Friday, August 3, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars

by Diana Peterfreund
Read: June 23-26, 2012
Source: Library Book
Category: YA

A (sci-fi) retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I loved it!

Okay, so all I want to do is compare For Darkness Shows The Stars to Persuasion, but I realize that not everyone has read the original so I’m going to try to be a general in my review as possible (but you can only hold me back for so long). The one thing I do want to say in comparison, is that Jane Austen is definitely the master of s-l-o-w burn love stories with lots of confusion and missteps, and this book does not disappoint in that aspect of the retelling. Here’s a secret: Austen’s books, don’t have any kissing, but they are still some of my favorite love stories. I think that’s because I really enjoy the subtlety within the story. When you have to pay attention to small details to see how the characters really feel about each other. Sometimes it’s in their actions and sometimes it’s in what they aren’t saying, but I like when the author makes you work for the relationship. And I think that Diana Peterfreund captures that aspect of Austen’s work well.

The Synopsis
For Darkness Shows The Stars is the story of Elliot North a girl from a wealthy caste who was best friends growing up with a boy named Kai, one of the workers on her father’s farm. They fell in love, but when he asked her to run away with him, she refused, choosing family duty over love. He left anyway and she hasn’t seen or heard of him in four years. That is until she is forced to rent her father’s floundering estate to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, and Kai reappears in her life once more. But he’s no longer the same boy, and Elliot quickly realizes that things will never be the same again.

The Setting
Elliot lives on an island in some unknown future time. Because genetic experiments gone wrong, the society has reverted back to a time before most modern advancements. However those “advancements” are being rediscovered again. Thus the story is a mix between the old world and the future – oil lamps and solar technology - that make the book feel fresh and futuristic, while maintaining the regency era feel of Persuasion. It also is a great visual description of the struggle that Elliot faces within herself – wanting to stay true to her ancestors and their wariness about technology vs. her desire to make things better for herself and those around her.

The Themes
I found the questions that Elliot struggles with throughout the book to be very relevant to our world today. In human’s desire to be better, the best, can they go to far with genetics or technology? How will you know when you’ve gone too far? Are some advancements okay and not others? How/where do you draw the line? If it’s possible, does that mean it’s all right? This book doesn’t answer all of these questions, but enough evidence is given on both sides to allow the reader to consider both sides (and you see Elliot and Kai’s thoughts on the subject).

The Characters
Elliot is an amazing heroine. She possesses an integrity and strength of character that is astounding. No matter what she faces, or the painful things she has to endure from those around her, she keeps her head up, her dignity intact, and she keeps moving forward. Although there were times that I wanted her to get angry and yell at those around her, I admired the way she handled each situation that she was faced with: including when she decided to stay behind four years earlier. I remember feeling a bit like the original Anne Elliot from Persuasion let those around her dictate her decisions and that’s why she didn’t marry Wentworth originally, but Elliot North chose to stay behind for the benefit of her land and the people under her care. And I found nothing at fault with her decision.

Elliot’s best friend growing up and also her first love, Kai ran away four years ago and in that time he has really thrived as part of the Cloud Fleet. Although it is clear that he has flourished since leaving (and that what he has become is in part, because Elliot did not go with him), when he comes back he is angry and bitter towards her. Over time he realizes why she really stayed and starts to change his mind about her choices and who she has become. But can they ever find the closeness that they once shared?

Of course there are a lot of other memorable characters, and most of them resemble ones found in Persuasion, including Elliot’s idiotic and controlling father, her self-centered sister, the Admiral and his wife, Olivia Grove, the pretty young next door neighbor and Elliot’s friends on the farm. I won’t list them all. But they are all part of the texture and fabric of the story.

The Letters
Although Persuasion is about the (slow) reintroduction and re-union of two people who had a very close relationship in childhood, there is really no flashbacks to the earlier time in the book. And though I don’t care for a story based on flash backs - they break into the flow of the story too much, I recognize their value in establishing a previous bond between people (besides just “telling” the reader about it).

That’s why I LOVED the use of Kai and Elliot’s letters to show their relationship as children. Interspersed between chapters throughout the book, the letters give a glimpse of how close they used to be.

The Love Story
I’m not going to lie; this story is painful at times. It is not an easy process to get Elliot and Kai on the same page again. And I don’t know whether it’s the modern language or if it’s the way this story is written, but I felt everyone’s emotions much stronger in this book – especially Kai’s anger and the way that it affects Elliot. But the journey makes it all the more sweeter in the end.

Favorite Quote
The old poems said that lovers were made for each other. But that wasn't true for Kai and Elliot. They hadn't been made for each other at all-quite the opposite. But they'd grown together, the two of them, until they were like two trees from a single trunk, stronger together than either could have been alone. And ever since he'd left, she'd been feeling his loss. He'd thrived without her, but Elliot - she'd just withered.

Rating: 5 Stars!
Love Triangle Factor: None!


  1. Oh my goodness. This sounds amazing. I actually have a copy of this book that I haven't read yet. WHY WHY WHY??

    The way you mention the setting as a mixture of old and new - that reminds me of Dearly, Departed even though this isn't about zombies. I loved that story.

    This blog post is making me rearrange some books in a pile I have sitting here near my bed. Well done, because this one's been sitting there for a long time!

  2. Oh YAY! And you have a copy? It was meant to be! Have you ever read Persuasion?

    Yes! I do see similarities with D,D (LOVED it too! Have you read Dearly, Beloved?). And the setting was one of my favorite aspects of this story. It mirrors the original Austen. But gives it a fresh edge too. Plus there are some great questions imbedded in the book about advancing technology and science.

    There is also a prequel called Among the Nameless Stars that is a short story about Kai. I didn't read it before (didn't know about it). But I think many people did - I think I got it free on Smashwords. And it gives a glimpse into his perspective, because FDSS is all from Elliot's POV.

    I can't even imagine how high the pile beside your bed must be ;).

    1. I haven't read Persuasion. I'm just not one of the Jane Austen superfans. (don't hate me!) I recently read Sense and Sensibility earlier this year and I feel like that will suffice for a while.

      I didn't realize there was a short prequel - I'll have to look that one up. The pile beside my bed is absolutely embarrassing. There is actually more than one pile. Mike hates all of them. But until I can get another bookshelf, there will have to be piles somewhere. EEK. I will not complain.


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