Those familiar with the tradition of adventure stories, from Treasure Island to The Lost World, will thoroughly enjoy Vashti Hardy’s Brightstorm. The story describes a society deeply saturated by the spirit of discovery, adventure and expedition, set in a map with large chunks still marked ‘Unknown.’ So when Ernest Brightstorm, an adventurer considered an ‘upstart’ by the expeditionary aristocracy for his ‘common’ heritage, goes missing on an adventure to the South Polaris, and is subsequently accused of thievery and treachery, it falls to his children, Maudie and Arthur, to undertake a quest that clears his name, honours his legacy, and leads them to discover a brave new world outside the confines of their home.
Brightstorm is a refreshingly well-paced narrative, as it takes the reader (literally) across the world, from urban Lotown, through the deserts of the Second Continent, and across the Silent Sea to the edge of the globe with surprising quickness. Yet the story never quite feels too rushed, as it keeps introducing intriguing, reasonably well-defined and wonderful new characters, from the loyal and kind Harriet Culpepper, to the good-hearted Felicity Wiggety, and the noble wolf-chieftain Tuyok. Within the confines of fantasy, Hardy also manages to touch sensitively upon important issues and topics such as disability, family, or abusive guardians.
Brightstorm is very much a coming-of-age story, but it also raises a unique, fascinating question; how do two children come of age in a world, the edges of which are still marked with ‘here be dragons’?