Thursday, March 12, 2020

Review: Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy

Brightstorm (Sky-Ship Adventure, #1)
Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy
Publication Date: March 17th, 2020
Hardcover. 336 pages

About Brightstorm:

"Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm receive devastating news: their famous explorer father has died in a failed attempt to reach South Polaris. To make matters worse, the Lontown Geographical Society finds Ernest Brightstorm guilty of sabotaging the expedition of his competitor, Eudora Vane. But a mysterious clue leads the twins to question the story they’ve been told—and to uncover the truth, they must undertake the journey of a lifetime.

Joining the ragtag crew of a homemade sky-ship captained by the intrepid Harriet Culpepper, Arthur and Maudie race to South Polaris to salvage their family’s reputation and find out what really happened on their father’s doomed expedition. Brightstorm is a propulsive and compelling fantasy adventure set among the vibrant landscapes and dynamic characters of Vashti Hardy’s vividly imagined world."

Brightstorm is an adventurous middle grade novel that is full of exploration, fascinating characters and settings, and some really great messages about family and friendship.

I love books that center on explorers and adventurers, so Brightstorm right away seemed like something that I would like. It did not disappoint when it comes to the exploratory aspect and I had such an incredibly time following Arthur and Maudie along their journey to reach South Polaris, a relatively untouched piece of land (that is, untouched from humans, at least) that is at the heart of a competition by the LonTown Geographical Society to reach.

Arthur and Maudie are twins who are suddenly left to fend for themselves and I found their journey to be such a compelling one, filled with some heartbreaking moments, but also filled with sense of finding oneself and one's place in the world. Arthur is the slightly more outgoing and adventurous one, whereas Maudie is more on the scholarly side of things. Both complemented each other so wonderfully in this book and I loved seeing how they worked together to use both of their strengths and stick together to be successful on their journey. I also really enjoyed the secondary characters that Arthur and Maudie meet on their journey, such as their Captain, Harriet Culpepper, Felicity, and Welby. Each character had such a unique personality and genuinely brought so much joy and character to the story--Hardy really crafts some strong characters. The main villain was also well-crafted, and though she did seem slightly cliche'd to me at times, she still fit the story well and had some really interesting elements to her character and motivations.

If you're at all animal-obsessed like I am, then you'll appreciate Parthena, the hawk that belonged to Brightstorm's father, and the thought-wolves that are also discovered along their journey. It was details and additions such as these that really added to the adventure and excitement of the story and that made me enjoy it as much as I did. The setting and atmosphere also brings a lot to the story, and if you like the His Dark Materials/The Golden Compass books, then I have a feeling you'll also enjoy this one. It probably has a slightly younger target audience, but the adventure components are there and the airships, animals, and general exploratory adventure that they embark on all gave me those His Dark Material vibes.

Lastly, I just want to touch on how well this book handles grief, figuring out one's place in the world, and the importance of friendships. This story starts off with the Brightstorm twins finding out that their father has likely been killed in an accident (not a spoiler, it's in the synopsis!), so this is something new that they have to struggle with throughout the book. Hardy balances the struggles of moving through that pain and shock while also navigating life and learning that there can still be joy in it really well, and I say that as someone who also lost a father at a young age. I really appreciate the effort that went into developing this particular storyline and for capturing that tiny bit of hope that Arthur holds onto for as long as he can. In addition, Arthur and Maudie both struggle a lot with not knowing what to do next in their life, and I think hardy explores this sense of uncertainty extremely well, especially for two children who are as young as they are.

I really don't have anything negative to say about this book. It was compelling, so much fun, and full of interesting characters and an exciting plot. Overall, I've given it five stars!

*I received a copy of Brightstorm courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*


  1. What a beautiful cover this book has! Grief is actually one theme I really am intrigued and interesting in reading a lot more about. I am glad that for a middle grade book, it handles the topic really well. And it being focused on explorers sounds like so much fun! Great review x

    Olivia-S @ Olivia's Catastrophe

    1. I was glad to see it handled well, it's a tricky topic. It was honestly such a fun adventure!

  2. I immediately thought of The Golden Compass when I saw that cover, so maybe that was deliberate on the part of the marketing team. This sounds so good!