Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: For Darkness Shows the StarsFor Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on June 12, 2012
Genres: Dystopian, Retelling, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 402
Format: Hardcover
Source: BEA
Goodreads
four-stars

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'sย Persuasion,ย For Darkness Shows the Starsย is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

First Sentence: Dear Kai, My name is Elliot, and I am six years old and live in the big house.

Review:
This is going to be a tough review for me to write. It seems the books you’ve most been anticipating are the ones that are most difficult to reflect upon. I had so many expectations going into For Darkness Shows the Stars (FDStS), something you can tell if you scroll back through my blog posts. In fact, I was entirely confident that this book would be a new FAVORITE, because how could a dystopian/Austen combo NOT become one of my top reads of all time? Well, with those weighty expectations, FDStS did not entirely satisfy me.

Peterfreund is a marvelous author, and she truly accomplishes what she aimed for in FDStS. First off, she got the Persuasion aspects of the story pitch perfect. The characters and their emotions are all by the book. Though many of the scenes and the overall situation are greatly changed, there is no doubting that this is a futuristic retelling of Persuasion. I am seriously impressed by Peterfreund’s talent and how she made a story about an older couple (for their time) into a story about teenagers. Though I do feel it might have worked a bit better with slightly older main characters, she did make the tale work for youths.

What makes that work is the society in which FDStS is set. The world has regressed, run by Luddites, those who fear technology. Messing with genes, robotics and medicines, humans became close to gods, but there was an unfortunate consequence: the Reduction. Wars and, perhaps, divine punishment left the world populated by the Luddites, largely unchanged and the Reduced, unable to speak and used as slaves. The Luddites are much like the landowners of Austen’s time: wealthy, privileged and built upon the backs of abused workers.

This political and social landscape is complicated more and more as time passes. Not all children of the Reduced are Reduced as well. Some of them (1 in 20) has all the capabilities of a regular person. The Luddites, comfy in their estates, try to keep the CORs (Children of the Reduced) in the same menial state, bound by the same laws. The CORs prefer to think of themselves as Posts (Post-Reduction), the beginning of something new. This is a time of upheaval, a nice parallel to the social issues in Austen’s novels. The Posts have money and talent that Elliot’s Luddite family now lacks, much like Captain Wentworth earned a fortune in the army in Austen’s Persuasion.

Elliot, like her namesake Anne Elliot, does not fit in with her family. Her father and sister care only about material things: clothing, racetracks and other such trappings. Elliot works hard to try to help the Posts and the Reduced on the family farms and estate, burdened by her family’s extravagance. Meanwhile, she is haunted by worries about what has become of the boy she loved as a child, Kai, who left to find fortune at 14.

In Persuasion, Anne Elliot turned down Wentworth’s initial proposal because her family deemed him unworthy. In Elliot’s case, she let him go of her own volition, not because of any direct social pressure. Still, she has always loved him and they have been friends since a young age, due to their shared birthday. Interspersed with the main part of the novel are letters the two snuck back and forth to one another throughout their childhood. These, while sometimes entertaining, perhaps could have been reduced, or at least put into chronological order. Bouncing around in time really didn’t help their impact.

My issue with the book, despite its quality, is that I did not connect to Elliot or to Kai. Persuasion, though beautiful, is not my favorite Austen novel. I have trouble forgiving Anne and Wentworth for their behavior to one another, especially Wentworth’s stupid and shameless flirting with the stupid neighbor girl. Peterfreund did such a good job with their characters that I feel much the same about Elliot and Kai. While I root for them more than I do for the other characters, I also didn’t feel any special warmness towards them.

So there you have it as clearly as I can manage to put it. FDStS is brilliantly done, but it didn’t touch my heart, at least not on this reading. I do think it’s funny that her unicorn series is much darker than her dystopia. Still, if you’re interested in this one, do give it a try.

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 allโ€”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.”

16 responses to “Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars”

  1. Schneikies this sounds confusing. I haven’t read any Jane Austen novels, I know, sin right? But I’ve never been into the classics. I have read so many glowing reviews of this one, and I didn’t even know it was a sort of retelling. Great review, sorry it didn’t live quite up to your expectations.

    • Christina says:

      Yeah, the world building was a bit confusing initially, but it worked. I would like to know more about the actual events, but oh well.

      I love Jane Austen so much!

  2. Too bad you didn’t like it very much. I loved this book, so much that I haven’t reviewed it yet because I feel I’m not eloquent enough to express how much I liked it. But yeah, I’ve always liked Persuasion.

    White Flag by Dido is a song I loved when it came out. I still think it’s an awesome song, but… gosh, am I glad I managed to get over that guy.

    • Christina says:

      Yay! Glad that you loved too. I really, really wanted to. I’m definitely holding onto my copy, because I may come to love it more later. All of the EXPECTATIONS can mess with things.

      Oh dear. I’m glad you did, too.

  3. Anya says:

    Christina, what do you look for in a first sentence? In a first chapter? What makes a good hook? And what do you look for in a plot?

    love your reviews ๐Ÿ™‚
    ~Anya

    • Christina says:

      Ummm, in a first sentence? Something entertaining or catchy is nice, but, honestly, I don’t much care. I just think they’re interesting to consider. I don’t expect every book to start with a bang in the first sentence, though.

      First chapter: some sort of hook to make me want to keep reading. A conflict of some sort, a quest. I also want to learn about my MC (or one of them), so that I care about them as they go through the book.

      Good hook: Eh, I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for that.

      Plot: Something that entertains me and is logical within itself. I also like the book to be fairly consistently paced. I like books that are slow-moving and books that go by quickly, but a mixture of the two can feel choppy.

  4. I so want to read this. I’m sorry that it didn’t become one of your absolute favorites, but I’m glad you still liked it.

  5. Kat Balcombe says:

    Oh no the failure to connect thingy ๐Ÿ™ that’s the hardest one to overlook – if you don’t care about the characters it’s a bit of a lost cause.

    I do like the sound of a retelling/dystopia and I’ve also heard she’s an awesome author, so I’ll continue stalking this one.

    Great review – and perfect song choice (I’m going to have to go listen to it now!)

    • Christina says:

      Right? My Dystopian August reads have been so up and down, as I’ve either really connected or not cared at all. Sigh.

      I would recommend starting with her Killer Unicorns books. They are straight up amazing. Also…killer unicorns!

      ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. For me as a reader connecting with characters is such a huge thing. I figured I was able to connect with Elliot so well because of all her sacrifice, I mean I haven’t exactly sacrificed much but it just spoke to me, ya know? How she does so much for her family but they don’t really care, if that makes sense. Anyways, I’m sorry you didn’t end up falling madly in love with FDSTS as I did, but at least you liked it which is more than can be said for some books. ๐Ÿ™‚

    (Also I love the killer unicorn books too and hold out hope for a 3rd one)

    • Christina says:

      Oh yeah, it’s all about characters for me. I actually might be more likely to connect with selfish characters, although that certainly didn’t work in The Windup Girl so who knows.

      I’m curious to see how I feel about this when I reread it at some point in the future. Part of the issue might have been how closely I was reading, in an effort to figure out how well the transition had been done from Persuasion.

      I do dislike a fair number of books. BUT to be fair, I have way more high number reviews than negative ones on the blog!

      (Me too. THERE REALLY NEEDS TO BE ANOTHER. LET’S NOT LEAVE ASTRID LIKE THAT.

  7. While I’m not a big fan of Austen (I often feel like I’m the only person like that in the world, at least it seems so!) I was going to read this book because of very shallow reasons I’m not so proud of. Because! Just, this cover. I’m such a sucker for pretty covers. And I can’t say no to a dystopian novel.

    Your review made me realize that this might not exactly be my type of a novel, but I’m going to give it a go sometime later!

    Great review!

    • Christina says:

      Oh, I’m such an Austen fan, to pretty insane degrees. I have several friends that really don’t like her books though, so you’re not alone.

      No one should ever feel ashamed at wanting a book for a pretty cover (or I should feel ashamed all of the time) or for wanting a dystopia, because ummm YES.

      You should give it a go. Peterfreund’s so talented. I also recommend her unicorn series.

  8. Kayla Beck says:

    I really wanted to love this book more, even though I enjoyed it quite a bit. I wanted aliens and science fiction and lasers, and I got weird post-apocalyptic. *sigh*

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