Monday, July 9, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars: review

Title: For Darkness Shows the Stars
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Genres: dystopia, retelling
Summary: 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.

Wow. I can't say it enough times, but it's SO much harder to write about why you love a book, than to rant for pages on a book you hated...I'll keep this shortish and simple, because I want to go back and read it all over again.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is a retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion. I read Persuasion a few years ago, and due to a crappy copy and many other things going on at the time, I had little to no interest for it, and declared it my least favorite Austen novel. But my best friend was absolutely in love with it, so here we are with a captivating looking retelling, and I told myself, "Hey give it another try, after all, you are in love with alll her other books." (Austen's that is, hence my name.) Anyway, long story short, last week I reread Persuasion with a beautiful copy (reinforced paperback, special edition Penguin, I believe? Thanks, Mal!) and in two days my whole opinion on the story changed! It's as awesome as her other five books.

First, I want to say I love love the title, even though long titles generally annoy me, while I'm typing. It's an absolute perfect fit for the story. And the cover is what made me pick it up, like usual.

If you read For Darkness Shows the Stars without knowing the story and outcome of Persuasion, then it's probably going to be a lot more stressful and frustrating (in the good way) regarding Elliot and Kai, because of how well Diana Peterfreund rewrites the original. But me knowing exactly who was which character, and the background of the two 'star-crossed lovers', I was glad I knew how it would end (don't start assuming things here...), because I can see how tormenting the suspense of the book, mainly when Kai and Elliot are around each other, can be to the reader. Don't worry, you'll love the torment, and it will make you zip through it, needing to know what happens next!

This story is dystopian, a classic retelling of dystopian, how cool is that? This dystopian, however, is the unusual kind. The focus is still slightly on the revolutionary side, but you really only see the outskirts and after effects of the apocalypse; no collapsed cities or remnants of old technology. The closest I can relate this to, is my all-time favorite book series, Obernewtyn, by Isobelle Carmody. The story is told in an isolated little world, and its inhabitants aren't sure what's left of the planet other than their piece of land left. It's called the White (or Great White) in Obernewtyn, where machines took over and we kind of lost out humanity, and now technology is heresy against the church. In For Darkness Shows the Stars, the Reduction had the same kind of thing happen, only with genetic enhancing for people, food, and animals, besides the strange technology. The Luddites (in Obernewtyn they worship their creator, Lud.) are the people who stuck with God through all these new enhancements, and their belief that he would punish you if you messed with how he made things to be, you would be punished. And that's when the Reduction came, and produced the 'punished' Reduced: simple minded people born, that the Luddites took a hold of, and they are used as servants etc. working class. It's kind of complicated, but that's what fascinated me most about the book.

Ro is the Reduced we meet in the very beginning, Elliot and Kai's friend from childhood. She is so sweet, like a child, dancing and playing and being nice to everything. And I think she is quite smart for being Reduced. You'll find she attaches herself to you, similarly to how Rue does from The Hunger Games, because even though Ro isn't in it much, she is a key to the story.

Elliot and Kai's relationship/past is explained through a series letters between the two scattered between the chapters, and it is really well done in the sense that they are funny when they're six years old, and more developed and slightly more series as they near thirteen, fourteen years old. If you didn't have the letters (very Jane Austen style!) lots of the current happenings in the book wouldn't make much sense. Because of these letters, the story isn't about how they are going all 'in-love-giggly-hormone-crazy' like ya books are normally, but it's them trying to avoid each other because of some interesting decisions made years ago by the both. It's kind of hard to explain without giving lots away, but safe to say, there isn't much actual romance, than just awkward meetings, and glances.

There isn't really a good description of Kai, other than strange dark eyes and tallness, that I can remember, but here is a physical description of Elliot, which I found helped me a lot: "Elliot's features which had been harsh and solemn even when she was younger, hadn't softened with age. Her dark brows were thick slashes over the deep-set, almond-shaped eyes she'd inherited from the Boatwright side of the family. The round snub nose came courtesy of her grandfather as well, and the skin that turned brown in the sun, then sallow in the winter months. She'd also gotten his full lips, though, and her black hair took on ruddy highlights every summer." -page 65 of For Darkness Shows the Stars ARC

Overall the writing is great. I could tell Diana Peterfreund isn't a new writer (which is a nice break) but this is the first of her books I've personally read and heard about. I will definitely be looking up her Rampant books to read soon. Even though my first thought is, "Unicorn killers, really??" :)

I highly recommend For Darkness Shows the Stars to all my friends. Five stars no doubt; one of the best books I've read this year.


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