Vee is on a forced mental health hiatus until 16th June. See you then!

Review of Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

by - May 11, 2018

Genres: Retelling, Sci-Fi
Pages: 391
Publisher: HMH Books
Release Date:01/05/2018
Find The Author: (Website/Twitter)
Find The Book: Book Depository/AbeBooks UK/US

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.

JANE EYRE IN SPACE. It's hard to review this book without shrieking that first. I'll put my hand up and admit that when it comes to retellings I'm instantly apprehensive, as that can go pretty badly wrong - I'll forever remember the absolutely atrocious retelling of A Christmas Carol that I read and still don't understand how it was published. However this book is smart - it doesn't try and force it's sci-fi story into a little Jane Eyre shaped box, it just takes the themes of Jane Eyre and carefully wraps them around it's own story, giving us an epic sci-fi (almost) dystopia, while giving us little nods to other famous books too. I know the plot of Jane Eyre very well, as it's one of my favourite books - but this story has it's own unique ending that I wasn't expecting at all.

 Instead of Jane, we have Stella. She's similar to Jane in that she's an orphan whose parents were killed by a virus - in the original it was typhus that decimated the population but in this future, it's called the Kebbler virus and this ties in with the main plot at the end of the book. She's a governess too, which is how she finds herself on board the ship Rochester. However she's also an engineer, looking after her current ship the Stalwart when she gets the job offer. In this reality Earth has become uninhabitable and the population has fled to space - the rich in their own, elaborate ships, the poor in ships that barely work, leak and need constant repair while they grow food for the rich.

“The room was beyond decadent. Tapesties that I suspected were of ancient Earth origin covered two of the walls, which were composed of a wood-like finish - a warm brownish red. It was purely cosmetic, considering that the ship was made of metal, and there was no need for wood anything on board. And I was gobsmacked to find shelves filled with actual paper-and-ink books. I'd beheld them only once in my lifetime, contained under glass at the Empire's library.” 

I liked that the class system was kept and the divide between the poor and the rich becomes so much more obvious when Stella is forced to attend a party for Hugo's rich friends. She's looked down on simply because she doesn't have rich connections and a lot of money, something I think we can relate to even today. On other other hand Stella is mostly welcomed by the crew of The Rochester, especially her charge Jessa. I loved Jessa, she's wild and a little obnoxious but is going to grow up to be a headstrong young woman who doesn't take shit from anybody. If we can have a sequel featuring her that would be great, thanks.

The biggest thing I loved about this book was the Beauty and the Beast level LIBRARY. Hugo has a huge collection of old books and there's even a digital library that is simply too humungous to even imagine. The flat pack spaceship (thanks Who) felt intensely claustrophic at times so I would totally spend my days reading if I could, or looking at the stars like Stella does. Speaking of the spaceship, I totally spotted that reference to Illuminae's AIDAN towards the end of the book and even the word "Godspeed" was said shortly afterwards. It was a nice nod to another favourite book.

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  1. So happy you loved this one! I really enjoyed it but never read Jane Eyre so I feel like I couldn't do it justice.


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