Friday, June 15, 2012
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, 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.
I've never read Austen's Persuasion, and now having read For Darkness Shows the Stars, I'm not sure I want to. I'm curious to see how the two compare, but I fear a setting without the technology, otherworldly atmosphere, and mystery of For Darkness Shows the Stars won't impress me nearly as much.
However, I didn't need to read Persuasion to know some of what I was getting myself into. I rightly figured that For Darkness Shows the Stars would be more concerned with the characters' relationships rather than some super action-packed plot, and I easily guessed the ultimate outcomes of the major relationships. Happily, though, my predictions along the way were not always as accurate. This isn't the type of book with a twist or turn in every chapter, but it also doesn't need those to be compelling. The setting and complex hierarchical society are built not with huge pieces of exposition but rather organically throughout the story; being essentially the leader of her family's estate, Elliott deals with Luddites and Post-Reductionists in relatively equal amounts, and through her interactions, the tension between the groups, along with their vastly different lifestyles and beliefs, makes itself clear. The tense issues regarding the future of the estate, among other conflicts, also show clearly in Elliot's quest to care for the land, and the arrival of the Cloud Fleet makes these issues all the more poignant because of the promises of change they bring along with their decidedly mysterious and exciting lifestyle.
Such a well-developed world is nothing without great characters, but luckily For Darkness Shows the Stars has an abundance of those. Every character is worth a mention-- dear sweet Ro, fierce Andromeda, deceptively shallow Tatiana, ambiguous but always sketchy Benedict-- but for the sake of the length of this review, I'll focus on the two leads. Elliot is such a wonderful heroine, and it's always easy to sympathize with her struggle to reconcile her Luddite beliefs with the necessity of caring for her estate no matter the potentially dangerous consequences. Kai spends much of the novel in mystery because of his anger at Elliot's decision years ago, but even in his briefest appearances, his preference for his new lifestyle and his complex feelings about the North estate always make themselves known. My favorite thing about both of them, though, is their relationship with each other. Between chapters are letters they wrote to each other as children, from all sorts of years, and these letters reveal not only the contrast between their lifestyles but the genuine care and love they have for each other; their childhood innocence makes their discussion of the Luddite/Post tension all the more powerful because they never seem to have an issue caring for each other despite all the times they told aren't to.
If I were to nitpick and find something I don't like about For Darkness Shows the Stars, it would be that the ending happened too quickly for my liking, but because I'd been waiting for that ending, I really didn't mind. For Darkness Shows the Stars is the best book I've read in a long while-- I love its strong heroine, its fantastic world-building, its discussion of so many social issues, and its beautiful and cruel atmosphere.
Book details: Balzer + Bray/Hardcover/$17.99
Source: sent by publisher for review