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Brightly Burning

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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.

400 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 1, 2018

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Alexa Donne

5 books3,204 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,106 reviews
May 3, 2018
This book is supposed to be a sci-fi version of Jane Eyre. It fucking sucks.

Beware: lots of cursing in this review. I am in a spicy mood today.

Our main character, Stella (Jane Eyre) is a brilliant spaceship engineer who has long harbored high hopes of being...a fucking governess. Not that there's anything wrong with being a governess, mind you, but ffs. It's like if I had an engineering Ph.D and chose to work as a nanny. It's dumb and seriously, fuck that stupid dream.
“We both know you aren’t applying anywhere as an engineer. You hate the job, despite being very good at it—​and not at all humble, I might add—​and unless someone on another ship dies with no apprentice in place, you’re not getting an engineering transfer.” I opened my mouth to reply, but he kept going. “I had hoped you’d get over your foolish dreams of being taken on by some miracle ship to teach, but what is this? Your third round of applications?”
First of all, it doesn't make any damn sense. This is the future. Earth has been frozen for like 200 years. I mean here in the 21st century we had already outgrown governnesses for like what? 100 years now? And we're supposed to believe that there is a need for governesses on some spaceship in the future? Give me a break.

Oh wah she wants a new environment despite having a steady job in a future where, honestly, it doesn't look like there's a whole lot of options. I mean, I guess I can't predict what one girl's hopes and dreams are, but from my point of view, it's just fucking stupid. She's already teaching kids on her ship in addition to her day job anyway.

Ok so back to the review. In this future, it's like the Medieval period all over again. People die at like 34, and by 18, if you're not married, you're a spinster, man (or woman)! Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose, right? (The more things change, the more they remain the same for those of you who don't speak FRONCH).

The world building is lazy. It is LITERALLY A LESSON. That is, frankly, the most indifferent way an author could use to describe the setting of a book and to provide history on it.
“Who can tell me how a volcanic explosion can lead to an ice age?”

“When a supervolcano explodes, all the dust it releases into the air blocks the sunlight,” he said. Competent enough for an eleven-year-old.

“That’s just one part of it,” I said, “but good job. And how long can an ice age last?”
Nah, bro. I just don't understand the setting. There are big ships with purpose, then there are small ships with like 8 people on board. What is their purpose? Why does there need to be a crew and a captain and stuff? This book makes no sense.

So the "Rochester" in the book is a ship, The Rochester. And for some reason she's now magically the auxiliary engineering officer as well. What are the chances?!

The actual "Rochester," as in the person, is the captain of the ship, Fairfax. He is 19 and completely incompetent. He couldn't lead a Boy Scout troop, much less a spaceship.

If the captain is incompetent, so is the brilliant engineer that is Stella, who practically kills Fairfax the first time she meets him.
I turned off the warning beacon . . . I flagrantly defied safety protocols, and you nearly died.”
Fairfax becomes a captain at 14. I know this future world has people reaching middle age at like 18 and stuff...but really. I cannot imagine a 14 year old captain at all. My suspension of disbelief only goes so far.

Whatever. The main characters are stupid (literally). The heroine is silly. The book is silly. The setting makes no sense. I have a million questions.

Jane Eyre has the appeal of time and setting. It is a gothic romance. Given its absurdly romantic setting and time period, one can enjoy it based on that. Rochester, the dark, surly hero. The innocent and sensible Jane. Most of the appeal comes from Jane's narrative and her spirit; Stella, in this book, does not compare. Rochester is an asshole but we can accept him. Fairfax just comes off as a drunk brat.

Not a good retelling.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,538 reviews9,826 followers
May 23, 2023
**3.5-stars rounded up**

Y'all, I have a confession. Brace yourselves for what I am about to say may shock you. I have never read Jane Eyre.

I know, I know. You can put your pitchfork down. How can I possibly rate a Jane Eyre retelling without having read the original source material?

The answer is, probably not well, but I'm going to try.

Brightly Burning, is a stand-alone YA Science-Fiction novel that retells the story of Jane Eyre, but set in SPACE.

That sold me. I will literally read anything if you tell me it is 'set in space'.

In this version, our Jane is played by Stella Ainsley, an engineer and part-time teacher, who lives on a decrepit spaceship called the Stalwart.

Stella longs for a different life, one that will take her far away from the failing Stalwart.

She begins applying for jobs on other ships; the only real way you can transfer in this fleet, as ship placement is basically assigned based on social class.

To her complete surprise she ends up being offered a position as a governess aboard a private ship called...wait for it...the Rochester.

It doesn't take long after Stella boards the Rochester before she begins to suspect something sinister may be going on.

Strange occurrences, things going bump in the night, inexplicable laughter in the halls; you get the gist.

As Stella grows closer to the other people aboard the Rochester, most importantly, the Captain, Hugo Fairfax, she begins to piece together the strange history of the ship and the Fairfax family.

Along the way Stella and Hugo's relationship begins to go way past employer and employee. Sparks fly and I think you can guess the rest.

I noticed quite a few connections to the original Jane Eyre story in a way that payed a nice homage to the original, without seeming 'copycat' in its styling.

I really loved the setting and I think any YA SciFi fan could appreciate it. I thought the ships, and fleet in general, were very well constructed.

For me, the pace of the story was great as well. I was never bored and related well to Stella. I understand from reading other reviews that not everyone was a fan of Stella, but for me, I really liked her.

She is a major book nerd and doesn't cow to what society may expect of her; I felt I understood her motivations.

I felt perhaps the last 20% or so was a little rushed and a bit of the science on that end didn't make sense. (e.g. it wouldn't have been possible for events to occur as quickly, but it is a fictional story so I'm not going to go too crazy about that.)

It definitely didn't affect my rating at all, I just had a good giggle about it. I can't really go into what I mean because it would completely spoil the end.

Overall, I was happy with it when I finished. I think it came to a nice conclusion and was a good ending for a standalone novel.

I would definitely read more books by Alexa Donne and look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,162 reviews1,517 followers
April 19, 2018
Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne is a young adult science fiction fantasy with a dash of romance that is also an imaginative retelling of the classic Jane Eyre. Of course what better way to modernize a classic than to do a take of it that is futuristic feeling in the setting with the story taking place upon a space ship.

Seventeen year old Stella Ainsley was working as an engineer aboard the poorest ship of the fleet after being raised in a wealthier life with an aunt that didn’t want her so she shipped her off the first chance she could. Having an extensive education though Stella has set her sights on finding a job on another wealthier ship and continues to send out applications.

When Stella actually receives a reply from the captain of the Rochester for a position as a governess she jumps at the opportunity. What she never expected upon arriving on the privately owned ship though was the luxury of not having the ration restrictions she’d always had, a huge room of her own and a very handsome nineteen year old captain.

Brightly Burning was one of those books that was just a lot of fun to read. I thought the author did a wonderful job with the outer space setting along the way. The only thing really that I would have liked to see was a bit more to the romance, it felt a bit like an oh it’s a cute boy I’m in love situation. However, there really was several months passing in the story that just aren’t drawn out so it wasn’t quite as rushed as it may have felt, showing a bit more would have added an extra spark. In the end though I actually rather liked the creativity behind this one and would recommend checking it out.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for jv poore.
612 reviews207 followers
September 27, 2019
Abruptly orphaned at only seven years old, Stella Ainsley slid down the human hierarchy and was relocated from the elitist Empire to a humbler space-craft, the Stalwart. Inhabited mostly by hard-working farmers that had won a lottery, Stella would never fit in. Instead, she clung to fond memories of her father, following in his footsteps to become a skilled and trusted engineer.

Sadly, she hates every moment of it. Teaching Ancient Earth Science brings her joy. Preparing students for “…when it comes time to go back down to the surface,” gives her purpose. But at almost-eighteen-years-old and without even a hint of a husband, choosing a career is not an option. Soon, Stella will be locked into her loathsome full-time position.

Unless…in the unlikeliest of events, another ship accepts one of her applications.

It is Year 210, Day 65.

A super-volcano has erupted, creating an ice-age that few humans will survive. When the explosion was only an impending threat, the wealthy (and thus assumed wise) decided not to depend on a precarious planet, but to create new habitats aboard a fleet of spaceships that would orbit the Earth until a thaw renders it once again welcoming to the lifestyle they deem acceptable.

For the majority--those with more money than empathy--this has worked quite well. The manual laborers and citizens of lesser means seemed to bear the brunt of any widespread illness. The vehicles housing commoners are always the first to de-orbit to explore and provide the status of Earth’s atmosphere.

Secretly, yet obviously, the Stalwart is being phased out. Stella doesn’t give a second thought to accepting an offer onboard the “…funny little private ship I’ve never heard of.” She’s already en route to the Rochester before she realizes that, thumbing his nose at the norm, Hugo has his ship orbiting not the Earth, but her moon. Just about right for this quirky crew.

At nineteen, Hugo is easily the youngest captain around. Appearing to be a supremely spoiled brat with something sinister to hide, Stella decides to dismiss him and focus only her new student, Hugo’s younger sister, Jessa. Although her intentions were solid, her instincts and curiosity were stronger. Ultimately altruistic, Stella sets aside her plan for personal happiness and embarks on mission to save humanity.

This review was written for Buried Under Books by jv poore.
Profile Image for Erika Cruz.
27 reviews1 follower
January 19, 2018
Reader, this book exceeded my expectations.

This is a thrilling YA retelling of Jane Eyre set in space. It’s the story of the very likeable Stella Ainsely and her love affair with her employer, the brooding yet passionate Hugo Fairfax. Stella is a very skilled and able-bodied young woman because she doubles as both a governess AND ship mechanic. (love this!) She is a smart, caring and inquisitive main character, and I love that she has so much conviction towards her own thoughts and feelings.

What I loved:
1.) The setting- Now let me take you out of the moment to explain something. I have two sides: one half is a die-hard sci-fi nerd with a weakness towards anything space and/or science related. The other half is a die-hard romantic who gets verklempt over beautifully crafted scenes depicting anything from stolen glances to passionate embraces. Let me tell you: this book has both. In addition, We not only have the dark mysterious backdrop of space, which is in itself enticing. The author constructed a fascinating yet bleak future where a long Ice Age has afflicted the Earth and forced its citizens to flee into space inside huge spaceships. But as we all know, anything man-made is temporary. The ships won’t last forever, and time is running out. If that isn’t f*cking fascinating, I don’t know what is.

2.) The retelling - I have read the original story of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. (I’ve never seen the film adaptations though.) The skill with which the author retold the story in her own way is unparalleled. She preserved the most beloved features of Bronte’s story and stayed faithful to the overarching themes, yet was able to craft them in such a way to make the story uniquely her own. It’s very difficult to explain, but as an aspiring writer myself, I can fathom how difficult this is to do. It takes a writer of great skill and talent, and this author proves she has both.

3.) The story - The Story is epic! Not only do we have the critical character level scenes going on, but we have conspiracies, mysteries, tragedy, and sweeping adventures around every corner. I loved how strong and stalwart Stella was in the face of chaos and uncertainty. And through it all, I could still tell she was a teenager. She was very empowering and inspiring!

I could easily, easily see this book becoming a hit film. I loved this story so much. It resonated with me, and changed the way I look at retellings. As a matter of fact, I would highly recommend this book to any writer attempting to write a YA retelling.

Alexa I simply cannot wait for all the books you will grace the world with. 5/5 Stars.
Profile Image for tappkalina.
650 reviews402 followers
February 6, 2022

All of y'all 'The 100' fans out there!
This is the closest I have ever come to witness something similar to season 1! 😭😭😭 And it feels so good!

My favorite quote:
“Say that again,” I practically whispered.
“I love you,” he obliged, but I shook my head.
“No, the other thing,” I insisted.
“What?” Hugo replied with genuine confusion.
“That I’m your equal.”

I have a love-hate relationship with Hugo. One moment I wanted them to be endgame, the other I was against it. But I'm okay with how it ended.
Profile Image for Alexa.
Author 5 books3,204 followers
April 3, 2019
4/18/18 Update: If you'd like to get a signed copy of Brightly Burning but don't anticipate seeing me at an event, you can order a signed copy via The Ripped Bodice! I'm so excited to partner with this amazing local indie, and the first & only all-romance book store in the United States! If you order through The Ripped Bodice, you will also get an exclusive Brightly Burning bookmark! http://www.therippedbodicela.com/prod...

4/9/18 Update: If you pre-order Brightly Burning and turn in your proof of purchase to HMH Teen by April 30, you'll get an EXCLUSIVE pre-order prize pack, including a signed book plate and a BATH BOMB! Details + submission link can be found here: http://hmhteen.com/brightlyburning (sorry, it's US only!)

2/16/18 Update: BRIGHTLY BURNING is being published in the UK on June 12 and now has a gorgeous cover! So if you're in the UK, you can pick up the book at a bookstore near you--just a short wait after BB comes out in the US.

10/29/17 Update! I'm JAZZED to share that EW.com has revealed the cover and the first chapter of BRIGHTLY BURNING! http://ew.com/books/2017/10/25/bright....

This is my book! I'm a massive Jane Eyre + BSG nerd so basically this book combines those two things and I really hope people enjoy it. Thank you to everyone for adding it!

If you are interested in updates on the book, every month leading up to release I will share tidbits--about the world, characters, behind the scenes info, etc.--in my newsletter. That's also where I'll do some exclusive giveaways, including for ARCs, once I have them. You can sign up at alexadonne.com/newsletter.
Profile Image for Miranda.
738 reviews111 followers
April 30, 2018
As a huge fan of Jane Eyre, I was really excited to read a YA retelling of the story. So, I went into this book with high expectations, AND THIS BOOK EXCEEDS ALL OF THOSE EXPECTATIONS! I AM AN EMOTIONAL MESS! I WANT TO HUG THIS BOOK FOREVER!!!! THIS WAS A FREAKING ROLLER COASTER!!!

Okay, I let me get back to the actual review.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was the way the author took Jane Eyre and put such a refreshing and interesting twist to it. Even though I could predict some of the things that were going to happen due to it being a retelling, I still was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Fans of Jane Eyre will appreciate the nods to the original story and the unique path the author took with this story. Even if you haven't read Jane Eyre, you can still appreciate the mesmerizing and addicting plot of this book.

Stella, the main character, was a delightful character. She was so relatable and felt incredibly realistic. Stella was smart, determined, loving, kind, thoughtful, loyal, and so unselfish. She was a girl who was very sweet, but she knew when to be fierce and put her foot down. Stella wasn't perfect by any means, but her flaws made her seem more human. I just really appreciated that the author showed that a girl could be kind and thoughtful, but also stand up for herself and others by using her voice. STELLA IS A CHARACTER THAT I LOVE WITH MY ENTIRE HEART. I WANT TO HUG HER, BE HER BEST FRIEND, AND BE HER.

Hugo was the main male character, and it is safe to say that he is my new book friend. Hugo had a difficult past and has gone through SO MUCH. He tried to hide his pain behind snarky remarks and humor, but deep down, he was such a precious and kind soul. Hugo was such a charming, witty, delightful, romantic, mysterious, loyal, and deep guy. I LOVED learning more about him throughout the story. HE IS A PRECIOUS CINNAMON ROLL THAT I WANT TO PROTECT AT ALL COSTS. I ALSO WANT TO MARRY HIM AND LOVE HIM FOREVER.

THE ROMANCE BETWEEN HUGO AND STELLA KILLED ME AND THEN BROUGHT ME BACK TO LIFE. At first, Hugo's persistence to make Stella spend time with him seemed a little odd, but I was glad that Hugo pushed Stella out of her comfort zone and forced her to get to know him. Those moments were some of my favorite moments of the book.

THEY ARE PERFECT TOGETHER AND ARE SOUL MATES, OKAY? I honestly could go on and on about how much I adored their relationship, but I am trying to wrap this review up. JUST KNOW THAT THE ROMANCE IS PERFECTLY PACED, FULL OF SWOONS, AND ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTFUL.

Besides Hugo and Stella, there were a lot of interesting and lovable side characters. Each character was so unique and memorable! BASICALLY, I LOVED EVERY CHARACTER AND I DON'T EVEN CARE IF THAT SOUNDS CRAZY. Also, the author made sure that friendships and familial relationships were not tossed to the side because of the romance, THANK GOODNESS! Every relationship in this book was important and well developed.

Brightly Burning was a vivid and enchanting story that captivated me from the first line. This book explored family, loyalty, forgiveness, and romance in the most heart-wrenching way. If you are looking for a new book to get addicted to, then I definitely recommend checking this one out.

5 / 5 Fangs

*This ebook was given to me in exchange for an honest review. *

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It
Profile Image for Erin.
2,960 reviews485 followers
May 5, 2018
3.5 stars for a fairly adequate Jane Eyre retelling.

Brightly Burning takes place in a futuristic world where people are living in space because planet Earth has basically gone down the path of devastating destruction. Enter Stella Ainsley, our protagonist, who finds herself transferred to the private ship Rochester and becomes teacher and governess to young Jessa, little sister of the mysterious captain, Hugo. The ship is rumoured to be haunted and Stella is of course curious to learn all its mysteries. If you're a reader that is as familiar with Charlotte Bronte's 19th century novel as I am, the events, character names and storyline hold some very obvious similarities. The added science fiction feel works and I liked the world that Alexa Donne creates and it seemed believable.

If I wasn't sold on something, I would probably have to say that Stella and Hugo didn't woo me. Stella was a really well written Jane with her devotion to teaching, her passion for teaching, and I felt that the loneliness conveyed by Bronte's Jane was also well transferred by Donne's Stella. But Hugo was a poor man's Rochester. He wasn't 19th century dark and brooding just 21st angsty. Maybe it is because Donne had to bring Hugo closer in age whereas Rochester was much older than Jane in the original story.

Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review.
April 18, 2018
**Many thanks to HMH Books for Young Readers for sending me an ARC. This in no way influenced my review-my opinions are my own**

This is one of those times where I emailed the publisher and didn’t expect any response-and I didn’t get one. Oh well, right? But then, one night when I had been having a bad day, I came home to the most exciting and unexpected package-this beauty of an arc. I knew I had to read it right away-and I’m so glad I did.

I just loved the two main characters so much. Especially, as many will probably agree, the captain. Hugo was absolutely breathtakingly adorable. Uncertain of himself, lonely, determined not to make the wrong decisions...but with a heart of gold and a quirky personality.

When Stella gets the job on his ship, he immediately has a connection to her. They begin to get closer, to hang out at their standing ‘reading appointments’ every night, and begin to form a bond that starts to ease the ache that being the captain of a ship brings.

I’ll admit he broke my heart quite a few times. You could tell when they were hanging out he was desperate for someone he could talk to, relate to, be friends with...she would try to read and he’d continue talking to her and..agh those were just my favorite parts. Adorable.

And I enjoyed the turmoil that extra guests on the ship brought-I LIKE jealousy. It’s just the BEST relationship jump starter [when it comes to books]. Come on now, I’m not THAT crazy-it may work in real life, but I certainly don’t go looking for it nor do I condone it.

But here I am...just searching for more to say past that. This book was pleasant, it was well-written, even (my biggest fear when it comes to asking for ARCs, because I like to know what I’m putting my neck on the line for). And here-I don’t regret asking for this book, I really don’t. But I do feel bad not just adoring it like I’ve seen-because I know that, likely, it’s just a matter of taste.

This book is a fun play on Jane Eyre. And it’s set in space. Now. See. I’m neither a fan of classical books, mostly Jane Austen, nor do I read many space books. Did this work for me? It did. I really devoured it. But did I obsess over it, pine for night time when I could curl up under the covers and read it? Did I think about it all day every day just counting down the minutes until I could be reconnected with it again? The answer, sad as it may be, is no.

I’m beginning to understand that perhaps I’m not a huge fan of books set in space-only a few really stand out to me as unforgettable...and, unfortunately, this isn’t one of them. I really really enjoyed it-that’s not a lie. But, like in EVERY book I read, when I needed a HARD push, a big, dramatic event that gets larger and larger as it chugs along, this book stayed relatively even.

Which really is a good thing, honestly-especially to most people. So it’s through no fault of the author or, if I’m speaking in a creepy way, any of the characters-it’s me. I just wanted a huge eruption and a certain end...and it didn’t go that way. *shrugs* What can I say? I’m picky.

And, perhaps, I wanted a denser writing style. For a story that was somewhat dark (well..it was very dark), the writing seemed light. Like maybe there should have been more of an edge, a sharper tone at times where, instead, there was a soft, pillowy feeling and the lack of an implication that anything TOO bad could happen. I can’t explain what I mean-I can’t. It was expertly written, to be sure. No errors to be found. Yet...I wanted or needed more, and I’m not sure what that means.

The addicting and heart-wrenching moments far outweighed the underwhelming, yet I find myself drawn to remembering the things that didn’t work for me. Maybe I wanted to love this [more] too much. Maybe I had too high of expectations because everyone else is loving it-and, again, maybe I’m just spoiled, because I had a lot of fun reading it and I really liked Hugo. I thought about him, separate from the book, frequently. But, without him, this book wouldn’t have been much to me-and that’s not really a good thing, is it?

For more of my reviews, please visit:
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Profile Image for Liz Parker.
Author 1 book183 followers
June 23, 2017
This Jane Eyre retelling is the perfect book for fans of the classic who also have a love of space. While the parallels to Jane Eyre are clear throughout for those who love the original story, this novel definitely stands alone for anyone who isn't familiar with Jane Eyre. The slow-burn build up of the romance + the high stakes of the fleet's safety making it hard to put down!

I'd definitely recommend to fans of Marissa Meyer and Beth Revis. Even if space isn't your thing, I'd still tell you to pick up this book!
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
August 3, 2021
Well that was an interesting sci-fi reimagining of Jane Eyre.

I think the author spent a bit too much time on some elements of the story foregoing what were, in my opinion, the more interesting ones. I mean pretty much the entire human population is orbiting a frozen earth in a fleet of space ships! Some of which are about to plummet down to earth due to their state of disrepair. That stuff is the gold right there! Anyway, I guess the Jane Eyre part is important too. The relationship between Stella and Hugo felt a bit forced in my opinion. I liked Stella but don't think Hugo was written in a way that made him romantically appealing. He was a bit of a broody blaggard. I would have also liked to see the creepiness and spook factor dialed up a notch as that was an engaging storyline. Overall though, a go0d addition to the library.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
Author 5 books74 followers
June 25, 2017
Reader, I loved it.

Alexa Donne is just reverential enough to the heart and spirit of Jane Eyre to delight this Bronte fan - but at the same time she's done a beautiful job expanding the story that I was still on the edge of my seat.

Stella, an engineer and ammeter artist, is a brilliant Jane for a new era. She's got guts, brains, and drive - but an uncertain future. Hugo, the Captain of The Rochester, is delightfully broody and haunted by his past. Put them together, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

If you like Jane Eyre, space, or just good books in general - I highly recommend you grab this one when it comes out in 2018!
Profile Image for Kiki.
193 reviews8,457 followers
February 2, 2020
Mostly enjoyed this one - it was a whole lot of fun - but the ending let me down a bit. RTC.
Profile Image for Amy Risner.
191 reviews753 followers
May 18, 2018
ARC provided by HMH in exchange for an honest review

I was super pumped to receive this advanced copy of Brightly Burning from HMH. I am so thankful I got the chance to read this before publication. Truly, I am so grateful for these opportunities. Even if I didn’t love it, I still want to give you all my thoughts and genuine feelings!

So, with that being said, I did like the book, but I didn’t love it. It’s probably just me, y’all. I had just finished The Illuminae Files recently, and those are some kickass books set in space. I think I was expecting more action, when in reality Brightly Burning is more of a love story.

Brightly Burning is marketed as a Jane Eyre retelling set in space. Set in the future, Earth has experienced a catastrophic environmental disaster which no longer makes it habitable. Humans escaped by living on spaceships that orbit the Earth. For hundreds of years humans lived on these ships, knowing that some day their ships will no longer be “space-worthy” enough to function and will eventually need to “de-orbit” by re-entering back to Earth. The people are afraid Earth is still in an ice age, so they’re trying everything they can to prevent going back to Earth.

However, not all spaceships are created equally. Some ships are enormous, luxurious, and house the elite. Other spaceships are “poor”: bare-bones, food and water rations, and limited medical supplies. Some have had to battle viruses that wiped out a majority of their population. This class-system is very prevalent throughout the book, and is a major driving force in the plot. Since some spaceships are reaching the end of their life cycle, this puts a huge strain on everyone. What’s the morally right thing to do? Do you allow those people on to your ship or make them de-orbit back to Earth?

This brings us to Stella Ainsley (based on Jane Eyre.) Stella is an engineer aboard the “poor” ship, the Stalwart. Wanting a change, she leaves the Stalwart to go work as a governess on the Rochester, a spaceship that orbits the Moon. The Rochester is owned by a very elite family and it is operated by a small crew. Almost immediately she falls for the ship’s captain, Hugo Fairfax. But another ship, the Ingram, wants to form a marriage-alliance with the Rochester. Also, there are some weird, haunting things happening on board the Rochester that Stella cannot explain.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going especially if you’ve read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Now let’s talk about The Good and The Bad:

The Good:

• Stella’s morals. Stella is beyond selfless, caring, and will go above and beyond to help anyone. She’s extremely lovable and smart.
• The mix of future and primitive eras. I really liked how the Earth went from being a habitable planet with the technology to put people into space, to being in an ice age, to having people living in space, only to have that technology start to fail, and the people needing to go back to Earth to start life all over again. It really made me think.
• The mystery. There are definitely some creepy moments of strange laughter in the middle of the night and parts of the ship getting mysteriously sabotaged. This was woven very well into the story.

The Bad:

• Hugo Fairfax. I know Hugo is the characterization of Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester who, well, isn’t a great person. He’s arrogant, selfish, moody, mysterious, an alcoholic, and leads Stella on when it’s obvious she has feelings for him. He forces Stella to spend time with him, even when she clearly states she doesn’t want to. I just cannot with men like this. Also? He’s supposed to be the captain of a SPACESHIP but he literally does no captain duties at all. He basically treats his spaceship like one giant party cruiser. Again, I know Hugo is supposed to have Mr. Rochester’s unlikable traits, but I just… I can’t. Not in this day and age, sorry.
• The insta-love. Stella has hardly been working for very long on the Rochester, but, yep! She’s already in love with Hugo. I’m not usually a hater of insta-love, but this was a bit much for me.
• The writing felt a bit juvenile. “Frexing” is the made-up swear word. Let me just say: I am not a fan of made-up swear lingo. Lol.
• I was bored. I feel so bad saying this, because I genuinely do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But the pacing was too slow for me, and I wanted more action since this is a SciFi in space, afterall. I wasn’t blown away by any twists. By the last 100 pages, I just wanted it to be over.

While Brightly Burning hits all the major Jane Eyre plot points, I felt like it failed to exhibit the complexity of the characters. I think YA SciFi is a really difficult genre to get right. The more I think about it, it may just not be the right genre for me anymore. I think this book is for anyone who likes insta-love romances with a bit of a SciFi twist. Again, I am so grateful to HMH for sending me this copy of Brightly Burning.
Profile Image for ♠ TABI⁷ ♠.
Author 15 books485 followers
June 9, 2020
This wasn't a terrible book, but it most certainly was a debut.


Why do I say that? Because while the concepts and writing and characters were interesting, clever, and a fresh retelling take on the classic I vaguely remember, it felt . . . unpolished. It was a fun read that certainly sucked me in, pleased at all the inspirational aspects from Jane Eyre, BUT it was also rushed, illogical in parts, and pushed the romance too quickly via a telling arc format.


The parts I enjoyed the most was the brilliant, immersive aspects of living in space. Oh, it wasn't 100% realistic but it was still fascinating for my sci-fi loving heart to read, toss the unrealistic parts. People survived in spaceships, had a society built around this class system of ships and levels and whatnot, and I just really love reading that kind of stuff, okay?


I would have liked this book more IF THE ROMANCE WASN'T INVOLVED or AT LEAST LESSENED TO A BELIEVABLE DEGREE! Stella was a good character except for all the times her brain flounced off on BOYS! BOYS! SO MANY GOOD LOOKING BOYS!! to the extent that I muttered to myself, "Girl, there are stronger priorities than drooling after boys". Because, Dear Lord, one glimpse of an attractive guy and she'd just forget everything else that mattered to her before?? WHICH, if I may say from my vague Jane Eyre memories, was not a quality of the inspiring character.



Mister Hugo, aka the nineteen year old love interest who had the grumpy soul and persona of someone much too older, yes even with "what he's been through" and just DIDN'T MAKE SENSE and who was also frighteningly abusive in a plethora of small, troublesome ways that got justified in that too rushed ending was not my idea of a Mr. Rochester inspired character.

The romantic relationship in here was ultimately unhealthy at the core and nothing much was done to change that, for characters to truly grow. And that's what bothered me the most and drove this rating lower than I'd hoped.



This was still a fun read. The writing wasn't lovely nor fantastic, but it was captivating enough because I truly couldn't stop reading this once I'd started. The mystery was GOOD . . . until it wasn't. The plot was NICE . . . until the finale was rushed and patchy. But, again, it was a fun read and an interesting take on Jane Eyre. Also, it had spaceships. I liked that.
Profile Image for Emily Duncan.
Author 5 books2,755 followers
November 16, 2017

and it is exactly that. Just as clever, just as heartfelt, just as romantic, with a stellar cast of characters and inventive world building. Just enough science fiction to make this an utterly delightful space romance.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
1,843 reviews10 followers
December 6, 2017
I received an e-ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Review can also be found on *Milky Way of Books*

I couldn't be happier than getting the chance to review this lovely book! Knowing that Netgalley rarely grants requests to INT readers, I was very excited!
The book follows Stella, a young girl who is also a mechanic, a teacher and lives into a spaceship orbing around a frozen Earth.
There are also many spaceships orbiting around Earth and lots of the have manes that can either remind you of 19th century England or they have names of the classics! When Stella takes the chance to become a governess to the Rochester, she will meet its enigmatic captain and the ship's secrets.

There were some alternations to the plot in order to diverge a little from the original. It felt fresher and more alive; the descriptions are great and you can't help but love Stella's POV. She is sweet yet sensitive and wants nothing more but to escape and learn about the world/space.
Some surprises were quite nice in the book, which gave it an air of mystery and the language used in the dialogue did throw me at some parts back to the original Jane Eyre.

The ending was very satisfying and I liked very much!
Profile Image for k .
292 reviews
June 18, 2018
Plot - 4.5
Writing style - 4
Characters - 4
Romance - 4

In which a seventeen-year-old engineer applied at a private ship for a governess spot. There, she began developing romantic feelings with the captain who turns out to be her student's dashing older brother.

Plot - Truth be told, I am no genius about Jane Eyre. Of course, I've heard about the novel itself, even thought of giving it a shot. But alas, I never seem to bring myself to actually do it. Maybe someday.

Like I said, I rarely know a thing about Jane Eyre except from the fact that she was treated poorly as a child. And that she had a happy ending.

And you know what, thanks to this book, I now know more than a thing or two about Jane Eyre. After finishing Brightly Burning, I was a bit confused about what things in the book are similar to Jane Eyre. As curious as I am, I asked for my friend Google and would you look at, based on what I've read at Sparknotes (thx hun), the author did really stay true to the story. It was really was Jane Eyre but in space.

Overall, I did quite enjoy the whole plot. Not very original but hey, Jane Eyre was published in 1847 so I guess she was the one who started this kind of plot that somehow made its way to almost ya novels.

• writing style - fast-paced. Read it in one sitting. Great dialogues but not enough to make it quote-worthy. Lol. Nevertheless, like I said, it was fun reading Brightly Burning.

What I find quite amusing was when the author herself came up with her very own cuss word which was "flex" as a substitute to you know word. Hint: starts with letter F.

However, the climax itself failed to click well with me. I just find it a bit, I don't know, okay? I wouldn't call it cliche or unsurprising since in the first place, I didn't see it coming.

Let me tell you, the world itself was amazing. Technologies in the novel were one of the things that hooked me. All these bluetooth speaker (they call it comm) and they have Artificial Intelligence who will serves as your alarm clock and will clean you up. The lights are also controlled by your voice. Imagine not leaving bed just to turn off the light your brother left.

• characters - they're cute and all but unremarkable. I mean, of course I'll remember them but I don't think I'll swoon.

1. Stella Ainsley - Kind-hearted. Smart. Good at being engineer and teacher but prefers teaching.

Her being treated poorly as a child didn't go well with me. I know this may sound shallow and enough for you to roll your eyes and ask what the hell is wrong with me but I wanted drama. I somehow wished to read the parts where she was still living with her cantankerous aunt.

One thing I pity the female lead was when she didn't had a chance to finish And Then They Were None by the Queen of Mystery herself. Imagine the horror! Anyways, after a day or two, she found a digital copy. No worries.

This is completely unnecessary, I know but I find it really disturbing that the female lead just casually enters her love-interest's study room. By the way, obviously, her love-interest was the captain.

2. Hugo Fairfax - You have to admit, his name sound so dreamy and a bit too posh.

Now, I only read the synopsis of the novel when I was already halfway through the book and me knowing the age gap between Jane Eyre and her leading man (sorry, forgot the name), I initially thought Hugo will be very old but alas, he was only two years older than him. Not that I mind if Hugo was much older.

I know this may sound horrible but at the synopsis, he was described as a man who has a bad temper so here I was, expecting some drama but ended up stumbling upon zero. Personally, the author failed to showcase that side of him.

• romance - not insta-love. I mean, it somehow took months for their romance to sparks, right? I know months are still short but hey, it's kinda long for ya romances.

Also, truth be told, I am not really into love triangles. Well, I do like it if the other guy really has no chance to be with the girl. That the other boy was merely a plot device, enough to make the male lead jealous.

Alas, there was love triangle and worse, it involves two girls fighting over a guy. Call me whatever you want but I just hate that kind of trio. A big no-no for me.

One line that left me quite surprised and intrigued was: "His lips were chapped, and rough, but I am fine with it." I mean, knowing novels nowadays which pretty much are obsessed with perfection, I just want a male lead who is a bit realistic.
Profile Image for Cori Reed.
1,135 reviews379 followers
February 4, 2018
I love Jane Eyre, so getting to read a retelling was a treat.

I do think this book hovers more around 3.5 star personally, but I really loved it and enjoyed my time reading it so much I had to bump it up.

This had all of the elements of Jane Eyre we know and love, but set aboard various space crafts. The twists and turns of the original story are all also present, and I just think Alexa Donne has done an awesome job with this one! Add it to your TBRs for May!
Profile Image for Melissa Stacy.
Author 5 books198 followers
October 10, 2018
The 2018 YA fantasy, "Brightly Burning," by Alexa Donne, is described as "Jane Eyre in space.” This novel was written, pitched, acquired, and published as a sci-fi retelling of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 masterpiece, "Jane Eyre."

I read this book because I enjoy Alexa Donne's AuthorTube videos, and I appreciate all of the useful information and optimism she puts out into the world. She also mentors teenagers who are trying to navigate the college admissions process, and I have nothing but good things to say about Alexa Donne as a person.

This novel, however, was not a positive experience. Unlike Ms. Donne's AuthorTube videos, I did not enjoy "Brightly Burning" at all. I purchased a first edition hardback of this book at my local indie bookstore, and as a physical piece of art, this book is quite beautiful. But the contents of the story are bizarre and rather poisonous, and I am deeply alarmed and appalled by the messaging in this novel.

I'll be sharing a lot of unmarked spoilers ahead, so if you have not yet read this book and plan to, please do not read anymore of this review. Thanks!


“Brightly Burning” is set in an unspecified future, but what I took to be about 300 years from now. At some point, maybe around the year 2118, humankind has developed the technology to build huge spaceships to support a comfortable life in space. If you saw the movie trailer for the 2016 film, "Passengers," starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, you might have a good visual for what I assumed the spaceships looked like in this book. Not all of the ships in this novel are quite that enormous and swanky, but the vast majority of them are.

Also around one hundred years from now, a supervolcano erupts on earth and begins a new ice age. Every spaceship on earth is launched into space. The government ships take aboard as many people as they can. The private ships take aboard the family and friends of their owners. Any person who does not get on a ship perishes on earth in the frozen wasteland of death.

When "Brightly Burning" begins, 210 years have passed since the supervolcano erupted, and there are still a large number of ships successfully orbiting Planet Earth with their human populations onboard.

Society, for unexplained reasons, has regressed back to the Victorian era for fashion and a number of gender roles, despite a complete egalitarianism existing in the work force between women and men. Women all have to wear uncomfortable long dresses from Victorian England, no matter what work they are doing onboard their ships, such as repairing engines, farming, running a hospital ward, or navigating a transport vessel.

The two principal characters -- Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester -- are renamed Stella Ainsley (age 17) and Hugo Fairfax (age 19).

Hugo was born into an upper-class family aboard one of his family’s privately-owned, gargantuan, luxurious ships. Hugo's family actively hates the poor and seeks to kill all the poor using biological warfare. In this future world, poor people either work as servants aboard the wealthy, private ships, or they live in dehumanizing, impoverished segregation aboard the decrepit, and slowly failing, government ships.

Hugo's family does not believe any poor people should still be alive, and seeks to murder them all. Hugo’s father created a deadly virus to kill the poor in mass numbers, a virus he successfully used as a weapon on a number of ships orbiting the planet when Hugo was 14 years old. The virus killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of people before the death toll could be stopped (page 28).

Hugo’s mother tried to stop her husband from committing mass murder. But Hugo’s father gave her a drug that made her psychotic instead (page 279), to stop her from meddling with his plans. Too late to save the lives of the poor, Hugo’s deranged mother ended up murdering her husband after his mass-murdering spree. She opened an airlock and killed him in the vacuum of space. For the next five years, Hugo’s mother has wandered around loose on her family’s ship, trying to kill Hugo because she is psychotic. Hugo does not lock her up at all, he just permits her to wander around attempting to murder him.

At face value, I don’t have a problem with this material, either the eugenics material or the mentally-ill-killer onboard Hugo’s ship. Here is why: while eugenics was *not* a field of study in 1847, and would not be invented until after “On the Origin of Species” was published in 1859, there was a pre-Darwinian form of eugenics that did exist at the time that Charlotte Brontë wrote “Jane Eyre.” In the original novel, there is never any mention of the English policy of rounding up poor people to be shipped off to colonies, or forced into the military or navy, or hung to death in public squares for the sole offense of being poor. But the ruling class did, in fact, do these things, even if it’s not featured in the novel.

Also in the novel: the first wife of Edward Rochester is a highly racist and ableist archetype. She is a dark-skinned “madwoman” who tries to kill Edward, as well as her own brother, and she is described more than once as a “vampire” because of her frightening appearance, as well as the fact that she bites her brother’s neck and draws blood.

Largely because of this racist and ableist character, “Jane Eyre” is certainly not a perfect book, but the novel is so much more than any of its flaws. The narrative in “Jane Eyre” is *not* about eugenics at all, and it’s also not really about mental illness or mental disability at all, which is why Edward’s first wife is so problematic. A modern retelling of “Jane Eyre” set in space could certainly feature this problematic material in a way that brings as much attention to these issues as Charlotte Brontë brought to women’s equality and class oppression in her original work.

And there is plenty of reason that a modern author *would* want to tackle eugenics and ableism in a retelling of “Jane Eyre.” While Alexa Donne’s book is a self-described “American story” with “American characters” (Stella and Hugo are descended from U.S. citizens, not British citizens), America’s history with eugenics and ableism remains a current element in modern culture. Alexa Donne lives in California, and the state of California was still legalizing the forced sterilization of prison inmates until 2014. These sterilization laws are all rooted in eugenics, which many people have wanted to extend beyond forced sterilization. For example, in 1903, one Michigan legislator proposed that the state should simply “kill off” the unfit, and mass-murder the poor and disabled in a way that matches the behavior of Hugo Fairfax’s father in “Brightly Burning.”

We also live at a time in 2018 in which the continued demonization of people with mental illness and mental disability has become problematic with current gun legislation and mass shooters. Data on these matters show, over and over, that people with mental illness and mental disabilities are more likely to be the victims of crime rather than the mass killers shooting schoolchildren, church members, and audiences at concerts and films, and yet many people in American society continue to call murderers “crazy” or “psychotic,” even though the vast majority of mass killers are neurotypical.

Sadly, “Brightly Burning” makes use of eugenics and ableism in their most poisonous, normalizing ways. This retelling of “Jane Eyre” does not speak out against eugenics or ableism at all, but simply uses both as thoughtless plot devices and stand-ins for the chaotic force of Evil that is featured so often in YA fiction. This plot-device form of Evil is the deus ex machina that introduces difficulties into the main characters’ lives, and nothing more. Alexa Donne does not spend any time examining why Hugo’s father became a eugenicist, or how much of Hugo’s current worldview is that of a eugenicist, or why “the government” in this novel supports eugenics and the mass-murdering of the poor. By the very end of the book, all of the chaotic Evil unleashed in the story is focused into the single body of a government worker named Mason, and the reader is meant to understand that as long as Mason is “stopped” from killing more people (i.e. put in jail), then the Evil in the novel has been contained.

I don’t have the words to describe how deeply upsetting this book felt to read. At every turn, this novel operated in a Logic Free Zone, but it was the normalization of eugenics and ableism that hurt me the most. Rather than the story challenging cultural norms, the way “Jane Eyre” did in 1847, this YA retelling simply regurgitates storytelling tropes in thoughtless and cruel ways. Here is a short list of some of the most notable message-tropes employed by this novel:

1. “The government” is a force of Evil.
2. Psychotic people are murderers.
3. Stopping Evil always means stopping the behavior of One Evil Person.
4. Rich people naturally want to kill poor people.
5. Eugenics is natural and timeless, and will gain widespread acceptance in the future.

Nothing on that list has ANYTHING to do with the original “Jane Eyre.” Edward Rochester is not a member of the government, his family is not part of the government, and his first wife does not kill anyone in the book. While characters do die in “Jane Eyre,” they do not die at the hands of “psychotic” people, such as Edward's first wife, but due to the cruelty and ineptitude of rational people with power, such as happens at Lowood, the school Jane attends before becoming a governess. Charlotte Brontë was not examining the nature of evil, eugenics, or government mass murder anywhere in her story, and no member of the upper class in her novel was a murderer or a eugenicist, either.

Hugo Fairfax, on the other hand, is an alcoholic and a eugenicist. After he unleashes a new virus to kill the poor, he does not try to help Stella save the poor at all, and after Stella reports the virus and the plot to mass murder the poor, Hugo leaves Stella to be executed “for treason” by the government. Hugo saves himself, his family, and his own crew, but leaves Stella to face Mason and the chaotic, murderous Evil Mason contains in his person alone. After 453 poor people have died from the newest eugenicist virus (page 383), and after Hugo's mother has set fire to her room and died in the flames (page 329), Hugo leaves space to live on earth, which is habitable once again. Stella, in a show of how much she loves Hugo, forgives him for completely abandoning her and spreading a mass-murdering virus. After she narrowly escapes being murdered by Mason, Stella finds Hugo on earth, and marries him.

For the record: Edward Rochester is not an alcoholic, or a murderer, or a eugenicist, nor would he ever leave Jane Eyre to fend for herself against a murderous government or a murdering eugenicist.

There is a bit of a love square in “Brightly Burning” between Stella and three teenage boys: George, Hugo, and Jon. Honestly, Stella and Jon were the only two characters who possessed any romantic chemistry together, and their love story would have made the most sense, but Jon's love for Stella remained unrequited. I cannot explain why Stella persisted in loving an alcoholic murderer who left her to die rather than loving Jon, who protected her and saved her life more than once in this book. But such was the case in “Brightly Burning.”

In the end, I don't know what I was meant to gain from this retelling of "Jane Eyre." I would not call this a sci-fi novel because there is no actual science on display in this story. At least, not where life in space is concerned. Supervolcanoes can certainly affect climate, but this book is not about supervolcanoes and climate, it's about life in space. More specifically, it's about an American society of the future in space. Apparently, the class divide will become so terrible that the rich will actively promote eugenics and mass-murder of the poor once again, but as long as The One Evil Person is stopped with a jail cell, the depravity of the Evil Government will be held in check.

Stella forgives Hugo in ways that echo Jane's forgiveness of Edward in "Jane Eyre," but it honestly makes no sense that Stella thinks or behaves as she does in this book. Certain lines of dialogue and ideas are lifted straight off the pages of "Jane Eyre" and placed into "Brightly Burning," but since the characters of Hugo and Stella are nothing like Edward and Jane, the use of the original text was deeply upsetting to me, and sometimes enraging.

I would only recommend this book to YA readers who enjoy the type of deus ex machinas featured in "Brightly Burning." If you are seeking romantic chemistry, space science, or a plot that makes any sense, I would suggest you read something else.
Profile Image for *mk*.
478 reviews89 followers
February 15, 2018
Arc provided by Jess who is awesome!!

I really did try with this one, way more than I normally would have, because I love Jane Eyre. So, a book marketed as “Jane Eyre in space”? A little iffy, sure, but maybe there’s some potential?

Or maybe not. The biggest issue with the book was the writing style. At best I would call it amateurish and juvenile, with nothing really distinct about it. It reads as more of a fan fiction than a novel. The world building is spotty at best, and the characters are unmemorable and downright awkward. Worst, this is really Jane Eyre boiled down to just bits and pieces. The author copies too much where she shouldn’t and doesn’t really let her own ideas shine through. The reason Jane Eyre works is because she goes through so much, you want her to succeed, and she’s also such a flushed out character. This lead character, Stella, has some of the broader aspects of Jane Eyre but I couldn’t root for her. I tried, too. I waited, too, but this story is just unmemorable. To give it credit, this MAY work for younger readers. But not for me.
Profile Image for K..
3,686 reviews1,007 followers
December 16, 2020
Trigger warnings: blood, death, alcohol abuse, plague, fire, death of a parent (in the past), .

I stand by what I said last time - this is a solid retelling while also very much being its own story. But yeah, the ending is kind of abrupt.

This is a YA retelling of Jane Eyre set in space. Of course I was going to read it. And I enjoyed the crap out of this. It manages to tread the line very neatly between a strict retelling and being its own story.

The characters were solid, I really liked the writing, and the "there's an ice age on earth so now we're in space" thing worked surprisingly well. It was kind of like Jane Eyre crossed with Cinder. And I thoroughly enjoyed it (although I will say that the ending was...kind of abrupt).
Profile Image for Jessica.
268 reviews51 followers
March 23, 2018
This was really fun!

RTC closer to publication. Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC!
Profile Image for Ainslee || Jest and Hearts.
152 reviews32 followers
June 11, 2018
Alrighty, I have lots of thoughts about this book, there were lots of issues with it for me.
This book has so much potential, Sci-fi is a hard genre to write and to get right, and unfortunately this fell flat for me.

Brightly Burning is basically a mix of The 100 and Jane Eyre minus the cool things in the 100. Its pitched as Jane Eyre in space which is accurate its just Jane Eyre with all of the dress and customs of the 1800's in the future in space...

The Human race fled to space due to Earth being inhabitable for over 200 years because of an Ice Age and they aren't sure if its safe to go to the ground yet, sound familiar? People live in space ships where each one has a different purpose: farming, textiles, medicine etc. The main character Stella Ainsley is an orphan who works as a teacher/engineer on one of the less desirable ships. She wants out and to become a governess.

Like I said above this is basically Jane Eyre thrown into space instead of being in England. I found the book lacked creativity and what really bothered me were the customs of the people. Common people in this story die young, just like the 1800s or earlier they had a very short life span. People only live to be around 30 which doesn't make sense because its the future, if you have the technology to live in space you have the advanced medicine. So it doesn't make sense that these people die so young. Also women in the book just want to be married, that's all they want. If they aren't married by 18 they are seen as spinsters. THIS IS THE FUTURE WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO WOMEN?? Like, I get this is a Jane Eyre retelling but the author could have changed the customs of the people to fit the future, could have changed so many things.

Why is there a need for a governess in the future? The technology should be so advanced one isn't needed. People should have higher expectations and goals than just being a governess. The main character is a gifted engineer yet she wants to be a glorified baby sitter. This doesn't make any sense to me, the author could have changed the characters goal to fit the future.

Another thing that made my blood boil was how the people dressed. The women wore dresses. DRESSES. How are dresses a practical thing in space? They aren't. At. All. Especially if your job is to fix things in tight spaces would pants or a jumpsuit not be a more practical item? They would be. And these aren't just regular dresses the women wear, they wear an underdress and an overdress just like the 1800s. This doesn't make sense at all.

Why are women being suppressed in this book? We have come such a long way from the 1800s in the women movement and the author took a step back and put women back in a box. Just because this is a Jane Eyre retelling doesn't mean everything needed to be the same.

This could have been such a cool book, the author could have done so many cool things, like make the love interest and AI or make the main character LGTB or make the main character a badass female who has larger aspirations than to be a governess. But alas, we didn't get that.

Its clearly no secret that I didn't enjoy this book. Some things are just not meant for space and this story is one of them. Maybe if you love Jane Eyre you might enjoy this because its really just Jane Eyre in a space setting. Nothing changed.

Thank you to Raincoast Books for sending me a copy for review. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Monte Price.
628 reviews1,705 followers
December 17, 2019
Objectively this is probably closer to a 3 star. It's a fine read, but not one I really enjoyed.

Full disclosure I'm a big fan of Alexa Donne. I follow her YouTube channel, I think she gives great advice. As a person I'm a fan. It's not even that on a structural level I don't think this book works because I don't think the issues I have with this novel were ever going to be things that it was going to address. It's just not that kind of book.

Pitched as Jane Eyre in space Brightly Burning tells the story of Stella Ainsley, a seventeen year old engineer on a low-class ship as she searches for a way off of the vessel that's bound to be deorbitted any day and that's not something that she wants to experience. Set after the eruption of a supervolcano several hundred years ago some portion of Earth's inhabitants made it off of the Earth and have been orbiting it waiting for the resulting ice age to go away?

The story asks the reader to believe a lot of things that personally I just don't understand. There is no clearly defined number of ships orbiting Earth, we know that there are smaller ships and larger ships representing several different countries. Though the ships seemed to have formed a singular government. Obviously, at this point in the history, we don't spend a lot of time talking about how such a thing would function. We just know that some of the ships are starting to show their age as they've been in orbit for several hundred years, some of the ships have already had to reenter and rough it out on Earth. There doesn't seem to be an explanation as to how these many ships were ready or why it was chosen to orbit the Earth when they had this technology instead of setting up some sort of Lunar colony or even Mars. Or if such things exist for some small settlement does exist on either of these locations.

The bulk of the book is set aboard The Rochester, a private ship captained by our love interest, Hugo Fairfax. This was probably the most interesting part of the book, and the part of the book I have to believe pulled the most heavily from Jane Eyre. While I wasn't sold on the romance, and even though the age gap was reduced in the retelling the fact that nineteen year old Hugo was going after Stella at seventeen did have me sideeying the book.

Hugo also just felt very flat to me. I feel like the book did a lot of telling about Hugo's past and Stella did a lot of forgiving Hugo over the course of the novel and none of that felt earned? Again, this part of the book was the strongest. Particularly the moments when the people aboard the Ingram showed up, they definitely made things much more interesting as far as I was concerned.

But then we hit the middle... and I can only assume that what happened just before the third act was an addition in service of the retelling. There were sort of hints dropped. In that things were referenced about a past event and some of the people involved such that I didn't feel completely blind sighted, but I didn't like it. It didn't really connect with me. In a way it really just read like Donne was saying "surprise this is actually the important thing in the book, not the two hundred pages you'd spent all that time reading." Could be projecting, but I didn't like it.

As for the resolution? I didn't like it. I think that in a way it has to be something that readers of Jane Eyre would appreciate more than me, but the stakes being what they were here and what we knew had happened... I feel like those elements were changed enough so that the ending I got doesn't make sense here.

Like I said, this is probably from a subjective standpoint an average book that did what it set out to do. For me the issue was that I feel like the book feels disconnected in the story arc. I didn't particularly end this read on an enjoyable note. At the end of the day I just wasn't able to appreciate what was being told here.
Profile Image for i..
331 reviews33 followers
July 8, 2018
What a delightful mixture of si-fy and romance. A strong-willed female character with a penchant for unrequited love and a mysterious but utterly attractive captain will certainly remind you of Jane Eyre. I didn't know how much I missed reading novels like this one until I started Brightly burning. A must-read for fans of both genres.

Profile Image for Lenore ..
Author 2 books62 followers
May 25, 2018
I'm struggling to see the resemblance of this book to Jane Eyre. The MC is nothing like Jane - she hasn't come through as particularly smart thus far, and she lusts after guys every second sentence.
Guy #1 (the best friend):
He stepped into the classroom and, oh God, I could tell he was wet - just showered. [...] George nodded, then indicated I should come close. Yes, please.

Guy #2 (random engineering guy):
he was something nice to look at while I put in hard labor for the next few hours

Guy #1 again:
He leaned back in his chair, rolling into a stretch. I tried my best not to stare at the way the muscles of his stomach went taut under his shirt. It should be illegal not to wear your day coat on board.

ALL WITHIN THE SAME CHAPTER. I have nothing against girls noticing guys, but if a guy protagonist was commenting on the bodies of girls around him so frequently I would be enraged, and I don't want to treat girls any different. DNF at 7%.

More of my book reviews can be found on my blog, Valley of the Books.
Profile Image for Lily Meade.
Author 2 books115 followers
January 22, 2018
I am obviously biased as this book is written by my dear friend and agent sister, but I was honored to receive an eARC from NetGalley and I’m glad I did.

I’d never read the original Jane Eyre, but Alexa’s version was plenty engaging on its own. I loved the atmosphere and the amazing tech of the Rochester. I was jealous of Stella a LOT throughout this book, LOL. And man did the tension ramp up. This book features the most intense game of poker I have ever read and that is well before the page turning pumps of the climax. Once I hit the last leg of this book, I stayed up until midnight to finish. A rollercoaster of ups and downs. I’m very happy I can pick Alexa’s brain on how she managed such a tight plot.

Overall very fun and highly recommended for any sci-fi or romance fan!
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,145 reviews1,010 followers
April 26, 2018
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

Brightly Burning was just straight up entertaining. The kind of book that draws you in, and you need to know what happens. Also, bits of it reminded me of The 100, and that's never a bad thing. It's apparently based on  Jane Eyre , which I am pretty sure I "read" in high school but I promise you I didn't actually read it. I actually remembered enough about the general idea though, which was a shocker in itself. I digress, this book was far more entertaining, personally.

I enjoyed the whole "is Earth habitable?" thing. Because again, The 100. (Seriously guys, I think I need an intervention?) But I loved that Stella was looking for some adventure, and was very driven. I also loved that The Rochester (and a lot of its inhabitants!) were super mysterious. I did like the love interest, who happened to be the ship captain, a lot. Hugo was often a trip, and he had to make a lot of tough calls that someone his age should definitely not have had to.

The only issue I had really was that some of the twists seemed a bit predictable. Some I think because of the fact that it is a retelling (and this is my personal issue with retellings- it's easier to know what some of the plot twists will be!) and some just because they were. But overall it didn't really dampen my enjoyment much. I am not sure if this will be a standalone- it is definitely set up to be a series it seems, based on the ending. If it is a series, I loved how it ended and will definitely read the sequel!

Bottom Line: A fun space adventure with a swoon-worthy romance. If it's a series, it definitely nailed the setup for book 2, also!
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