Book Review: Earthrise by M.C.A. Hogarth
Book Source: Free review copy provided by Studio MCAH via NetGalley
Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Series: Book 1 of Her Instruments
Publisher: Studio MCAH (April 30, 2013)
Tiara’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Full Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by Studio MCAH via Netgalley. I would like to thank the author, the publisher, and Netgalley for providing me this opportunity. All opinions expressed from here forward are my own.
I almost put this book a little lower on my NetGalley pile because the NetGalley description had a side note that this was a space opera with a romance subplot. That made me grimace a little. However, the Goodreads description did not tout the romance, and I was extra good and didn’t read any of the reviews on Goodreads for this book. I was pleased to see that it seem to be fairly well-received by its readers just from gazing at the rating. I have no problem with romance. In fact, I love a good romance, but I find when it becomes the selling point for a book that doesn’t seem to be exactly romance-oriented, it can come off awkward and unnecessary. However, since I’ve been looking into more speculative fiction that feature protagonists of color, I decided to go ahead and give this a chance. If I hated it, the worst that could happen was I wouldn’t finish it.
Side note before I start this review. I wanted to take a little time out to mention that Julie Dillion did the artwork for the cover, and if you’re not familiar with her work, she is an amazing SFF artist whose Kickstarter I recently supported because of her beautiful artwork that I’ve seen featured many places including magazines. I highly recommend checking out her beautiful illustrations. On with the review!
Earthrise follows the adventures of Captain Theresa “Reese” Eddings, a mostly honest cargo captain, and her crew of misfit aliens, which includes a pair of Harat-Shar (humanoid felines) twins who hail from a libertine culture where sex and cuddling is a big thing, even among family members, a female winged centaur-like being called a Glaseahn who has an interest in bio-organics, and a male Phoenix with an impressive plumage and the distinction of being one of the best engineers around. Finally, there’s Theresa’s Flitzbe, called Allacazam, who sort of sounds like a tribble from Star Trek based on description, but can communicate telepathically with Reese and changes colors to express his moods.
Years prior to the book, Reese borrowed a large sum of money from a mysterious race known as the Eldritch (a very pale, almost elven-ish race of people), hoping to patch up her ship, TMS Earthrise, and make a fortune for herself and her crew before having to pay them back. As the old poem goes: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Reese hasn’t made her fortune after six years and now the Eldritch are calling in a favor.
Reese was a spitfire for sure. Even though she’d been with her crew for years, she kept them somewhat at a distance, especially the twins, who are not shy about making their intentions known. She even devised a plan of keeping the areas she favors colder than normal to keep them at bay from wanting to be affectionate with her. However, Reese is much gentler than she appears. She has a love for romance novels, which belie her often fiery temper, but her past, which I found partly interesting and partly a shaky concept, is part of the reason that she enjoys romance. She finds escape in romance novels from her stress of being a captain who’s barely making it, but she doesn’t feel such romance is attainable in her real life.
She finds out her mission is to rescue an Eldritch spy from slavers, which is surprising. The Eldritch are isolationists partly due to the fact that their race can read minds through touching others. This isolationism has made them xenophobic and rarely seen outside of their home planet. Because no one knows very much about them, rumors say that they can do all kinds of extraordinary things like start fires with their mind. Even Reese believes some of these things about them, but because of her romance novels, she also sees them as fragile creatures who needs saving. So, imagine her surprise when Hirianthial proves not only to not be fragile, but more formidable than she ever expected. While she blames the inconvenience he caused her as her main reason for giving him such a hard time for most of the book, it’s her feelings for him that prove to be the real problem.
I really, really enjoyed this book. It was a fun dash across the galaxy as Reese tried to make ends meet while dealing with her new, very private crew member. Reese has nothing but the best intentions for her crew and for herself, but she often finds herself in the worst predicaments. She leads a dangerous life, but she’s not really a fighter. She depends mostly on her wits to get her out of situations. She carries a gun of some sort because she feels she has to, but she has no idea how to actually use it.
The so-called romance in this book didn’t really happen. I was afraid I was going to get a book with Reese falling all over Hirianthial, but really, there’s nothing more than a mutual interest between the two with only one real scene I guess you could consider romantic. Some may argue there seems to be no spark between them, but I beg to differ. He’s from a very private culture, one that doesn’t allow much emotion to be shown while Reese gets fired up enough for the both of them. I thought it was a very sweet, slow building relationship that’s still not a relationship by the book’s end. More importantly, it didn’t kill the book’s vibe.
So, no, I’m sorry. No smut. Especially given that Hirianthial has an aversion to touching for much of the book because he can feel people’s thoughts, fears, etc. He’s also unique in that he doesn’t actually have to touch people to get these thoughts. He can feel it from their aura when they’re in close proximity, but he still tolerates that much better better than touching. Allowing someone to invade his aural space and to touch him is considered the ultimate form of trust for him, and that’s not just something he reserves for Reese alone in this book because she’s not the only person he has to learn to trust on Earthrise. I was happy for that, though, because it gave the story and characters a chance to grow aside from being SO IN LOVE. You get to learn much about Reese and Hirianthial.
This story could feel a little trope-y in places. Remember, I don’t hate tropes. That would be ridiculous. They are unavoidable, but what the writer does with them is what counts. I wish there’d been more from Bryer (the Phoenix) and Kis’eh’t (the centaur), but they did get their chance to shine a little, especially Bryer toward the end. Irine and Sascha (the twins) and their predilection for being flirty and wanting sexy time all the time seemed to take up most of the time that could’ve been dedicated to showcasing more of the crew. Also, parts of this the reasoning for things that happened in this story felt like they were written on a weak foundation. I found myself frequently asking, “Why?” Some of the plot just felt ill-contrived and out of place. I’m still not sure I understand one particular bit, but I’m hoping the subsequent books might clear this up for me. It didn’t kill my enjoyment of the story or make me like the characters any less, though. I actually can’t wait to read the rest of this series!