Brightstorm, by Vashti Hardy

Back to blogging after vacation time, happily with a book I loved to write about!

Brightstorm, by Vashti Hardy (published in the UK March 2018, Scholastic), is a gorgeous middle grade adventure, one of my favorite books of the year so far!  I am so happy that some savvy Rhode Island librarian (Ashaway RI to be precise) reached across the Atlantic to add it to our state library system!

Twins Arthur and Maudie are left destitute in an alternate version of London when their father never returns from a voyage in his airship to reach the South Polaris on the mysterious Third Continent.  He's considered guilty of failing to render aid to his chief competitor in his quest for the polaris, the powerful Eudora Vine.  Then Arthur and Maudie are taken on as crew by a young captain, Harriet Culpepper, who flies an airship like no other.  She's determined to beat Eudora in a second race to the polaris, and Maudie and Arthur are determined to all they can to help, partly for the large cash prize and the thrill of it, but in larger part, especially for Arthur, to find out what really happened to their father.

The journey through the skies goes smoothly, but disaster strikes when they reach the third continent.  Their ship has been sabotaged, and now they've crashed into a wasteland where giant  beasts, who apparently attacked their father's crew, prowl through the snow.  Harriet, Maudie, Arthur, and the indominable ship's cook, Felicity, race through bitter cold across treacherous ice...but Eudora Vine is an enemy who will stop at nothing.

In the end, the mystery of their father's death is solved, Eudora is thwarted, and all is well. 
Not only is it a good story, with a steady buildup to the exciting race at the end, but it has great characters.  I'm of course all in favor for strong girls who are geniuses at mechanics, like Maudie and Harriet, but it's also lovely to see a boy like Arthur, who isn't particular gifted at practical, boy-coded things find his own gifts of intuition, observation, and thoughtful communication.  It's this later gift that wins the group surprising allies who keep them alive in the cold south.  Arthur was born without his right arm, and though this is a hindrance in some respects, and though he's sick of people's reactions, it's not a handicap that defines him in anyway, which I also appreciated.

A final appreciation is  for the condemnation of rapacious, violent colonial exploration and exploitation, not made a heavy handed Point of, but made very firmly clear.

An even more final appreciation--Harriet's airship has a great onboard library which both twins love.

And one more quick one--Felicity the cook is a real hero! (her actual age isn't specified, but she read as a middle-aged women to me, which was nice for me).

In short, a quick bright read that's a true delight!


  1. What a cover! Sounds like a great MG book too. Definitely adding this to my list. :) ~Jess

  2. I know some kids who would love such a book. Thanks for your review.

    1. you're very welcome, and thanks for being the best commenter on my blog!

  3. I want to read this, too! Though, alas, I can't find it anywhere in the state.

    1. I was very pleased to find it in the RI system before its publication over here, and am hoping that whatever librarian added it is a fan of UK fantasy and will keep on shopping overseas!


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