I’m a sucker for time based shenanigans, whether it’s time loops or alternate histories I get an itch that needs to be scratched. So when a new book threatens me with some timey-wimey antics, I prefer to seize the day. Ren Hutchings answers the call with a different sort of temporal prank by having the past and future collide in a pocket dimension. Under Fortunate Stars fulfills its duty of providing that temporary relief, but it leaves a few unscratched itches along the way.
Eldric Leesongrowski, with his former partner in crime, Jereth Keeven are on the run. Not from the authorities, but the collapse of humanity as its generations-long war with the Felen turned the wrong way. As two stowaways force their hand to leave earlier than planned, their little freighter, the Jonah, gets the entire crew caught in a dimensional bubble. Inside said space, they encounter the research vessel Gallion, which claims to be from 152 years into their future. To Uma and Shaan, members of the Gallion, the Jonah might just be a hoax. After all, it’s the same ship that led to the peace between humans and the Felen all those decades ago. This can’t be the real Leesongrowski, the Pathfinder himself, that would just be too absurd. But the crew of the Jonah are equally perplexed as to who they purportedly become. In this space though, resources are scarce and the engines aren’t running. Will they have the time to become who they are supposed to be? Or pale in comparison to the heroes they are enshrined as, destroying the peace that could have been?
I have complex feelings about this book. On one hand, it felt a little too convenient, a series of twists and opportune encounters pushed forward a lot of the plot. Each successive chapter became less of a reveal and more of a “oh that’s funny.” In the first half of the book, it was enjoyable; it had a sense of playfulness. By the end, it felt like a grind. History was coming for the characters, whether they liked it or not. Knowing the history as the reader forced me to try to get ahead of Hutchings’ reveals and guess at how it would play out. It was a frustrating experience because I didn’t feel any sort of tension. It was how it was always going to be, fortunate enough. I also didn’t particularly find myself enamored with the world. The future didn’t hold any real bright promise other than the fact that everyone was living peacefully. That’s not a bad thing, there just weren’t any stakes for me.
But on the other hand, I did enjoy some of the characters and Hutchings’ ability to realize them in the moment. I didn’t really care too much for the backstory chapters, they felt a little too tropey for me, and didn’t really add to the tension in the main story. Especially since they existed outside of the actual plot, they were just kind of there for the reader. However, I simply adored the interactions between Eldric, Jereth and the crew of the Gallion, particularly Uma and Shaan. Hutchings’ does a great job of capturing the Uma’s fangirling over the Fortunate Five and how it puts a strain on their communications. Eldric is uncomfortable with the mantle he has been given, but still tries to live up to it.
But really, my heart belongs to Jereth Keeven. I am in love with him and his smart aleck wit, his roguish charms, and his incessant ability to both knock people off balance and build them up. Hutchings knew how to bring his commentary to the line without making it feel off putting. Every moment with him felt like a delight, whether he was arguing with Eldric, negotiating his way out of providing information to the Gallion, or convincing everyone his insane plan just might work. He had a magnetic personality, and it shined so bright in the present timeline. While I didn’t mind seeing his less than reputable and sometimes tragic past, it didn’t add a whole lot to who he was for me.
All in all, Under Fortunate Stars is fine. It’s a little too cozy and easy for my taste. Its characters are enjoyable, but two-fifths of the Fortunate Five barely have anything to do, other than be plot devices. The alternating timelines didn’t add much to the story in their current form, though the information was helpful in muddying the mythology that Uma grew up with. I wish there was a little more focus on the characters becoming the Five, other than it simply just being a fact of history. If you’re looking for a fun read that can take you out of the moment for a bit that doesn’t pressure you a whole lot, Under Fortunate Stars might be worth checking out.
Rating: Under Fortunate Stars – 6.0/10
An ARC of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts on this book are my own.