Saturday, November 24, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

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 jump-starting 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.
-Plot summary borrowed from Goodreads

Between the author, the premise, and the cover, this is one I've been waiting all year for. I was a little bit afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype, but it did!

First of all, I was really curious about how the Persuasion retelling would work, especially in this new setting. It's not my favorite Austen novel, mostly because I wish poor Anne would just show more Lizzie Bennett-esque spark. Luckily Elliot is a heroine I can root for. Intelligent, caring, and both fully aware and capable of taking on the responsibility of managing an estate despite her (seemingly) feckless father and sister (though not without difficulty or allies). She's not a washed out girl (or, to be fair, 27 year old) pining for lost opportunities but a resourceful young woman striving to hold onto her family's land for the sake of those in her care. 

Malakai Wentworth is a bit harder to warm to- often with good reason, but, eh. I was more interested in Eliot and the other characters, especially the admiral's mysterious wife, and in the setting in general. There's quite a lot of agriculture and industrialization and domesticity and noblesse oblige and social gatherings happening, too- perfect for the Austen flavor. Oh, and there are epistolary asides! Nice touch, Peterfreund.

The dystopian label is thrown around pretty liberally these days. I can see why this book is labelled as "dystopian," but please don't go into it expecting something like a government-toppling Regency space adventure (although I would also read that). More time is spent on character development, world-building and relationship tensions than questioning authority or uncovering the answers to menacing questions (namely, what the hell happened to all these Reduceds/Post-Reduceds??) I was a little bit disappointed by all this UNTIL I checked and saw that there will in fact be sequels. (And then I had a twinge of disappointment because other than the burning desire to know more about the calamity that changed the world, and a wish that Elliot's had pushed herself a bit harder in terms of idealogies/coming to grips with the moral issues of her society, the book is pretty complete unto itself).   

Fans of Austen, light dystopias, and even alternate history will find things to love here.


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