Book Review: Brightstorm

“Mommy. Can I play on the computer?” My 8 year old son asked me Saturday morning.
Looking at my phone, “It’s 5 am. Still dark. No, go back to sleep.”
He went back to sleep for several more hours. I, however, did not.
So what is one to do? Read the new ebook from NetGalley!

Thus began my reading of Brightstorm. Perhaps that is why I was not thrilled with the beginning of this book. I didn’t get swept up in the steampunk craze that began a number of years ago. I admire the creativity in all the costumes and the art, but not many of the stories enticed me to read them. But the cover on this one…Did you see the cover on this book?? It is simply beautiful!

Since I’m not an avid reader of steampunk, I may be complaining about something very common and very popular in the steampunk culture. If so, please forgive me. In this book, I was irritated by certain things at first. Instead of “hour” the author uses “chime” to indicate time. That one kicked me out of the story every single time I read it. Others were not used so commonly, so they didn’t bother me as much as that one. Eventually though I was able to re-frame my mindset toward the story and I was able to enjoy it for the delightful story that it is.

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by Vashti Hardy
Publisher: Norton Young Readers
336 Pages

Maudie and Arthur were not only orphaned and sold to a cruel family, their father and their name was disgraced. The twins know their father didn’t do what he was accused of doing and they are determined to become explorers like their father and clear his name.

Maud is a brilliant engineer. Arthur loves to read and learn and discover. Of course, the children still hold hope that perhaps their father survived the expedition south. So when they get the opportunity to go on an expedition south, they jump at the chance to fulfill a life long dream and maybe even find their father, or at the very least, find out the truth of what happened on that trip.

How was the Story?

Overall, once I got about 20% into the story on Kindle, I adored it. As I mentioned above, there were some terms that kicked me out of the story.

  • Lontown for London (I don’t know if this is what was meant, but I couldn’t unmake this connection in my mind.)
  • Binoscope for binoculars
  • pitch for oil
  • and more…

I’m not very good at languages other than English…and sometimes I even wonder if I’m very good at that! So I was irritated by a world that seemed so strange and familiar. Then I realized that this was a story like Willy Wonka or Lemony Snicket. Once I got over the weird words and read this as a fun, whimsical type story, then I started to enjoy it.

I love the environmentalist theme of the story. I normally don’t really love political statements, but the environmental issue is near and dear to my heart. (I have a hippie mom to thank for that.) I love nature and I want my great grandchildren to enjoy it as much as I do. Anyhow, Maud and Arthur are on a ship powered by water instead of pitch. This gives them an advantage in the race south because water is a readily available resource, unlike pitch. They also visit a city that has converted to hydro and wind power instead of pitch and has experienced great success. Hmmm. A parallel to any current issue? I think so!

What can we Learn from Hardy?

Another thing I like about this story is a character called Felicity. She has enormous feet. Her feet can predict things. It is quite silly and quite fun. He writes a number of very likable characters.

Arthur loves books. People who read a lot, can relate to this love of books. I haven’t quite figured out why I like Harriet so much. Perhaps because she is not condescending toward the children. So many stories for middle grade and younger children’s books have idiotic adults that think kids can’t do anything, so in order for children to have any fun, must go off on their own. In this story, the children are treated with respect and Harriet acknowledges their expertise.

Tropes. Orphan twins are very tropey. Due to societal norms, most of the time the boy is the intellectual, engineer one and the girl is the more dreamy, book nerd. This one flips that around, which I like. I would have liked to see more of that in the story with the plot.


  • Flip tropes on their heads- character roles and plot tropes.
  • Please don’t put idiotic adults in children’s stories.
  • Create fun, likable characters with quirks and relatable interests.

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