by Diana Peterfreund
Published on June 19, 2012
by Balzer + Bray
Source: received a finished copy from the publisher at BEA. Read my review policy/disclosure here.
My summary: After a genetic experiment gone awry results in a generation of mentally "Reduced" citizens, the nobility become Luddites, turning their backs on progress and technology. Luddite Elliot North runs her family's estate, manages the Reduced who work their land, and wonders if she missed her chance for happiness. When her childhood sweetheart Kai, a "Post Reduced," left the North estate to seek his fortune, he asked Elliot to join him, but she refused, choosing duty over love. Years later, the North family struggles to maintain their estate, so Eliot agrees to rent land to a group of Post-Reduced, one of whom is none other than Kai.
My thoughts: This book is a retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen. In a nutshell, Persuasion is about Anne Elliot, a young girl whose snobbish friends and family convince her to reject a suitor because he is beneath her socially. Seven years later, Anne's family is reduced (hmm, perhaps a play on words here?) in circumstances and Anne re-encounters her former suitor, now wealthy and aloof.
I loved the way For Darkness Shows the Stars translated the rigid social world of nineteenth-century England to a new, futuristic setting. Class and social mobility are major themes in Persuasion, and I found the caste system in For Darkness Shows The Stars both original and fascinating. The Luddite elites treat the Reduced in ways that range from benevolent paternalism to outright abuse. I also liked the genetic manipulation storyline, which raised timely questions about some of the benefits and threats of science and progress, and wished there had been even more details about the genetic experimentation that led to the Reduced.
My one disappointment with Persuasion was its main character. Jane Austen wrote some spirited, memorable heroines, but I don't count Anne Elliot among them. Anne is dutiful and long-suffering to the point of being tiresome, so I was happy to see that Elliot North had a great deal more personality and backbone. Another interesting innovation in For Darkness Shows the Stars was the author's introduction of a series of letters written between Elliot and Kai when they were children. As a letter written to Anne by her suitor is one of the most memorable parts of Persuasion, the incorporation of letters here was true to the spirit of the original book while updating it. Kai and Elliot's letters also give the reader a much-needed insight into their past relationship, which is helpful since Elliot and Kai remain frustratingly aloof and distant from one another throughout most of the book.
Yes, some 21st century readers may long for a little more romance than letters and longing glances, but For Darkness Shows the Stars is a creative and engrossing tale, one that I'd definitely recommend both to Jane Austen fans and to those who've never read her books.
I sent my copy of the book to RivkaBellle @A Word's Worth thought of the book. This is a girl who does Jane Austen re-reads and stuff -- so click here to find out what she thought of the book!
Tell me in comments: are you an Austen fan? And what's your favorite retelling, Austen or not?
I bought this book the other day and I am so excited to read it now! I haven't read anything by Jane Austen (but my favorite retelling would have to be Epic Fail by Claire something, mainly because that's the only retelling I can remember), and I'm not really a fan, but this book sounds so engrossing and amazing. Great review, Jen!ReplyDelete
I've never read anything by Austen...I think I should.ReplyDelete
Maybe start with Emma or Pride and Prejudice?Delete
I've never read any of Austen's books, but I'm definitely interested in this retelling.ReplyDelete
Do it! You don't need to have read any Jane Austen to enjoy this book.Delete
I am a big Austen fan; not sure what my favorite retelling (well in movies it is Clueless) but I love Elizabeth Eulberg's Prom & Prejudice with its strong funny voice.ReplyDelete
I am really looking forward to this book; I don't need more romance-letters and longing glances work fine for an Austen retelling.
LOVED Clueless -- Emma is such a perfect book for a retelling. A smart, headstrong heroine and a lot of plot!Delete
I've heard so many good things about this novel!ReplyDelete
I admit, I have at least 3 or 4 Jane Austen books on my shelves, but I haven't read any of them! Maybe when I read this one, I'll want to read Persuasion.
I look forward to reading this one! Great review. :)
Persuasion was definitely not my favorite Jane Austen book. But I thought this retelling did a fantastic job of updating it in a creative and compelling way!Delete
LOVE this review! I am one of those people who have never read a Jane Austen book, and not sure I ever WOULD. I'm not a fan of the classics. ;)ReplyDelete
What? You are such a writerly person. Okay, we are going to have to talk.Delete
I really like the sound of this book. Very nice review! I haven't read a decent Austen retelling yet, but this one sounds like it's a good one.ReplyDelete
I think some of the P&P and Emma retellings are pretty successful. I think retellings are tricky. I think sometimes staying too true to the original is to the detriment of the retelling. But I think this book strikes a good balance!Delete
Can't wait to hear what you think -- please stop back and let me know!
Awesome review. I'm a fan.ReplyDelete
Does that mean you read the book and loved it?Delete
Oh, I love this review, Jen! You have totally reaffirmed my notion that I will like this book. I haven't read Persuasion. I have read Pride and Prejudice, and attempted Sense and Sensibility, but frankly I struggle through Austen's writing. I have an easier time with the Bronte sisters. But now I want to go back and try them again. And I definitely want to read this book. Anybody who can mesh Jane Austen with some science fiction/ fantasy is alright by me:) Must get a copy soon...ReplyDelete
I think you'll like it -- I was right about Small Damages!Delete
This is completely unexpected. The cover made me think of something a little more dystopian or sci-fi or something. I had no idea it was a retelling of Persuasion. I may just have to buy a copy since I love that book and you enjoyed reading this, so thanks for the review! :)ReplyDelete
What is up with all these people not reading Austen??? I think I've read Pride and Prejudice a million times and I love Emma too, but I think that might be a little slow and long unless you already like Austen and classics - I would recommend Sense and Sensibility next and Northanger Abbey after Emma since that is a quick, humorous read.
My favorite re-telling right now is Cinder. My favorite Austen retelling right now is Midnight in Austenland (based on Northanger Abbey) although if you haven't read Northanger Abbey then you may not get it. :) I have read some other Austen retellings, but I get so disappointed when they aren't done right or aren't fabulous.
It's not in-your-face sci-fi. The sci-fi elements are sort of subtle. I think you should try it. I wish I had another copy -- I sent mine to Rivkabelle, the biggest Austenophile I know.Delete
As for the classics, I agree when you've been reading all modern authors, the pacing of the classics can seem painfully slow. It's an adjustment, but one that is worthwhile, in my opinion.
I read Northanger Abbey years ago. Isn't that itself kind of a spoof of nineteenth century gothics?
Great review!! This sounds like a really fantastic book. I absolutely love re-tellings. Recently I have enjoyed Shadows on the Moon which is based on Cinderella, and Tiger Lily which is based on Peter Pan. There are a bunch that I want to read too.ReplyDelete
I love retellings too -- I always enjoy seeing what choices the author made.Delete
I am a huge Austen fan and did not realize this was a retelling...grabs nook to order!! Awesome review, I love how you compared the original to this and I think I will enjoy this.ReplyDelete
Please come back and let me know your thoughts!Delete
I really had no interest in reading this but now I keep hearing good things. Agghhhh no more books!!! lolReplyDelete
Sorry about that!Delete
I haven't read anything by Austen. I just liked the sound of this one and want to read it. The whole "reduced" idea and different classes. I also am interested in her love Kai coming back and hopefully they find their way back to each other. I love letters and other extras included in books. It will be a great way to fall in love with the couple since like you said it sounds like they will not be close at first.ReplyDelete
If you like the subtle, old-fashioned kind of love story -- this is definitely for you!Delete
I always felt that in PERSUASION Anne Elliot should have fought to keep her man. She's lucky he still wanted her after all those years. I still love the story though.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure about FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS. I don't know why, but the title annoys me.
LOL! The title has more to do with the technology vs. Luddite division. There's a scene in the book which feels very Austen to me --- a group takes a trip to a cave -- you know how in Austen a group is always going off on some field trip.Delete
OMG I loved this book so much!!! I would've killed for a signed copy. lol Well not literally but..you get the idea. hehe I am seriously falling in love with sci-fi books. And I never thought I would. This is one of my fave re-tellings to date. I loved the setting for the book and all the fururistiv elements. She really made it work. I agree though, the main character was not as spirited as Jane's traditional heroine's BUT I still adored this book!ReplyDelete
I remember you loved this one!Delete
When she signed my book, she wrote "Your friend." And then when I read the book, I realized that referred to the letters between Elliot and Kai.
I loved the letters! It was probably my favorite part of the novel. I actually have not read any Jane Austen but I plan to read Persuasion this summer. I am now very intrigued, after reading this book. Great review! :)ReplyDelete
I thought the letters were a great addition and true to the spirit of the book.Delete
I am very excited about this book. I just love the title and cover. The only thing with retellings is that I haven't read the original. I read a few retellings of Pride and Prejudice and I knew that because of the movie. I have For Darkness in my TBR list and maybe one day I will read the original as well as the other Jane Austen novels.ReplyDelete
With this book, you don't need to have read the original!!Delete
Well that's good because this book sounds really good.Delete
I have never read anything by Jane Austen. I know - I really need to remedy that soon! I have a few of her books on my shelves. Maybe I should make it a point to read one of them by the end of the year. Which one would you suggest? Or should I maybe read them in the order they were written? Hmm... I have, however, seen Pride and Prejudice, I also watch the The Lizzie Bennett Diaries on YouTube, and I really liked the movie Emma (as well as Clueless, which I found out after watching Emma that Clueless was a modern retelling). I think I should challenge myself to that! Hmm, now just to figure out which one to read.ReplyDelete
Anyway, I still really want to read For Darkness Shows the Stars, because it's totally up my alley and I think, from your review, that it sounds like a really clever retelling. Do you think I should read Persuasion first? Hmmm...
Oh, and I also really enjoyed the movie The Jane Austen Book Club, as well as the British movie, Lost in Austen. I think Austen and I might get along, though, since I do prefer longing glances to hot-and-heavy romances.Delete
It's fine!!! There are tons of classics I've never read. I don't think there is a good movie of Persuasion. But I don't think you need to have read the book before reading this. I mean, I read Persuasion years agoDelete
I really want to read this book and was excited to see it recently in a co-workers inbox! I will have to put a hold on it. I think I tried to read Pride and Prejudice WAY back in the day and found it hard to comprehend compared to Little Women or other period books. I would like to try again but think I will read Emma this time, as I like the story better :)ReplyDelete
I love Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice the best. But I guess most people would probably choose those as their favorites.Delete