Book Review: Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Retellings have become more and more popular over the years, and you can pretty much find a new version of any classic story. One trend I’ve noticed with retellings more recently is to set them in outer space. With the popularity of The Lunar Chronicles, this form of retelling is cropping up more and more. So I wasn’t at all surprised to learn about a retelling of Jane Eyre set in space.

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Stella Ainsley knows the spaceship she lives on is on its last legs, soon to be forced to plummet back to the ice-covered Earth with no hope for survival. So when a luxurious, private ship hires her as a governess, she takes the chance. But the Rochester is a strange ship, orbiting away from the rest of the fleet near the moon. As Stella begins her new life aboard, she begins to uncover strange circumstances and conspiracies and becomes convinced someone—or something—is trying to kill the captain.

Other than a few minor changes (and a lot of alcohol), Brightly Burning is a faithful retelling of Jane Eyre but set in outer space. The aspects I appreciate the most from Alexa’s retelling were the world-building details. The conflict of a space fleet divided between the run-down, farming ships and the luxurious elite ships was an excellent replacement for the social classes of Britain during the 1800s. In addition, the details of the spacecraft, the technological advances, and the fear of biological warfare dips this retelling into the realm of science-fiction in a surprisingly entertaining way.

While at times I was bit miffed at the changes Alexa made to the story, overall I thought she did a great job telling Jane Eyre’s story in space. Stella Ainsley was an excellent narrator, full of fire, honesty, and a big heart, replicating the beloved character of Jane in the best possible ways. (I absolutely loved how much this novel focused on Stella’s artistic side and her love for books.) Hugo Fairfax, who is the unnerving and mysterious Rochester, wasn’t as developed or in my opinion worthy to replace Mr. Rochester, but for a nineteen year-old starship captain, he was quite swoon-worthy. I appreciated the turn of conflict Alexa took with his character.

The other characters were just as delightful and fun, even if I wished a few of them had been more developed and memorable. (I also admire that while Bianca Ingram was annoying at first, she proved that sometimes there is more to a person than what meets the eye. It was a pleasant surprise to see her character come out for the better.)

Not everything in the book was surprising, though. If you’re familiar at all with the Jane Eyre storyline (and honestly, I don’t know why you would read this book if you weren’t), some parts may come across a bit predictable. But I think Alexa retold the story in the best possible way for a YA science-fiction story.

Overall, Brightly Burning is a retelling I didn’t know I wanted, especially considering I read most of it in one day when I didn’t expect to. (Once I started, I couldn’t stop!) I’ve read several other space-inspired retellings of classic stories and while not all have been faithful and satisfying, Brightly Burning is. I look forward to more books by Alexa Donne in the future.

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~I checked out a copy of Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne from my local library and chose to write this review of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~

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