Plot: Four years ago, the boy Elliot loved left her father’s estate and she chose to stay behind. She has since struggled to maintain the farm in spite of her father’s mismanagement but their debts are such that they may not make it through the winter. When the Innovations and their Post Fleet ask to rent her grandfather’s shipyards, she dares to hope. However, she is shocked to discover that the dashing Captain Wentworth is in fact her sweetheart Kai, returned rich and successful. Only now he seems to hate her. But that isn’t the only way he has changed. Kai and his new friends carry within them a terrible secret. Elliot must once more make a difficult choice: follow her heart or the anti-technology laws that regulate her world.
Trying to work with this novel sitting on my desk half-read and tempting me was pure torture. I would have marathoned it if I could. It’s beautifully written and completely engaging. I was on the edge of tears more than once and I was rooting for Elliot and Kai right from the start.
For Darkness Shows the Stars is a science fiction retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Honestly, Peterfreund already had me when I found that out. I’m a huge Austen fan. She doesn’t follow the story slavishly but she has really captured the spirit of Austen’s novel. When I finished it, the first thing I wanted to do was run out and read Persuasion again so that I could analyze Peterfreund’s novel with the detail and care it deserves.
Peterfreund’s sci-fi world is fascinating. Wide-spread genetic manipulation and advanced technologies caused an apocalypse centuries earlier. The descendents of these genetically modified humans became “Reduced”, barely able to speak or function on their own. The only ones who escaped this fate were the Luddites who refused all technologies. They took on the duty of restoring their corner of the world and ruling over the Reduced. But now, an increasing number of Reduced are giving birth to normal children, Posts as they call themselves. And these new Posts refuse to accept a life of indentured servitude. They see in new technologies the chance for a better life.
Clearly we’ve come a far way from Victorian England. Peterfreund’s new world allows her to explore considerations of slavery, technological advance and humanity in addition to the issues of class and wealth addressed in Austen’s book. She really gives the reader a lot of food for thought.
It’s a very smart book but it is also an amazing love story. Watching Elliot and Kai fall in love through their childhood letters is beautiful and makes their current separation that much harder to bear. My heart broke along with Elliot’s every time Kai snubbed her. She is hard not to like: she is brave and stubborn, giving up her dreams (and quite the dashing sweetheart) in order to protect the lives of all those under her care. She maintains a curious, adventurous spirit in spite of her family’s cruelty and her broken heart.
Peterfreund gives us a wonderful cast of characters aside from the heroes as well. The Innovations perfectly capture the love and adventuring spirit of Persuasion‘s Admiral and Sophia Croft. Olivia is a more lovable Louisa, though just as innocent and reckless. And the Posts and Reduced on the North farm, Dee and Ro especially, show touching loyalty and remarkable independence for people in their situation. But the characters that shook me to my core were Elliot’s father and sister. They are spoiled, vain and cruel. Their cruelty becomes so much worse as the novel progresses and you come to realize that they are actually quite intelligent and perceptive.
It’s only June but I suspect that For Darkness Shows the Stars will be one of the best books I read this year. It completly blew me away. If you are a fan of Austen or sci-fi romances do yourself a favor and read Peterfreund’s novel sooner rather than later.