Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy
cover by George Ermos
published by Scholastic in March 2018
343 pages in paperback
steampunk escapades with heart
A reader’s perspective
Let’s be honest – readers do judge a book by its cover. Happily, the artwork for Brightstorm by George Ermos is spot on. Bold and attractive as the title itself, it appeals to anyone with a fancy for stories with a steampunk vibe. It’s clearly 19th/early 20th century but not quite as we know it. (I thought the map on the flap was a splendid idea – art, bookmark and reference all in one!)
The twilight colours around the city below hint at mystery, but the warm shades of the sky-ship suggest the lightness of touch in the story. I shouldn’t have to say this, but no boy is going to be tormented about it being a book for girls. The gold highlights on cogs, windows, propellor and pennant convey wonder and avoid an over-prettified look.
The match with the text is great: there is mystery and wonder, bold adventure for both twins and a lot of warmth at the heart of the whole story. You breeze through thirty-one chapters, barely aware of the 343 pages passing below.
It’s easy to get along with and could suit a young yet voracious reader. I should point out there are a few alarming moments as you’d expect from an adventure – and a couple of sad ones too. Yet the overall effect is optimistic and venturesome – you’ll itch to know what Arthur and Maudie do next.
Not just them – there are plenty of lively and loveable characters you’ll want to meet again. Some human, some sapient animal, some humorous – and some utterly horrid! There’s a villainess who definitely comes under the love-to-hate category.
I’d highly recommend Brightstorm for anyone delighted by Peter Bunzl’s Cogheart books and the Twelve Minutes to Midnight Trilogy by Christopher Edge. It might well suit lovers of outdoor adventure and sapient animals in Abi Elphinstone’s Dreamsnatcher trilogy or perhaps the historical intrigues in Katherine Woodfine’s The Sinclair’s Mysteries.
A Writers View
Confession – I am a member of The Golden Egg Academy like my pal the lovely Vashti Hardy, so I might be a teensy bit biased. On the other hand, those who know me well will also know I tell it how I see it (I am from Yorkshire).
- Using a Victorian-like world but with different geography means a writer can avoid the ‘I have to get the history right’ nadgers. Thus women can have a far more prominent role than might be the case in late 19th or early 20th century Britain.
- Creating a new continents leaves room for varied societies – without cultural appropriation. Plenty of scope for development if you look at the map!
- Featuring twins in a third person omniscient narration allows the reader to follow different strands and identify with whoever they choose. The reader can also know things they can’t – always entertaining.
Possible influences to enjoy:
- Dickens for the skulduggery – without the convoluted language.
- Pullman for the world-building – a definite feeling of more to explore.
- A hint of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days – without the questionable attitudes seen in the film versions in particular.
If you’re writing fantasy adventure which you want to appeal to a wide range of readers, you would do well to have a good look at Brightstorm – and its sequels I hope!