Review: Brightly Burning

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
400 pages Published May 1st 2018 
by HMH Books for Young Readers


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.

My Thoughts

Alexa Donne's debut novel, Brightly Burning, is the retelling of Jane Eyre set in space. The title interested me for two reasons. One, I love retellings. I love seeing beloved characters in a new light. Two, I'm currently in the middle of my To Walk Invisible reading challenge. And this book fits perfectly into my Bronte reading challenge.

Going into this book, I was insanely curious about how Donne would pull off Jane Eyre in space. I went into this book as someone who had read Jane Eyre multiple times, so I had certain expectations. But I was also open to the possibilities and re-imaginings that the author had in store. 

The second ice age has come, and to preserve the human race, humanity retreats to the stars. They live aboard many, many ships in space. Time passes and some of the ships are now failing. Stella Ainsley lives aboard one those vessels. Stella works hard as a teacher and an engineer aboard the Stalwart. She leaves it all behind to work as a governess on the Rochester. Where she meets the handsome Captain Hugo. And their connection is immediate. But while on board strange things happen, secrets come to light, and a conspiracy is uncovered.

While Brightly Burning did pay proper homage to Jane Eyre, it was also a story unto itself. That's what makes this book such a delight to read. There were certain things I expected, but also I was pleasantly surprised by certain turn of events. It's part romance, part mystery. I didn't quite get the Gothic feel that Jane Eyre exhibits and there were parts that were predictable, but I enjoyed reading this book nonetheless.

Whether you've read Jane Eyre or not, this story will stand on its own. Alexa Donne has skills as a storyteller, and I can't wait to see what her next novel will be.