There is a certain amount of joy gained in reading some fiction. Fiction meant to entertain, to transport the readers to fantastical worlds and witness the deeds of heroic peoples. Where literary fiction tends to prioritize specific word choice and meaning over plot and character, many authors realize that there can be greater value in drawing in and entertaining your audience. Sometimes the best books are the ones that make you forget that you are reading words on a page, instead conjuring images in your imagination. These are the kinds of books that are hard to put down, and you wonder how you managed to read through them so quickly. These types of books thrive in science-fiction, where most things, if not all things, are possible. The only barrier is the author’s imagination.
Aurora Blazing is Jessie Mihalik’s follow-up novel to Polaris Rising, published earlier this year, and the second novel in the Consortium Rebellion series. Following a different character than her first novel, Aurora Blazing does follow a similar setup, partly to maintain a sense of continuity for the reader. Within pages, you know that this is a continuation of the same series and, although we follow someone else, this novel inhabits the same fictional world. The rules of the story have not changed. Like the first novel, this one follows the adventure of a space princess. Bianca von Hasenberg, one of the older sisters to Ada von Hasenberg, heroine of Polaris Rising. There is a healthy amount of adventure, several action sequences, and political intrigue around every corner. Like her sister, Bianca is highly competent in her fields, and lacking in others, although the two sisters are in many ways inverse to each other. Of course, this would not be a Consortium Rebellion novel without simmering sexual tension and a romance at the heart of the story.
The events of Aurora Blazing occur not long after the finale of Polaris Rising. War has broken out between the von Hasenberg house and the Rockhurst house, two of the most powerful ruling families in the galaxy. At this point, open hostilities have not quite broken out and the families are in a state of cold war. Each side knows that a full war would be a costly affair, and that the lesser houses might try to interfere and take power for themselves in the vacuum. While war seems inevitable, it would only serve to weaken the two sides. In the middle of this, we follow the first-person point-of-view of Bianca von Hasenberg, one of the daughters of the von Hasenberg family. Unlike her sister Ada, Bianca is still in the family’s good graces and has not gone adventuring throughout the universe. However, a daring attach on Earth by unknown forces changes all that. Long thought to be a safe, neutral zone, the attempt on her life kickstarts the plot. During the confusion, a separate attack results in the kidnapping of her older brother, and house heir, Ferdinand. With Ferdinand gone, unknown persons manage to paint Bianca as a traitor and force her to flee her home. Initially pursued by the house von Hasenberg security director, Ian Bishop, the two decide to join forces to rescue Ferdinand and clear Bianca’s name.
At the start of the novel, it is clear that Bianca is going to be a very different protagonist that her sister, Ada. Ada was prone to action and tended to act first. Bianca is more collected and specializes in intelligence gathering, having built up a covert network of spied and contacts throughout the galaxy. It is also hinted at the start that she has suffered some form of trauma, and this forms a large part of her character’s growth throughout the story as she comes to terms with her past. Before the start of the series, her husband died under mysterious circumstances, and there is ongoing gossip that Bianca was somehow responsible. It is also strongly hinted that she was a victim of domestic abuse, which is later confirmed as the story progresses. It is rightly something the character does not feel comfortable discussing with others. While Bianca has suffered, and continued to suffer, she has gained a special ability not known to anyone else: the ability to read wireless signals, albeit involuntarily. Bianca is able to use the nanites present in her body to intercept and decode signals without a computer or other electronic device. A result of illegal human experimentation by her husband, this ability does cause her immense physical discomfort as a horrible trade off. At the beginning of the story, Bianca is still in recovery from her abuse, but shown to still be herself beneath the damage.
Aside from the search for Ferdinand, the heart of Aurora Blazing is the romance between Bianca and Ian Bishop, the security director for House von Hasenberg. Not much is known about Ian at the start of the story, expect that he is exceptionally good at his job and was considered very young when he took the post. However, his performance has spoken for itself in the intervening years. Before Bianca’s ill-fated marriage to her abusive husband, she confessed feelings for Ian, who responded rudely and pushed her away. Her feelings for him never quite disappeared and attempt to rise up with each interaction. As we share Bianca’s POV, the read is also never certain of how Ian truly feels about her. Similar to Ada and Loch from Polaris Rising, this antagonistic relationship between the two begins to soften as they work together and confront their feelings. Before that, they cannot help but butt heads and misinterpret each other’s words and actions. Once they finally break through each other’s shells, the attraction is instant and open. These are two characters who are deeply in love with each other, and scared of how quickly things may move. While there are not too many sex scenes in Aurora Blazing, the ones that Mihalik does include show a couple genuinely enjoying one another’s company in every sense.
While the majority of Aurora Blazing is an enjoyable adventure and romance, Mihalik does not shy away from Bianca’s history as a survivor of domestic abuse. Despite the science-fiction trappings, Bianca’s situation feels very real. She suffered serious abuse and trauma at the hands of her husband, with human experimentation only being one aspect. He controlled every aspect of her life and finances. After his death, she was even evicted from their home as none of it was listed in her name. Many of her belongings obtained during her marriage actually belonged to him. His experiments made her weak and tired and constantly in pain due to severe headaches as well. Taking advantage of her health problems, he was able to restrict her family’s access and prohibit them from seeing her due to illness. Throughout the story, although free of the man, Bianca is sill recovering from his shadow. There are a few times where she admits she sometimes blames herself for the abuse, that she wonders what she could have done differently to avoid it. Rationally, she knows it was never her fault, but that does not always let her ignore the misplaced guilt. Mihalik makes it clear that Bianca does not magically get better and recover from her trauma, but she improves and shows that there is a path to recovery.
In conclusion, Aurora Blazing is a worthy successor and enjoyable second novel in Jessie Mihalik’s space opera series. She made the brave decision to follow a different character than the one who established the series, and proved that the story is strong enough to accommodate multiple protagonists. Bianca is a fascinating character to follow, in many ways similar and dissimilar from her sister. The next book in this fun series, titled Chaos Reigning, will again switch POV’s to another von Hasenberg sister. It is a safe bet that this final book will continue the sense of adventure and romance prevalent throughout the series.
Aurora Blazing can be found in store, online, or wherever books are sold
Total Read Time: 10 days
Next on the List: The Forbidden Stars, by Tim Pratt