Middle Grade Reviews

Review: Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy




‘Arty, we can hardly traverse three continents without a sky-ship.’ 

‘There’s always a way, Maud. We could go to the Geographical Society and show them the locket.’ 

She paused for a moment then looked at him doubtfully. ‘They’ll need some convincing it means something. They don’t exactly think much of the Brightstorm name.’

(Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy.) birdSynopsis:

Arthur and Maudie’s life is turned upside down when their father dies on an expedition to reach South Polaris. Not only do they lose their father, they lose everything they have ever known. Their father is accused of stealing fuel from competitor Eudora Vane. As this breaks the Explorer’s code, his house and assets revert to The Geographical Society.

As the expedition to South Polaris failed, the prize fund still stands. The twins do not believe their father stole the fuel, so they join competitor Harriet Culpepper on her ship the Aurora. They set out on an adventure, but there are secrets along the way which others would rather they did not find.


Take to the skies with this fantastic Middle Grade adventure. Brightstorm has airships, secrets and a villain to rival Cruella deVill. I had high hopes from the description, and I wasn’t disappointed. The first chapter is perfect – it showed me the sort of book I would be reading, and left me asking questions about the world and about the twins’ situation.

Arthur and Maudie are great characters. Their relationship teaches us valuable lessons about family. Is family the bloodline we are born into, or the people around us who we love? It was interesting reading about twin main characters – Arthur felt like the main protagonist, but Maudie also developed over the story. There is a great moment where she says what she thinks for the first time.

The Geographical Society is a fantastic setting, which shows the disadvantages of class-based society. It is an institution built on tradition – it is narrow-minded and it fails to support social mobility. There are old families and there are new blood explorers. The usual route to becoming an explorer is to be born into a family of explorers. It is important for children to form their beliefs away form the prejudice of adults, and the world-building in Brightstorm supports this.

I love the idea of sapient animals – animals whose intelligence is recognised to be close to that of a human. The presence of intelligent animals reminded me of the daemons in His Dark Materials, and there is a fantastic plot twist which I didn’t see coming regarding a sapient animal.

Lots of people have praised the disability representation, and rightly so. Arthur is a character like any other in the adventure, and his arm is mentioned, but not studied. The things which define him are his interests, emotions and experiences. This is the kind of representation which is so desperately needed. Children need to see all kinds of people as part of their world, and as people they might meet and interact with.

If you like middle grade adventure, you need to read this. Hardy is a strong debut author and a wonderful new voice. I look forward to seeing what she writes next.


Huge thanks to Vashti Hardy and Scholastic UK for my ARC. Opinions remain my own.






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