This post is participating in #KidBookBingo organised and hosted by @AnnalieseAvery on Twitter. Every day there is an opportunity to post a review of the book of the day.
Vashti Hardy’s Brightstorm is a fantastical steampunk sky ship adventure with a world and atmosphere reminiscent of a ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ pre-war era of discovery and expedition and the thrill to be the first human to reach or achieve something. There’s echoes of Jules Verne and Phillip Pullman in this wonderful book, I’m just sad it took me so long to get round to reading it!!
There is a feel of classic adventure stories and films here with Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm’s fall from grandeur after their father is accused of terrible crimes not to mention being sold to a mean couple before escaping to help man the crew of an amazing and ingenious sky ship manned by the frankly awesome Harriet Culpepper who has invented a new fuel method to outwit the competition.
The Skyship Aurora is a piece of literary genius, it hits so many points of the imagination; steam punk engineering with the hot air balloon sky ships, swashbuckling adventures just in the air and futuristic environmental thinking switching to a cleaner fuel.
Arthur and Maudie are a fine pair of leads, though the narrative lens leans to Arthur you can see why because he is a brilliantly fleshed out character. Arthur is beautifully sensitive, vulnerable boy and has moments of imposter syndrome sometimes linked to the fact he hasn’t found his ‘calling’ yet, he isn’t as engineering minded as his sister and partially due to his complex feelings about his missing arm and the choice of wearing his metal prosthetic one.
The honest depiction of a physical disability that can trouble him with rubbing and pain, the limitations of the metal arm and his anxiety and mortification at people’s reactions to it is a positive thing to see included within children’s literature especially as it doesn’t make him bitter or unkind, and he rises to the challenge and finds ways around his disability sometimes with the help of his sister.
That loving yet realistic sibling relationship is gorgeous though the balance between sarcastic retorts especially for second opinioning things against genuine worry and care and not just when things get dangerous. It shows you don’t have to be battling a sibling all the time but you don’t need to be 100% perfect all the time either.
I thoroughly enjoyed this exciting adventure, I also enjoyed the slightly prudent approach to writing, Hardy’s style has a usefulness about it and so there’s little room for fripperies in her description. We get into the character of our leads through this style with a focus on adventure, achievement and logic, although Hardy makes the time to keep in the sublime moments too such as seeing snow fall giving us a lovely experience as readers.
Overall, I’m now very excited to read more from Vashti Hardy!!