Author: Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars, book #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.
Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.
But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.
Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.
It's been 15 years or more since I last read Persuasion, but I think it's a good thing that I didn't remember much from the original story because even though I had strong suspicions about where this story was going, the path to get there was littered with surprises and twists. So, for me, it didn't read like a retelling but rather like a story all its own. From what I've gathered, though, I have a feeling it doesn't matter either way...it's an engaging story regardless.
I've wanted to read this book forever. It's just been sitting on my shelf, looking all forlorn and pretty as it collected dust. But I'd heard that it was better to have read this book before picking up Across a Star-Swept Sea in order to get a full understanding of the world, so I knew it had to be fit into the schedule. I started it something like two weeks ago, but other review books forced me to put it on hold, though my mind was never far from it. What I'd read up until that point -- and it was probably less than 50 pages -- already had me so intrigued that there was no way I was going to let the opportunity to read this book pass me by again.
The world in this book is so unbelievably cruel. It's set in the future, but we're back to the days of castes and slavery and ill-treatment of the mentally incapacitated. And it's all due to the Reduction. Humans who once endeavored to genetically enhance themselves suffered a fate worse than death: they are now Reduced, capable of mono-syllabic utterings and understanding little, their brains having been warped by their genetic experimentation. But it's not the consequences of the Reduction that are so harsh in this story; it's the treatment of the Reduced and their offspring (who are sometimes born normal and called Posts for Post-Reduction).
I loved the inclusion of the letters between Elliot and Kai because they showed that not everyone believed that the Reduced and Posts should be treated as less than human. Elliot valued her friendship with Kai just as much as he valued hers. Elliot cared for all of the Reduced and Posts that worked on her family's estate, though, and went out of her way to treat them better than the rest of her Luddite family would. There are always those who will stand against injustices like this, and I was glad to see that Elliot was indeed imbued with that caliber of character, even if she couldn't always do something in the moment, for fear of inciting the wrath of her father and causing even more issues for the workers of the estate. But she was always looking to the future, looking for a way to provide a better life for her people. Elliot is literally the only thing keeping the estate running; without her, there would be no one left to work the farm. They would all have escaped already.
Elliot was one of those layered characters that I just adore. She's got this great love for the Post boy she grew up with, but she doesn't escape with him when he runs away from the estate. No, it's more important to take care of the others on the estate who will need her now more than ever. She puts others before her own interests, even when it proves to be a colossal mistake that she regrets every day thereafter. And when this great love comes back into her life, she doesn't beg his forgiveness or even dare to hope that they can rekindle what they had long ago. Elliot picks herself up after the shock of it and continues doing what she's always done: caring for the Reduced and Posts who haven't given up on her or the estate yet.
The writing in this novel is just stunning. I more than felt Elliot's frustration and anger, her unwillingness to let her father run the estate into the ground. Once I got back to this book after my short hiatus, I read it cover to cover in one sitting. There was no escaping this world until I knew Elliot's fate. Kai was antagonistic and just plain jerky, but that he cared at all showed that he still loved her, and I couldn't rest until I knew what became of those two.
This is one of those books that I seriously regret not reading sooner, but now that I've started Across a Star-Swept Sea, I'm glad that I'm reading them back-to-back. It's not a true sequel, but the details are always a little hazy to me when there's a year between installments, so I'm glad I'm going into the next book with a clear understanding of the world and what's become of it. If you're looking for a dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel that's a little bit different but also kind of familiar (in that it's a retelling of an old favorite), I highly recommend For Darkness Shows the Stars. It's pretty in a way that most novels of this sort aren't.
About the author:
Diana Peterfreund has been a costume designer, a cover model, and a food critic. Her travels have taken her from the cloud forests of Costa Rica to the underground caverns of New Zealand (and as far as she’s concerned, she’s just getting started). Diana graduated from Yale University in 2001 with dual degrees in Literature and Geology, which her family claimed would only come in handy if she wrote books about rocks. Now, this Florida girl lives with her husband and their puppy in Washington D.C., and writes books that rock.
Her first novel, Secret Society Girl (2006), was described as “witty and endearing” by The New York Observer and was placed on the New York Public LIbrary’s 2007 Books for the Teen Age list. The follow-up, Under the Rose (2007) was deemed “impossible to put down” by Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist called the third book, Rites of Spring (Break) (2008), “an ideal summer read.” The final book in the series, Tap & Gown, will be released in 2009. All titles are available from Bantam Dell.
She also contributed to the non-fiction anthologies, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, edited by Jennifer O’Connell (Pocket Books, 2007), The World of the Golden Compass, edited by Scott Westerfeld (BenBella Books, 2007), and Through the Wardrobe, edited by Herbie Brennan (BenBella Books, 2008).
Her first young adult novel, Rampant, an adventure fantasy about killer unicorns and the virgin descendents of Alexander the Great who hunt them, will be released by Harper Collins in 2009. When she’s not writing, Diana volunteers at the National Zoo, adds movies she has no intention of watching to her Netflix queue, and plays with her puppy, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named Rio.
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