ARC Review: UNDER FORTUNATE STARS by Ren Hutchings

I received an ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on pink and blue colours
Genre: Sci-fi
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: standalone

Synopsis:

Book cover for UNDER FORTUNATE STARS: title in white on pink and blue space scene

Fleeing the final days of the generations-long war with the alien Felen, smuggler Jereth Keeven’s freighter the Jonah breaks down in a strange rift in deep space, with little chance of rescue—until they encounter the research vessel Gallion, which claims to be from 152 years in the future.

The Gallion’s chief engineer Uma Ozakka has always been fascinated with the past, especially the tale of the Fortunate Five, who ended the war with the Felen. When the Gallion rescues a run-down junk freighter, Ozakka is shocked to recognize the Five’s legendary ship—and the Five’s famed leader, Eldric Leesongronski, among the crew.

But nothing else about Leesongronski and his crewmates seems to match up with the historical record. With their ships running out of power in the rift, more than the lives of both crews may be at stake.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

UNDER FORTUNATE STARS is a delightfully intricate, twisty time travel book where a vessel crucial to peace and one over a century and a half later both slip through space time. I loved watching them having to work together despite the expectations put on the Jonah‘s crew and their reactions to it.

This is a time travel book that isn’t constantly zipping through time. It’s a few time periods getting yanked out of time together and interacting – and then working out how to fix it and what it would mean for the future and past. It felt like a really neat way of doing it, different to how I often see time travel (where you “run” events again.) Plus it was a nice way of hypothetically considering consequences without leaving the door open to potential plot holes (like “well, there’s no real stakes because if it goes wrong, what stops you running it again?” type issues.)

The stakes are really good example of being life-or-death for the cast and the universe, and being compelling without the need for another “personal motivator” (like a beloved family member being at risk in some new way.) It’s “if we cannot fix this and get to our own times we are going to die from entropy and there’s no chance of being rescued as we are literally outside of time/unreachable” with a side helping of “and if we can’t fix it then the future never happens.” If they mess up, there are no second chances – for them or the universe – so the tension is high.

There is a really nice mystery around “the fortunate five” – the people who saved the galaxy from war. The identities of three are known, so there’s a mystery of how and why they would become those people (as they’re not all starting off pro-peace.) The mystery about the other two is who will they be from the crews? I liked having the mix of these two as it gave a variety to the uncertainties over how the past would resolve so that the future wouldn’t implode.

It’s a book told mostly in “the present” (of them all being together) but also across various pasts for the characters, which leads to all sort of events tying them together (and setting up plot elements.) These past elements wind together in an ultimately satisfying way. There were a few that I wasn’t sure how they’d link initially, and then as those timelines played out finally saw how it would connect in. Plus there were a few were I was fooled into thinking I knew the entire linkage only to have more connections brought in!

In all, it’s a great debut and I look forward to more books by Hutchings.

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