Book review

Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy (2018)

Brightstorm? That’s an Explorer name.

‘The Brightstorm moth, a new species discovered by Ernest Brightstorm in the Northern Isles, uses the light of the moon to ensure they travel in an absolutely straight line, allowing them to navigate successfully between two volcanic islands fifty miles apart, and never stray from their path.’

Explorers are restless and courageous by nature. Ernest Brightstorm takes up the Geographical Society’s Polaris Challenge. He is racing in his sky-ship Violetta to be the first to reach South Polaris. His bitter rival is Eudora Vane in the sky-ship Victorious. Eudora Vane belongs to a great and ancient Explorer family, and she will stop at nothing to keep her family name great. Out of sight in the vast wastes of the Third Continent, she commits an act of foul treachery against Ernest Brightstorm. And worse, she accuses him of stealing fuel from her sky-ship. The Brightstorm family name is trashed.

The appalling news is finally reported to the Geographical Society. His two children Arthur and Maudie Brightstorm are devastated. Their beloved father is lost never to return, their family home is sold off round them, and they themselves are sold into service.

It’s grim, isn’t it? Lucky for them they have each other. I think they must be the most resourceful twins I’ve ever met. Maudie is going to be a brilliant engineer one day. She loves sky-ships and all the stuff that makes them stay up there in the sky. And she’s made a brilliant iron arm for Arthur with proper fingers and everything. If you read the book Maudie will tell you several versions of the truth about how he came to lose his own arm, but Arthur is pleased with his iron one. It lets him get on with his life without complaining. He’s a bit of a reader, Arthur. And he’s been known to have the odd bright idea.

They need one now don’t they, a bright idea. Here’s one, in the newspaper that they’re all standing on:

Individuals Wanted
For treacherous journey to South Polaris,
Small wages, certain danger,
Shared reward and recognition if

Harriet Culpepper is recruiting for the Sky-Ship Aurora. She’s a brilliant and committed Explorer:

Maudie frowned. ‘Arty, this is daft. We’re barely twelve, she won’t take us seriously.’
‘I read about her in the Lontown Chronicle – the youngest explorer to captain a sky-ship to the Second Continent.’
‘Not at twelve.’
‘But we’d just be part of the crew. With your engineering skills and my...well, I’m not bad in the kitchen now, and every ship needs a cook’s help.’
Maudie still looked doubtful.
‘Come on, we at least have to try,’ he said.

Want to know if Harriet Culpepper takes them on to the crew of the sky-ship Aurora? Want to know if Arthur and Maudie clear the Brightstorm name? Want to know who is actually first to make it to South Polaris? Well, you just need to read the book. It’s a whacking adventure of honour and fair play winning out against all manner of foul and dastardly deeds.

What can I read next?

This is Vashti Hardy’s first book, but I can see a sequel on the horizon even without my scrying glass. Looking forward to it!

Meanwhile, if you are an explorer looking for your next adventure, you might like to look at this one by Alex Bell:

  • The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club

Or this beautifully told adventure story by Katherine Rundell:

Also I think you might really enjoy hearing about how Alice, Fergus and Jesse have a brilliant adventure in this lovely story by Natasha Farrant:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

Brightstorm features in these lists: