ARC provided by HMH in exchange for an honest review
Book: Brightly Burning
Author: Alexa Donne
Genre: YA SciFi
Publication Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format: Advance reading copy
My rating: ★★★
Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.
But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.
I was super pumped to receive this advanced copy of Brightly Burning from HMH. I am so thankful I got the chance to read this before publication. Truly, I am so grateful for these opportunities. Even if I didn’t love it, I still want to give you all my thoughts and genuine feelings!
So, with that being said, I did like the book, but I didn’t love it. It’s probably just me, y’all. I had just finished The Illuminae Files recently, and those are some kickass books set in space. I think I was expecting more action, when in reality Brightly Burning is more of a love story.
Brightly Burning is marketed as a Jane Eyre retelling set in space. Set in the future, Earth has experienced a catastrophic environmental disaster which no longer makes it habitable. Humans escaped by living on spaceships that orbit the Earth. For hundreds of years humans lived on these ships, knowing that some day their ships will no longer be “space-worthy” enough to function and will eventually need to “de-orbit” by re-entering back to Earth. The people are afraid Earth is still in an ice age, so they’re trying everything they can to prevent going back to Earth.
However, not all spaceships are created equally. Some ships are enormous, luxurious, and house the elite. Other spaceships are “poor”: bare-bones, food and water rations, and limited medical supplies. Some have had to battle viruses that wiped out a majority of their population. This class-system is very prevalent throughout the book, and is a major driving force in the plot. Since some spaceships are reaching the end of their life cycle, this puts a huge strain on everyone. What’s the morally right thing to do? Do you allow those people on to your ship or make them de-orbit back to Earth?
This brings us to Stella Ainsley (based on Jane Eyre.) Stella is an engineer aboard the “poor” ship, the Stalwart. Wanting a change, she leaves the Stalwart to go work as a governess on the Rochester, a spaceship that orbits the Moon. The Rochester is owned by a very elite family and it is operated by a small crew. Almost immediately she falls for the ship’s captain, Hugo Fairfax. But another ship, the Ingram, wants to form a marriage-alliance with the Rochester. Also, there are some weird, haunting things happening on board the Rochester that Stella cannot explain.
I’m sure you can guess where this is going especially if you’ve read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Now let’s talk about The Good and The Bad:
- Stella’s morals. Stella is beyond selfless, caring, and will go above and beyond to help anyone. She’s extremely lovable and smart.
- The mix of future and primitive eras. I really liked how the Earth went from being a habitable planet with the technology to put people into space, to being in an ice age, to having people living in space, only to have that technology start to fail, and the people needing to go back to Earth to start life all over again. It really made me think.
- The mystery. There are definitely some creepy moments of strange laughter in the middle of the night and parts of the ship getting mysteriously sabotaged. This was woven very well into the story.
- Hugo Fairfax. I know Hugo is the characterization of Jane Eyre‘s Mr. Rochester who, well, isn’t a great person. He’s arrogant, selfish, moody, mysterious, an alcoholic, and leads Stella on when it’s obvious she has feelings for him. He forces Stella to spend time with him, even when she clearly states she doesn’t want to. I just cannot with men like this. Also? He’s supposed to be the captain of a SPACESHIP but he literally does no captain duties at all. He basically treats his spaceship like one giant party cruiser. Again, I know Hugo is supposed to have Mr. Rochester’s unlikable traits, but I just… I can’t. Not in this day and age, sorry.
- The insta-love. Stella has hardly been working for very long on the Rochester, but, yep! She’s already in love with Hugo. I’m not usually a hater of insta-love, but this was a bit much for me.
- The writing felt a bit juvenile. “Frexing” is the made-up swear word. Let me just say: I am not a fan of made-up swear lingo. Lol.
- I was bored. I feel so bad saying this, because I genuinely do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But the pacing was too slow for me, and I wanted more action since this is a SciFi in space, afterall. I wasn’t blown away by any twists. By the last 100 pages, I just wanted it to be over.
While Brightly Burning hits all the major Jane Eyre plot points, I felt like it failed to exhibit the complexity of the characters. I think YA SciFi is a really difficult genre to get right. The more I think about it, it may just not be the right genre for me anymore. I think this book is for anyone who likes insta-love romances with a bit of a SciFi twist. Again, I am so grateful to HMH for sending me this copy of Brightly Burning.