The Flight To Brassbright (The Brassbright Chronicles Book 1) by Lori Alden Holuta
Constance is a wild, stubborn young girl growing up poor in a small industrial town. But beneath her thread-worn exterior beats the heart of a dreamer and a wordsmith. She feeds her hunger for reading by picking the lock on the local bookstore late at night to enjoy her own private reading room. But at age twelve, she’s orphaned. With no relatives to take her in, the local authorities scheme to take charge of the bewildered girl’s life. Running away to join the circus-like kids do in adventure books — seems like such a brilliant idea… or is it?
That was six long years ago. Now, Constance is eighteen, fed up with the constraints of life under the big-top, and despairing for her future. She’s ready to dust off her old dreams, but first she’s going to need another cunning escape plan.
Can a young, newly-freed woman travel the road to her dreams and a place to call home? Step back in time to 1895 and take a wild, occasionally hilarious ride with Constance and the friends she meets along the way, as she travels the dirt roads and blue skies of a country called Industralia. Her journey winds through towns and cities bursting with creative eccentrics, high-flying airships, dazed automatons, brilliantly cracked inventors and more than a few kindred spirits. With allies like these, what could possibly go wrong?
Olivia Wylie’s Review: 5 Stars
In the spirit of Kenneth Oppel and Gail Carriger, Brassbright is a high-flying adventure. I found it an endearing treat.
This is a good book for parents to share with their YA folks: a sweet adventure that will make the adult smile fondly and the young person laugh with glee. The story revolves around feisty Constance, a girl with a classically Dickensian backstory, a metric ton of grit and a wide streak of enthusiasm. The lovely reader for the audio-book copy emphasized Constance’s pep.
For me, the best part about this story was the fact that it gives readers old and young a heroine who isn’t fixed on marriage, love, or Rising In Society. She’s a self-sufficient young girl devoted to learning how to be a writer, navigating the world with the perfect mix of guile, wit, respect for others and cheerfulness. Think Pippy Longstocking with more technology. The perfect pulp-novel idea of running away with the circus and the classic story of a star-struck dreamer has a happy ending in this cheerful little tale.
I also loved the quirky and creative technology-oh, and the naming conventions!-that give this book such a strong Steampunk flavor. Speaking of which, the quirky characters are also sweet as candy!
My one suggestion to the writer is to choose a better cover artist. This cover has its charm, but it isn’t hugely attractive.
This isn’t a book for the cynic or the stoic. But if you need a sweet, happy and creative adventure, pick this up. I’m waiting for the next book!
Diane Andersen’s Review: 5-Stars
At the tender age of twelve, Constance Whittlesey is orphaned and homeless in a small industrial town where adult authorities conspire to chart her future. But Constance, a stubborn, inquisitive dreamer, will have none of that. Turning her back on the spurious charity of strangers, she determines to make her own way in the world — by joining the circus.
Already, the story had me intrigued with its whimsical vintage circus cover and pseudo late Victorian setting, even if this shows little in the way of Steampunk trappings, aside from the allusion to “brass” in the title and brief mentions of industrialism and anachronistic allusions to women aviators in 1892. I’m all for suspension of belief, especially in something like Steampunk, a genre I am very much intrigued with but have not read enough to truly understand the nuances of the genre fully.
They do seem to run the gamut of what constitutes “steampunk” and this one is no exception. In most cases, the “steam” part of it, with all the inventions, gears and gadgets, are merely props to an otherwise historical action/adventure or romance driven plot found in various other genres. In this case. The Flight to Brassbright reads more like a young adult adventure, or classic coming of age story on par with Anne of Green Gables or the Railway Children, albeit not nearly as charming or well written.
Still, I found Constance a lovable protagonist who tells her story directly to the reader, pulling me into her world in an endearing and compelling way. However, there are many places where the writing is lackluster and leaves much to be desired. At times I felt annoyed with Constance’s constant dwelling on herself and had to work to visualize the scene at hand rather than being pulled into it like a ringmaster’s deft and alluring voice. I wanted to visualize the circus and the other colorful performers more, smell the popcorn and sawdust and hear the strains of the calliope lead the performers through their routines.
For me, they all made the story worthwhile, perhaps because I too, am that kid who always wanted to run away with the circus, but never dared. At the very least, this novel provides that vicarious treatment in a world that offers no limits to the imagination and wonder some of us may have felt at our first circus and I, for one, still feel every time I see a circus come to town. I just wish this could have resonated more deeply within the prose of the story.
It is a good attempt at an imaginative concept, and I would relish reading more from this author if she takes time to hone her craft a bit more. Still, it warrants 5-stars for its charm and whimsical story.
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