know if I’ll ever read it… Finnegans Wake is similar, but less round-about, but I am also waiting on that.
          You are a braver man than I. 🙂 I look forward to your review!

  • wordsandotherbeasts November 18, 2016 at 11:24 am

    I’m so glad to hear you thought Gemina was even better than Illuminae! I adored Illuminae, one of the best books I’ve ever read, so to hear that Gemina improves on what Illuminae already did well is so good! I can’t wait to read my copy now. Great review!

    • Jackie B November 18, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks, Caitlin! I look forward to hearing what you think about Gemina. There is certainly a cliffhanger, so be prepared!

Participate in the discussion!

%d bloggers like this: