Apr 23, 2018

ARC Review--Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

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 received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. I was in no way compensated for this review.

Brightly Burning is Alexa Donne’s debut novel set in space when Earth became inhabitable. It’s said to be a sort of update on Jane Eyre, set in space, but since I’ve never read that classic, I can’t say how much of that is true for the storyline. Even without knowing about Jane Eyre, I found that I was easily able to enjoy this story! There’s a quite a bit of mystery and intrigue going on within the space ships that have created their own little community up in the stars, and soon our heroine, Stella, will find out just what that mystery is.

Stella is an orphan and has lived on the ship the Stalwart until she applied for a position with the Rochester and got it. Not only is Stella a teacher for the children on board the Stalwart, but she’s also a part time engineer. When she arrives on the Rochester she’s to play a bit of both roles. The Rochester though is rumored to be haunted, there’s a good deal of mystery surrounding this and Stella soon starts to wonder at it as it’s when she’s up at night reading, she swears she hears laughter outside her door.

One of the other many mysteries onboard though, is the elusive captain. Though Stella soon meets him herself without realizing it. Hugo is young for a captain but inherited the title after his father was killed. He and Stella eventually form a friendship of sorts and naturally, where do all friendships lead? Though I will say, I liked the gradual procession the romance took. It wasn’t instant and there were plenty of challenges thrown their way that prevented the couple from being together.

Soon the intrigue of the story comes to light as there was a nefarious plot afoot that would eventually lead to the deaths of many people aboard her old home, the Stalwart. And when Stella learns the truth, she will do anything to save the friends she left behind, as well as the many other innocent people aboard.

I think my first issue with this book was the timing in when I read it…namely right after another book set in space with more conspiracy theories and corrupt government scandals! Not always a good thing to read books with similar trends yet executed completely different. That being said, I won’t say I didn’t like this one, because I did! My next issue that was to come was the mystery of the Rochester. I was led to believe there were spooky things going on, which naturally leads me on my paranormal kick. There were few and far instances where Stella believes she is hearing a ghost and then after one such occasion, it would take ages to get back to another and longer still before the answer was to come. I guess those pages that were in between the ghostly encounters should’ve been my first hint that all was not what I expected it to be. So I guess I feel a little slighted that my expectations were taken off course.

Again, I’ve never read Jane Eyre, I couldn’t even tell you what it was about in the tiniest of details. I don’t know if this book will appeal to those fans of the classic or not. It’s still an engaging read even with some of my expectations being tossed aside. I never once got to the point where I felt like quitting the story because I was eager to see how the characters got themselves out of the dire predicaments!

The pacing to this one was a little more sedate. I don’t want to say slow really, as there was always something going on, it just wasn’t the actiony kind of action. I also really enjoyed the characters. Stella was quite the heroine going from someone used to being cast aside to growing herself a backbone and a voice. I loved that about her. For who doesn’t have moments where you find yourself doubting something or other? Hugo was another interesting character. I had moments where I thought he was being duplicitous. Something would feel off, but then my mind would change with his next set of actions.

As you can see this book left me with a lot of mixed feelings. I didn’t love it entirely, but I didn’t hate it either. It definitely falls somewhere in the middle for me. I think there are a good deal of readers who would thoroughly enjoy this one! It’s a love story, it’s a story of hope, it’s a story of survival; it really has a lot going for it. By its end I could see that this was a standalone and I think that’s the best fit for it as everything gets resolved, if somewhat quickly in some areas, and there’s a feeling for hope for the future for the characters we will leave behind. Brightly Burning was a different kind of read for me, but I found myself enjoying it just the same.

Overall Rating 3.75/5 stars—not quite four stars, but exceedingly close to it. I just had a few hang-ups on some matters that doesn’t give me the vibes that this one was a four star rating for me. But I hope you will give it a chance if anything about it sparks an interest for you!

Brightly Burning releases May 1, 2018 

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