Earth is inhabitable, taken over by an ice age, and the human race is waiting it out on ships in orbit around the Earth. Slowly (but steadily) deteriorating ships, that is.
All Stella Ainsley wants is to go somewhere besides the floundering spaceship she’s on. And when a luxurious private ship hires her as a governess, her dream job, she jumps at the chance. But the Rochester holds secrets, not only with the mysterious, almost murderous happening on board, but also with Hugo Fairfax, the nineteen year old captain of the ship, and his role in the conspiracy threatening the fleet hovering around Earth.
I was so excited for this novel ever since I first heard about it (space sci-fi is one of my favorite sci-fi’s) and this totally met my expectations!
It was fun, it was flirty, it had action and adventure and a touch of romance. Donne knows what she’s doing–you can definitely see it in the writing and the formation of the story.
I thought the characters were really fun–everything was really fun. I zoomed through the whole narrative in a little over two hours and had an absolute blast reading it. It kept me entertained and even though the plot wasn’t super intense, I still was engaged with the story.
Hugo was an awesome character–broody and tortured but not like those gross abusive “bad” boys, just mysterious and intriguing and fault-ridden. I loved reading about his backstory and the mystery surrounding him, and I though he was a great character.
I did find a couple issues with Stella because she felt a little too perfect/a do-gooder for me to connect with her. She did the right thing almost all the time and it made her someone I couldn’t connect as much to.
I attribute this fault to the original Jane Eyre rather than Donne though, but this is still where I ended up taking off a star, even though it’s something Donne couldn’t really control.
The tie in to Jane Eyre posed some difficulties to me.
I’ve never read Jane Eyre before and I still have no idea what it’s about. It could be about flying pigs, for all I know. I definitely feel like I could have appreciated this book more if I had read Jane Eyre, and I will definitely be rereading this after I read Jane Eyre.
But my problem’s not with the tying in really, but rather how it shaped the novel. Sometimes it felt a little forced to me–as if the characters could have done something different and done something smarter. It felt like Donne was kind of forcing them at times to fit the storyline of Jane Eyre, and because I haven’t read the book this is based off of, I was left in the dark about this and felt kind of confused.
I so would have appreciated these tie-ins and these movements of the characters if I had actually read Jane Eyre, but instead I ended up treating this like a regular sci-fi space novel rather than a Jane Eyre sci-fi space novel and so those moments where the characters did something that didn’t seem to fit in perfectly with the story (that I assume had a significant tie-in to Jane Eyre) had me feeling weird about the book.
I think if Donne used the premise and went her own way with it, it would have been a lot more enjoyable for me, as a non Jane Eyre reader. But through trying to stick to the novel Brightly Burning is based off of, some of the plot movements/character decisions ended up translating as funky to me.
But overall, I really liked this. The more subtle plots–the mystery on the ship, the conspiracy in the fleet, the issue with Earth, the romantic twists & turns–were all so enjoyable to read about and I loved how they layered with the novel.
The mystery and conspiracy was done so well, and I was kept on the tips of my toes when reading about the mysterious person trying to murder people on board (and the plot twist behind this was something I totally didn’t expect!). I loved how it kept me guessing and even when I thought I had it, something would pop up to prove me wrong.
And the science-fiction aspect was relaly fun. Although “Earth is inhabitable” is starting to become overused as a sci-fi trope, I think Donne did it really well and using the Ice Age was an interesting twist.
The romance was also something enjoyable to read because I felt like the characters were super cute together. I was a little shaky on Bianca because she felt too “other-woman” for me and seemed to be portrayed in a bad light, but in the end, she was redeemed multiple times and I liked where her relationship ended on positive terms (no girl on girl hate is found here).
Overall, this was a really fun read and I totally recommend to lovers of Jane Eyre and people who like a more slow-burn sci-fi. I had a great time reading, and will definitely be rereading after I read Jane Eyre!
Thank you to my library and HMH Teen for this (uncatalogued) ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Have you read Jane Eyre? On a scale of 1-10 (although 11+ is totally allowed), how excited are you for Brightly Burning?!