In One Word

In One Word, Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne is…

brightly burning

  • First published in 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
  • Format: Paperback – Published in 2018 by Titan Books
  • Reading Time: 9 underwhelming days

Awkward

  • A Jane Eyre retelling was enough to sell me and I needed a book by a blogger, vlogger, Youtube video creator or other online personality for the Popsugar Reading Challenge. I like watching Alexa Donne’s videos on writing so this was perfect. Set in space in the far future when Earth has been encased in ice for centuries, humanity is preserved on spaceships that are slowly falling apart. Stella Ainsley needs to find a better situation for herself before her ship, the Stalwart, becomes the next wreck. She finds it when she takes the role of governess on the private ship, Rochester, whose captain is moody, mysterious and rather lovable to Stella. Life on the Rochester is more comfortable and secure than the Stalwart but that doesn’t mean it’s safer or that it doesn’t hide terrible secrets.
  • Well, Stella was a decent-ish main character on her own whose first instinct is always to put others before herself. Unfortunately, compared to the original Jane Eyre, she feels a lot more passive. She has strong morals but I don’t feel she has the same strong self-respect as the original Jane Eyre. I didn’t feel Hugo made a very good Rochester either. It felt like the original Rochester’s flaws were smoothed over too much in an attempt to make him more palatable to modern readers and that resulted in making him seem just a generic nice, if slightly troubled, love interest. If anything, I think the side characters got the best treatment. They were given a bit more character development (even Blanche) and a few new characters were added to flesh out the world. The latter were a bit hit and miss but I liked them more often than not.
  • Kept the style easy to read and without too many technical terms. Even if you’re not well-versed in space science-fiction, you’ll be able to follow along.
  • Way too much telling over showing. Several times, I thought that a scene could have been so much more interesting if the author had actually shown it happening rather than describing it in one paragraph.
  • Adheres to most of the original story’s elements which kept the story going at a decent pace but the big twist is something rather different, as is the ending. While the big twist was more dramatic, I kind of think it was to the story’s detriment. It didn’t make Stella look as strong for doing what she did. It just made it take a turn for the more painful sci-fi clichés.
  • Rather flat world building. I liked the idea of the ships slowly falling apart while humanity waits for Earth to become habitable again and I liked the little hints that show when a spaceship is becoming obsolete. I felt that gave Stella a good motivation to leave her home before it was too late. However, I didn’t like the direction the book took concerning the big conspiracy. It felt very cliché and the attempt to make a commentary on class fell flat on its face. The setting itself could have been utilised so much more than it was, too e.g. by impressing on the reader that space is a scary, inhospitable place thereby amplifying every small problem with the spaceship and giving the book a much more creepy, oppressive atmosphere.
  • Didn’t do the ending justice at all. Everything was wrapped up too well and too quickly. There was none of the devastation followed by the tearful reunion of the original and the whole thing savoured of anti-climax. This really isn’t one of the best retellings I’ve read and it’s a good example of what happens when trying to make the strong female character more modern actually makes her look weaker. So, I wouldn’t recommend it to any Bronte fans out there but I would recommend it as a light, engaging sci-fi read.

Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Did you agree with my rating? Can you think of a better word to describe it? Please let me know with a like, share or comment.

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