Brightly Burning

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 May 2018

Member Reviews

So this is supposed to be a scifi version of Jane Eyre. In all honesty I havent read Jane Eyre. I liked Stella, but did not enjoy Hugo at all.
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Jane Eyre in space was not a concept I could resist, and I'm largely quite impressed by Donne's work here. The strengths lie in the modifications to the tale. Turning the plot into something that works for a sci fi epic took some maneuvering, but Jane Eyre's very recognizable without being made awkward by forcing elements that did not fit. Some aspects were telegraphed (the update to the Bertha Mason plot) but others surprised me.

I found it strange that the people on ships in space had fled an environmental cataclysm but that there was no connection to global warming. An ice age could be an affect of global warming ultimately, but there's really no mention, something made even more odd given the references to current pop culture but nothing created in the future, indicating that they weren't probably that far out from the present. 

Mostly, though, I didn't entirely connect with the characters, somewhat definitely due to the fact that I'm not the hugest Jane Eyre fan. My favorite part of Jane Eyre was her youth before she met Rochester, her quiet rage and fire, but Stella's a bit more mild and sugar sweet than Jane. It works in the story, but I respond more to bitchier heroines as a general rule. Also, as with Jane Eyre, I super do not ship Jane with the updated Rochester (his name is Hugo). Hugo's mercurial, childish, pathetic, and maybe an alcoholic. He very much fits the Rochester mold, but like with the story being retold, the relationship in no way strikes me as healthy.

If you're a Jane Eyre fan, I absolutely think Brightly Burning is worth a read. If you're less a fan of Rochester, still maybe but be prepared to not like his futuristic version either.
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I enjoyed this story that was pitched as "Jane Eyre in Space". It definitely delivers on hitting the right notes as a retelling with a modern twist. The main character is smart and has a mind of her own, the side characters provide interest to the plot and the love interest was pretty swoon worthy. A fun read!
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First thing first. Before I start analyzing anything I need to say this : reading this book was a lot of fun. It was quick and hard to put down.
I liked how was reproduced key elements to Jane Eyre, the dynamic between Stella and Hugo was well done. But it was hard getting past the first shocker : "Mr. Rochester"'s age. But somehow the book managed to invent him a dark mysterious past anyway.
I loved that you could see Jane Eyre in the story and yet still be surprised by the events. I think that someone that isn't a fan of JE can still enjoy this book. Although maybe they'd find Hugo unlikeable and wouldn't understand him the way someone that read JE would. I think Hugo was not redeemable in the same way as Mr.Rochester and that he was excused (after his letter) way too fast. This part of the story remained too roughly explained and gave a weak excuse for their actions.
Overall it was a fun read, even though some little details bothered me. (Like how did Karlson knew after not even one day on earth how to recognized a path in the wood ) (and why was there such a fuss around George at first just so she could dismiss her love for him in a sentence just after a few weeks on the Rochester... Stella just ends up looking foolish and indecisive. I understand what was meant to be done but it should have been done with a tad more subtlety)
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This book is a retelling of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, but it is set in space in the aftermath of an Ice Age on Earth that almost wiped out the human population. Stella Ainsley lost her parents to a widespread virus when she was little, and now she is a mechanical engineer on the Stalwart, a rapidly degenerating spacecraft. Stella also teaches the children part time, but she wants to be a full time governess. She accepts a post on the spacecraft Rochester, and soon she finds out there are strange occurrences on the ship. Stella enjoys her relationship with her student Jessa and most of the crew, but she eventually falls in love with Hugo Fairfax, the owner of the spacecraft. Unfortunately, Hugo is hiding more than one dangerous secret, and Stella will have to make difficult choices in order to save the lives of those she loves.
I loved this book! The concept was executed very well, and the writing was so descriptive that I felt like I was actually there. I never used to read science fiction, but lately I have found excellent books like this one that have found a permanent place on my shelf. The romance between Stella and Hugo was swoon worthy and was one of the best I have encountered in books this year. One thing I didn't care for was the profanity, but it was pretty mild and didn't really detract from the book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA fiction, science fiction, and retellings. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. A positive review was not required, and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
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Who wouldn't want to buy a book with such a gripping elevator pitch as 'Jane Eyre in space'? 

It's crazy how well this classic story translates into the futuristic setting, with obvious character relationship changes to make ti fit for a YA audience. The book was most exciting when it really leant into the retelling, using the cornerstone plot points of Jane Eyre, but on the other hand, that this could sometimes feel like a crutch. I believe that Alexa Donne will continue to be writing space retellings, and it would be really cool if they were companion novels because there is definitely more of the world/system to explore! I filled in any gaps with what I've seen in Doctor Who episodes!
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I love an inventive retelling of a classic, and Jane Eyre in space had my attention right away. Brightly Burning does not disappoint. There’s genuine chemistry between the romantic leads, with delightful banter and well matched wit. The setting enhances the story, infusing it with both a bit of action and starlit beauty. The cast of supporting characters are nicely fleshed out and each add something distinct to the story. It is Jane Eyre in space, but with a much lighter touch.
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"Jane Eyre... in space!" is what made me want to read this book, but Donne's fantastic tribute and manipulation of the original story is what kept me reading. I thoroughly enjoyed the well fleshed out characters she created and the way the story moved along. I had been an admirer of Donne and her youtube channel, and now I'm a fan of Donne, her youtube channel, and her writing.
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For some reason, I didn't expect to love this book as much as I did. But it managed to encompass many of the fun aspects of JANE EYRE while expertly avoiding its problematic areas (mostly). 

It was a fun space romp. I would have been happy without the world-ending framing, and just left it as a romance, but honestly it was really good.
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Seriously, how can you resist a set-up like that? It’s probably no wonder that out of the many, many 2018 debuts fellow book bloggers have been buzzing about, debut author Alexa Donne’s Brightly Burning ranked high on many a list. 

Donne does a fine job paying tribute to the source material, writing a tightly-woven story about 17-year-old Stella Ainsley, a struggling engineer living on one of the least well-off ships in a space fleet circling the earth, as they wait out a new ice age. Stella lives a decent life, but aspires to more - which comes in the form of an invitation from the  ship The Rochester, who is looking for a new governess. While The Rochester offers Stella opportunities she never dreamed of, including access to libraries and food she rarely ever sees, there are obvious secrets, which begin to reveal themselves in the form of isolated floors, creepy shipmates and screams in the night....

Brightly Burning excels, largely because Donne is willing to play with the source material. Whereas some adaptations like to focus on checking off boxes to make sure each line, character and scenario are adapted, Donne is willing to play fast and loose with the rules sometimes, including some cheeky nods to the Brontë sisters. It helps Stella’s story stand on its own, wand gives it a little more gravitas. The biggest changes come in the form of  villains and character motivations, which - if I can be allowed a bit of literary freedom - actually improves on some of the problems w/in the original novel.  

Donne also has some sound futurist skills; the space-based foundation she's envisioned for Stella is obviously built from our current reality, and she does a nice job of establishing some socio-economic boundaries for what we see in the book, with clear paths on how they could have potentially evolved to that point. 

My one quibble with Brightly Burning - (spoilers ahead) - is Donne doesn’t set up the strongest foundation for explaining the need for the virus. The obvious assumption is a fear of resource scarcity, and the need to take out people from the fleet, so the strongest (re: richest) have a chance to survive. But it’s not overtly clear in the ARC version, so readers are sort of left to infer. 

Additionally, there are some questions about the ability of the fleet to plan long-term. I could have missed some details during my first read so I’ll gladly reread, but it seems like the fleet didn’t exactly have a plan for staying up in space. There doesn’t appear to be consistent (e.g. annual) testing of the surface temperatures on the ground to see if conditions have changed, nor were there strong contingency plans for keeping the ships afloat. 

After all, if you’re concerned you’re going to be in space for hundreds of years, why wouldn’t you bring up resources that would allow you to salvage old ships, and use those scrap parts to build new ships? Why is the default option for the ships to essentially have to crash-land on earth? However. This is my brain nitpicking since I like to ask questions, and I 100% guarantee, 1) I’m probably the few people who are asking these questions, and 2) This does not hinder your enjoyment of this book one bit. 

If anything, I’d like for Donne to explore this world further. It’s a trip I’m willing to take. Highly recommend.
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4.5 Stars

'Brightly Burning' is a wonderfully original retelling of Jane Eyre - with this one set in space aboard a fleet of spaceships who have been orbiting Earth for two hundred years, following another ice age. A somewhat embarrassing confession: I've never read Jane Eyre. Which is almost unheard of with devoted readers and shameful for people like me who even majored in English. So, having not read the classic itself, I can't compare it to the original and pick out the various differences or commonalities. I'm not sure if this is a pro or con - it can be seen as both probably. Either way, I really liked this book and I'm so happy that I decided to give it a shot without quite knowing what I was getting into.

There were a lot of aspects that I enjoyed about the book, most notably the characters, world building, plot, and writing style. The world that the author creates for the story is beautifully descriptive with lots of vivid details and imagery that make it come to life in front of your eyes. I felt like I stepped right inside of Stella's world as soon as I started reading, and it felt like I was experiencing everything that Stella was as if I was there with her. Speaking of characters, I think Stella was a great main character for the story. She's a wonderful person all around and we see these qualities repeatedly throughout the novel. She's loving, kind, selfless, and puts others above herself. She's also strong, determined, and stubborn - which I thought made her even more realistic and easy to identify with. I liked her right away and loved getting to know her during the story. She grows and matures a lot during the book and it was fantastic seeing this happen. And I obviously adored the romance that develops between her and Hugo, which is another huge aspect of the story and also wonderfully written. All of the secondary characters including Hugo were rounded and complex with their own personalities and traits that made them feel realistic. I liked getting to know each of them and how they interacted with one another and how their relationships functioned and why.

The plot was fascinating, probably owing to the fact that I never read the original it's based on. Everything was new and exciting for me, and I ate it all up in one sitting without stopping. I kept reading because I had to see what was going to happen next or why things were going on, etc. It kept me on my toes for several reasons - the romance, the mystery of the ship and it's strange occurrences, the horrible truth of what was really happening throughout the fleet. It was all very engaging and I couldn't make myself stop reading until I had finished it all. I very highly recommend this novel for fans of the original classic, YA science fiction, fantasy, and romance.
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Jane Eyre. In Space. Those were the only four words I needed to sell me on Brightly Burning. 

I love retellings of classics, particularly when they have completely novel settings. However, since I hadn’t actually ever read Jane Eyre, I decided to do so before starting this one. With the original story fresh in my mind, I was able to pick up on so many more references than I think I otherwise would have. It was so much fun to be able to spot scenes, characters, and moments. Alexa Donne obviously did her research and it shows in the care she takes with recreating the gothic romance classic. 

However, I do think that Brightly Burning would have been a better book if it hadn’t adhered to the original storyline so carefully. There were times when the plot felt constrained, forced to fit into a mold that didn’t quite work. I wanted these characters to be different than the originals. It felt like there was a whole world of depth possible but this book only scratched the surface. 

Despite all this, Brightly Burning was still a good read. It was fun to see how the science fiction and dystopian aspects were melded with classic Jane Eyre. I just wish that Donne had taken more chances and not stayed so true to the original. 

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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This was a creative retelling of Jane Eyre with a sci-fi element. I found it enjoyable enough but did not really connect with the characters. I may not be the target audience for this one.
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I really enjoyed Brightly Burning, I was not aware the book was based on the book Jane Eyre. I've also have not ever read Jane Eyre. But after speaking to friends they said this was a great reimagining of the classic tale. This story was a whirlwind of emotions. This wasn't just a romance, it was a sci-fi story wrapped in a retelling. Stella was a wonderful MC. She wasn't afraid of being perfectly candid but she still was just a sweet person. Her crew was great as well. Complimented each other and helped out where needed. I thought Stella and Hugo were absolutely adorable. True goals. All in all I really enjoyed everything about this lovely book by Alexa Donne.
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I give this book 3 stars. It was a good reimagining of Jane Eyre and I liked the twist of space involved. While it was good I didn’t find myself fully in love with the characters or story. Something fell flat for me. I enjoyed the story for the most part and will recommend this to people looking for a twist on s beloved story
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A science fiction retelling of Jane Eyre!
Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read and review Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne! A science fiction retelling of “Jane Eyre”, Stella is an orphan unloved by her relatives and an engineer dreaming of being a governess. She’s an engineer on a derelict ship, Stalwart, that’s on its last leg. Stella receives notification of being hired on another ship and is on her way to her future. The Rochester holds many mysteries from Stella- a young captain, a possible ghost and ship sabotage. Brightly Burning is one science fiction story that I love! Normally, science fiction is not my favorite but this story has surprises and mysterious happenings that kept me thoroughly interested. Stella is a great heroine, not overbearing or a simpering damsel. A lengthier book would have allowed more character depth but I enjoyed Brightly Burning as is too, 4 stars!
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When I was in high school, I fell in love with Jane Eyre when I read it.  I just couldn’t resist the tale of a plain young woman from a humble background who falls in love with the wealthy but dark and brooding Mr. Rochester.  The Gothic setting, the secrets and the lies, but underneath it all, an attraction that they just can’t fight – all of it was just so perfect.

Needless to say, when I heard a retelling of Jane Eyre was coming out and that it was set in space (!), I rushed over to Netgalley to request it and was so ecstatic when I was approved.

I dove in and was immediately impressed by what a unique storyline author Alexa Donne had crafted, while at the same time, retaining so many elements from the classic novel.  Donne’s story is actually set in the future where a second Ice Age has made the Earth uninhabitable forcing those from Earth to live aboard a fleet of spaceships.  When the story opens, they have been living aboard these ships for a couple hundred years and some of the aging ships are starting to show signs that they cannot remain in space for much longer.  Resources are becoming scarce, especially aboard the poorer ships and residents know there will come a time when they are forced to return to Earth.  All they can do is hope that the Earth has thawed enough so that they have a chance to survive.

Our Jane Eyre character, seventeen year old Stella Ainsley, is aboard such an aging ship.  Stella works as both a teacher and a part-time engineer on the ship so she knows firsthand how poor their prospects are for remaining in space much longer.  She also knows that her only chance of not being sent to Earth is to secure employment on another ship but jobs are as scarce as resources are so her options are few and far between.  That is, until a privately owned ship called The Rochester, offers her employment as a governess.  Ecstatic at her good luck, Stella accepts the job immediately and leaves for The Rochester.

Stella gets a lot more than she bargained for, however, once she is aboard The Rochester, including handsome 19-year old Hugo Fairfax, who unexpectedly is the Captain of the ship and now Stella’s boss, as Stella will be teaching his younger sister, Jessa..  Although Hugo has a reputation for being moody and a drunk, Stella finds him to be charming and kind, at least around her.  She finds herself immediately attracted to him but becomes weary when she realizes that he is keeping secrets from her.  She has heard rumors that The Rochester is haunted and when strange things start happening aboard the ship, Stella becomes determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. What Stella doesn’t bargain on, however, is that trying to find the answer to one mystery leads her down an even more dangerous path, one that she may not be able to escape from…

Stella.  I really liked Stella right away.  Just like the original Jane Eyre character, Stella is smart, plain, and very outspoken.  She’s also an orphan who happens to be great with kids.  One of my favorite qualities about her is that while she remains respectful at all times, she doesn’t just stand there and let people insult her because they think they’re better than she is.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I am a sucker for a scrappy underdog and Stella fits the bill. When Stella goes head-to-head with a wealthy young woman named Bianca who perceives Stella as a threat for Hugo’s affections and goes out of her way to belittle Stella in front of Hugo, I was cheering Stella on every step of the way. Aside from her outspokenness, I also admired Stella’s sense of self-sacrifice.  She has a very strong moral compass and will sacrifice herself at any moment to save the lives of others.  It was an impressive quality to see in someone so young.

Hugo.  My love for Hugo stems from my love for complicated characters and they don’t get much more complicated than Hugo Fairfax.  One moment he’s fun, flirty, and charming, and being the best big brother Jessa could ever wish for, but then the next moment, he’s broody, secretive, and constantly drinking.  It’s clear that he’s hiding something.  It’s just not clear what that something is, or whether anyone else on his crew knows what it is either.  I loved that his character had all of these layers, and like Stella, I wanted to get through all of them and figure out who the real Hugo is.

Romance.  I really liked that Donne crafted a romance between Stella and Hugo that was very reminiscent of what we got with Jane and Mr. Rochester in the original tale.  The chemistry between Stella and Hugo is believable and I liked that even though the attraction was almost immediate, the relationship itself still takes time to develop and is fraught with obstacles, including not only Bianca but also whatever Hugo is hiding from Stella regarding the happenings aboard The Rochester.

Secrets, Mysteries, and Danger.  Even though the setting is in space, the story still has a Gothic feel to it because of all of the secrets that seem to be lurking in the shadows aboard The Rochester.  As Stella begins to investigate, the suspense and tension really starts to ratchet up and I found myself getting more and more into the story because I wanted to know what was really going on aboard the ship once it became clear it was not just Stella’s imagination getting the better of her.

Made Up Words.  This will probably be one of those things that bothers me but no one else, but it was driving me crazy that the characters in Brightly Burning kept using the word FREX as a curse.   I mean, seriously – Set in the future or not, most of the characters we encounter on the ships are descended from Americans and even if they aren’t, the ‘F’ word they are clearly trying to use is universal enough that it made no sense to me how they got from the familiar ‘F’ word to frex.  Frex this, frex that, frexxing etc.  Like I said, it’s probably just me but I just cringed every time the word came up.

Rushed Ending.  I don’t want to say that the pacing was slow throughout the rest of the novel because it wasn’t, but it felt like we really kicked it into high gear as the end drew near.  I’m being vague here because I don’t want to spoil the ending, so I’ll just say that it felt like a few important details were just glossed over in favor of wrapping things up quickly.  For that reason, while I did love the ending overall, I just would have liked a little more from it.

Brightly Burning is a fun and unique retelling of the classic novel, Jane Eyre.  The author does a remarkable job of updating the story to a believable and entertaining science fiction tale set in space, while retaining all of the memorable details from the original novel.  I think Brightly Burning would appeal to readers, even if they’ve never read Jane Eyre, as long as they enjoy science fiction with a side of swoony romance, dark secrets, and even a conspiracy or two.
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Donne interweaves Jane Eyre with a sci-fi mystery in a unique setting. The world-building of massive nation-state ships is impressive, and Donne does a good job placing elements of Bronte into the story without sticking to that story like glue. I look forward to more novels from Donne.
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Brightly Burning was a delight! I love that YA is exploring space and different fates for earth more. I haven't read Jane Eyre, but I know it was a huge selling point for a lot of my friends. I absolutely loved this one. It was a romance but also a bit of a thriller. I was on the edge of my seat to find out who or what was on the Rochester causing all of that havoc and I certainly was shocked when we found out what it was. 

The characters in this were really fleshed out and I loved all of the side characters too. There was quite a large group of players in this one but I never felt overwhelmed. I wish we did get more backstory or interaction with the scientist considering later events. I really enjoyed exploring Stella's changing relationship with the other characters. I am pleased to announce that there is no love triangle. I was really shocked but excited to see a character realize there crush was misplaced and move on instead of spending the entire book lamenting over two boys. 

The relationship did feel a bit rushed to me. I wish there had been a little bit more exploration of it to really make it more believable to me. I did really enjoy the twist, however, and I think the ending was handled fantastically. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this one.
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Rating: 5/5

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Romance/Dystopian/Retelling

Recommended Age: 15+ (violence, sexual references, dystopian like horrors, and ice age)

Pages: 400

Amazon Link

Author Website

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book as an e-arc on NetGalley. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Stella Ainsley leaves poverty behind when she quits her engineering job aboard the Stalwart to become a governess on a private ship. On the Rochester, there’s no water ration, more books than one person could devour in a lifetime, and an AI who seems more friend than robot.
But no one warned Stella that the ship seems to be haunted, nor that it may be involved in a conspiracy that could topple the entire interstellar fleet. Surrounded by mysteries, Stella finds her equal in the brooding but kind, nineteen-year-old Captain Hugo. When several attempts on his life spark more questions than answers, and the beautiful Bianca Ingram appears at Hugo’s request, his unpredictable behavior causes Stella’s suspicions to mount. Without knowing who to trust, Stella must decide whether to follow her head or her heart.
Alexa Donne’s lush and enthralling reimagining of the classic Jane Eyre, set among the stars, will seduce and beguile you

So… I don’t read synopses and I shortly found out after I started reading this book that it was a Jane Eyre retelling. I’m one of those horrible people that hasn’t read many classics (well, I’ve not read the popular classics) but since I was somewhat familiar with Jane Eyre from a YouTube video explaining the highlights of it, I felt I was in a good position to read it. Surprisingly though I didn’t need my limited knowledge of the book to understand what was going on. The book was written so well and so unique given its retelling status. The book didn’t feel like a retelling and unless you were either familiar with the book you wouldn’t notice it was a retelling. The book also expanded from the original story so much and it really made the story its own. The characters in the book were very well developed and what you think is going to happen is completely the opposite of what does. The book did well at doing away at some of the tired old YA clichés. The book also had so many twists and turns that you can’t tell where the book is going. Hands down, one of my favorite Sci-Fi’s to date.

However, I did think that the book could have expanded more on the world building a bit, but once again what we got in the book was really well done and adequate. I need more though and I really hope we get a companion novel to this book. Maybe a Pride and Prejudice retelling? Little Women? White Fang? Wait… 

Verdict: Jane Eyre in space is cool. If only Charlotte Bronte thought of it.
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