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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Publication Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #1
Young Adult
Pages: 402
Genre: Science Fiction, Retelling, Romance

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.
*This novel was borrowed from my local library*

Now, I've read Jane Austen before. Her works walk a very thin line with me. But Diana Peterfreund's retelling of Persuasion completely captivated me, making me want to go out of my way to read the book and capture the empowering emotions. On it's own level, For Darkness Shows the Stars beautifully broke my heart, flared up my anger, and mended all the broken pieces back together again all. A profound love story that took by breath away.

Caste plays a dominant role in FDStS in the forms of the Reduced, Children of the Reduced  or CORs for short, and Post-Reduction or Posts for short who are, what I took after reading, more of a submissive race--servants--who are looked after by Luddites, a pure line nobility keeping the expansion of technology to a refined nothing in order to keep humans from trying to become gods which sparked the wave of the Reduction and decimating a great portion of humanity. But over the years a new form of free Posts are growing, their society standings ultimately changing for the better, and along with them, is Elliot North's childhood sweetheart and servent, Kai.

The reduction confused me for a greater portion of the novel. Especially when it is learned about how this ERV procedure was administered to children in order to enhance their DNA--making them stronger, faster, see better, hear better--ultimately becoming superhuman or godly in comparison to human qualities. The Reduction ended up happening after the procedure collapsed the functions of the brain, turning the people who were meant to become the enhanced species into vegetables with brains of mush and nothing more. The ERV, the abbreviation that I don't think is ever expanded in the novel, felt underdeveloped in the explanation or even how the procedure is administered. One of the Posts in FDStS happens to excel in this procedure, but the narration lacks in going beyond and helping the reader know what it done or how it is done or how the process fails, etc.

Both Elliot North and Malakai Wentforth tugged at my heart. The letters between them were my absolute favorite part of the novel. Not only do they show the growth and the opinions of two children brought up in completely different social classes. Not only do the letters entail a growing friendship between a Luddite girl and a COR boy born on the same day, but their letters reveal history of the dystopic world and the aftermath of what the Reduction caused. And the history between Kai and Elliot, the anger and the love, the longing to leave and the willingness to stay, chipped away at my heart.

Elliot's father, Barron North, and her sister, Tatiana, sparked so much anger within me. Especially the cruelty and need for dominance that Zachariah North had for not only his servants but his youngest daughter as well. Tatiana just plain annoyed me with how arrogant she was, and the need to be the perfect daughter in her father's eyes.

Even the supporting characters--Ro, the beautiful Reduced girl; Dee, and Gill, the servants who found a reason to stay on the estate through Elliot's kindness, and watch out for her like one of their own. I enjoyed them much for than the Cloud Fleet supporting characters. Or even the other Luddites, like the Grove children.

The story went along very smoothly during my read. It was only the ending that I felt became a little too rushed for it's own good. The fact that Elliot had taken so much responsibility to watch over two estates, (how her father ended up agreeing to letting her handle the North estate is completely beyond me), and departing with Kai with the Cloud Fleet while Dee, Gill, and the other neighboring estates check up on the work from time to time before Elliot comes back before harvest. I don't know. It just didn't seem very practical for her to do. It didn't seem like a practical thing for Kai to ask of her, knowing well enough of the huge burden it weighs on Elliot's shoulders. All for a romantic, happy ending.

Final Summation: FOR DARKNESS SHOW THE STARS caught me not only by the stunning cover art, but the name as well. Stars captivate me. The ongoing theme of the stars in the novel was absolutely breathtaking. Diana Peterfreund did a remarkable job in her retelling of Austen's PERSUASION. Her characters had life flowing through them, and though her science fiction would and terms rocked me a bit in understanding, I found myself enjoying the ride while I figured everything out. A recommended book to Austen fans and those who enjoy a compelling romance glistening with the intensity of the stars.

First Line: Dear Kai, My name is Elliot, and I am six years old and love in the big house.
Story: S
Cover: XS