In my quest to support indie sff authors, I discovered M.C.A Hogarth on Amazon and after reading a little about her work, decided to get the first in her “Her Instruments” series, called Earthrise. Named for the ship that Reese purchased with her share of the family’s compound on Mars, the novel traces the adventures of Reese and her doughty crew as they attempt to save one of a species of long-lived and reclusive humanoids from vengeful and violent slavers. What starts out as your run-of-the mill maguffin plots turns into quite something else, as Reese’s mental and physical health, combined with the interference of a mysterious benefactor, send the Earthrise off in directions Reese could never have anticipated.
The Earthrise itself is crewed by a feathery and fluffy cast of characters from all over known space, most of whom are genetically created species from when humans first began colonizing worlds other than Earth itself. Though Reese at times displays discomfort with the overly affectionate ways of felinoid siblings Irine and Sascha, or the mysterious habits of Bryer, the phoenix, she is still loyal to her crew, and they to her. This is a story of found family and what people will endure for each other. Reese’s crew also numbers a Gleaseahn, a sort of gryphoid centaur, and a sentient fuzz ball who communicates telepathically–a Fliztbe–whom Reese calls Allacazam.
Earthrise starts out as your typical mcguffin plot, but it’s well-paced with some extra side plots and character development thrown in, making it not only entirely readable, but even bingeable. Reese’s quest to make it as more than just another homemaker on Mars is compelling, and the tidbits thrown in about the matriarchal societies built through artificial insemination almost demand another series just for themselves. The timelines are somewhat confusing, though, which distracts from the main conflict that develops after Reese accomplishes the original, seemingly innocuous, mcguffin plot and finds she and her crew are embroiled in something much deeper than a simple rescue mission.
Although there is no open romance in Earthrise, it is signposted as a romance series. Probably, though the teambuilding story that pulls all the characters in Reese’s crew together is interesting and compelling enough to satisfy a reader for whom romance is not the biggest pull.