For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Published on June 19, 2012
by Balzer + Bray
Source: received a finished copy from the publisher at BEA.
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?