Brightly Burning, by Alexa Donne

Brightly Burning, by Alexa Donne (HMH Books for Young Readers, YA, May 2018), is an easy book to pitch in one sentence--Jane Eyre in Space.  It's the story of Stella, an orphan, mistreated by rich relatives, who escapes impoverished circumstances (on board a decrepit farming spaceship orbiting an icebound Earth) by finding work as a governess to a little girl in an isolated manor (in this case, isolated private spaceship), falls in love with the mercurial, wealthy guardian of the little girl, and then finds there's a madwoman on board as well...and things get problematic.

What makes this interesting is that there is enough Jane Eyre-ness to make it fun to play along with the author, but the framing device of humanity orbiting the earth for generations, waiting for the ice-age to end, is an interesting sci fi story in its own right. The class struggle and inequality of this society, and the moral dilemmas it poses to the characters, adds  interest, and Stella is a stronger character than Jane was, and a much better advocate for herself.  I actually cannot stand Jane Eyre, the book or the girl, and did not find Mr. Rochester appealing in the least, but his placeholder here, Hugo, though also an insensitive ass, is a few steps up from the original, and at 19 much more suitable for teenaged Stella.

So basically, I enjoyed reading it (good descriptions of spaceship life, and I loved the conceit of grand estate transformed to luxury spaceship), though I would have liked the ending (set on Earth) to go into more re-building terrestrial civilization specifics just because I like that kind of thing lots.  But maybe there will be a sequel in which they figure out flush toilets again.

Kirkus is several notches more enthusiastic than me--"A gripping examination of class, romance, and survival set in a dystopian future that feels chillingly relevant to our present times."


While at Amazon getting a link I was amused to see that Brightly Burning is

#13 in Books & Teens & Romance &; Clean & Wholesome

because "wholesome" is not a word I'd ever use to describe even an echo of Mr. Rochester, though Hugo is much, much more wholesome than the original!  The romance is confined to a bit of fairly detailed passionate kissing, not chastely clean at all, but there is no actual sex, which might be all that matters )

I was much less amused by this-- it took me a while to get the link to the option to buy the book new, because when you just search Amazon for it, the buy option goes to the used book sellers.  I had to put a bundle of this one plus two other books into my shopping cart to get the link to buy it new.  Though I'm angry at Amazon, I'm leaving the link in because it does seem to work and I feel I have foiled them, but if you are interested you might want to go elsewhere....)

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. Oh goody, okay, so it sounds like I would enjoy this closer to the Kirkus level. I am a huge huge fan of Jane Eyre the book, and even though to date I have read no retellings of it that I enjoyed, hope springs eternal.

  2. I could swear that I recently read another Jane Eyre in Space, and that it was pretty good, but for the life of me I can't remember anything about it (in particular title and author!). So it was good but not memorable?? I will read anything that claims to be a Jane Eyre retelling, because I loved the book (not Mr. Rochester so much, but I loved Jane!)


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