Book Review: Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

Brightly Burning
Alexa Donne
HMH Teen, May 2018
ISBN 978-1328948939
Hardcover

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 on 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 a mission to save humanity.

Reviewed by jv poore, June 2018.

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