Diana Peterfreund – For Darkness Shows the Stars (plus bonus short story review!)
16. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (2012)
Length: 407 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Started: 20 March 2015
Finished: 25 March 2015
Where did it come from? Purchased from Amazon.
Why do I have it? My Jane Austen book club picked it for our post-Persuasion book.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 04 March 2015.
Summary: Elliot North and her family are Luddites – members of the ruling class, landowners who, due to their distrust of technology, escaped the genetic defects that left most of the human population mute and simple-minded during the Reduction. Her father and sister see their elevated status as their god-given right, but Elliot believes that being Luddite comes with the responsibility of caring for the Luddites that live and work on their family’s estate – as well as the Posts – children of Reduced who show none of the genetic defects themselves. As a child, Elliot was best friends with Kai, a Post child, and together they dreamed of growing up and exploring, of finding out what lay beyonds the confines of the North estate, and beyond their isolated island. But when Kai went, Elliot couldn’t follow, and she thought they were separated for good. But now he’s back, as a member of the Post Fleet that’s renting her family’s boatyards. He’s changed a lot in the time he’s been away – he calls himself Malakai Wentforth now, and he’s cold and distant towards Elliot. It breaks her heart, but how can she hope to explain how torn she is between her desires and her responsibilities when she barely recognizes it herself?
Review: This book is a science-fiction retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, set in a post-apocalyptic society that has reverted to a largely feudal system (the nature of the apocalypse is left pretty vague, which was a little annoying to me, albeit it did make sense within the confines of the world and the characters: the Luddites fear and hate most technologies, and the apocalypse was technological in nature. Plus I believe the science-y side of things is dealt with more concretely in the sequel/companion novel.) I appreciated a lot of the elements of the worldbuilding, and how they helped to connect a novel set in the far future to the elements that were important in Austen’s time – the class system and the difficulties of moving out of ones class, the importance of money vs. breeding, etc. Even beyond these ideas, the worldbuilding was well-done and nicely integrated into the story.
However, I had one large problem with this novel, and that was Malakai. As background, Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel, and Captain Wentworth is by far my favorite of Austen’s leading men. He’s loyal (even after he’s been gone for nine years!), he’s responsible, and even though he is distant to Anne when he thinks she’s forgotten/abandoned him, he’s never actively unkind to her (at worst, he makes a few pointed comments about wanting a girl who knows her own mind). On the other hand, Malakai has only been gone from the North Estate for a few years, but he’s a completely different person than when he left, and worse, he is repeatedly actively mean to Elliot, trying to hurt her and make her feel bad. NOPE. None of that in my romance heroes, thank you! So I’m kind of torn. On the one hand, I really liked it because I thought it was a very creative updating of one of my favorite books, but on the other hand, it updated one of my favorite characters, and not in a particularly favorable way. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: It was an easy read, and fun, but I can’t quite decide if it benefits or suffers from a good familiarity with the source material. Readers of YA SF/F romances will probably enjoy it regardless.
First Line: Elliot North raced across the pasture, leaving a scar of green in the silver, dew-encrusted grass.
I also read the short story “Among the Nameless Stars”, which is from Kai’s persepctive, and tells of his leaving the North farm and heading to the free Post city – but how he found wasn’t the wonderful things that he and Elliot always dreamed of. One of my friends enouraged me to read this, saying that it would make me more sympathetic to Malakai, and to forgive him for being mean to Elliot when he returned to the North lands. And she was partially right. He is a sympathetic character, still basically a wide-eyed kid with no idea how bad the world can really be. But I still don’t forgive him for being mean to Elliot – that’s not what Captain Wentworth’s character is supposed to be about, no matter how terrible his life on his own was! One of the most interesting things about this story was the background that it gave on some of the secondary characters from For Darkness Shows the Stars, and on how Kai hooked up with the Fleet.
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