Thursday, January 9, 2014

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars (For Darkness Shows the Stars, #1)Title: For Darkness Shows the Stars
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars
Volume: 1
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance,Retellings (In this case, Jane Austen's Persuasion)

A Quick Introduction: Several generations after genetic experimentation lead to the Reduction, which decimated most of the human race, Luddite nobility, descended from those who refused genetic modification, has outlawed technology. Elliot North is of one of these noble families, but her father's poor management of the house since her mother's demise has left them more or less nobles in name only. Elliot does her best to manage the estate, maneuvering her way through her father's irrationality and violently swinging moods and trying to keep the household afloat with little help from her older sister. In a desperate attempt to save the estate she rents land to the Cloud Fleet, a group of Post Redutionists who are explorers with more than a few secrets. With them comes a boy from her past, one who she had refused to run away with four years previously, choosing her duty to the estate and those living there over love. While he appears to completely hate her now, she is once again forced to wonder if she made the right choice, especially as some world-shaking secrets come to light.

Review at a Glance: An thoroughly engaging dystopian retelling with a quietly strong heroine.

Review: It took me a long time to pick this one up (a very long time all things considered), mostly because of how much it was pitched as a romance. Also because I'm not at all crazy about the cover. I don't often enjoy reading something that is purely romance, and, when I picked it up, I found that this was not. There's more to the story than that. There's a girl struggling to keep her family's estate from failing, while her father spends recklessly and generally manages the house very poorly. In Elliot's world, humans attempted to genetically modify themselves, which lead to their offspring being born disabled. The Reduced who live and work on Elliot's estate are her responsibility- they work the farm, but it is the Luddite's duty to ensure that they are kept fed and healthy. Several generations after the Reduction, some of the children born to the Reduced seem to have finally beaten the Reduction- the are just as cognitively capable as the Luddites are, dubbed "Children of the Reduction" (CORs) or "Post-Reductionists" (Posts). They are treated in the same way as the Reduced are, despite the fact that their mental capacity is equal to that of the Luddite. Four years ago, Elliot fell in love with Kai, one of the Posts working on the estate. In spite of this, she refused to run away with him, since she was all that stood between those working on the estate and starvation. Since then, she's been devoting herself to keeping the Reduced fed and the estate together. Just doing that requires her to resist her father at almost every turn.

Elliot is a subtly strong character in that, while she isn't physically fighting like a lot of "strong female characters", she's still brave and determined in her own way. She gave up her chance to be with Kai in order to make sure that others do not suffer. She struggles to reconcile the strict beliefs she was raised on, and her own personal conclusions. When Kai returns, now under the name Captain Malakai Wentforth, an explorer, who seems to hate her, she wrestles with her feelings, both past and present. Though she often considers whether or not she made the right choice about staying behind, she never truly sways from her belief that she couldn't have left the people on her estate to suffer. Overall, I enjoyed her character. She endures a lot, and much of she endures alone. Kai is, well, sometimes a little impossible. He has his reasons for being angry with her, as well as the society that they are a part of, but he could be a little bit irrational sometimes. That said, I didn't dislike him as a character. While their relationship was a bit frustrating sometimes, I didn't find that part to be unrealistic- they both have a lot to work through, and certainly have duties outside of worrying about one another.

I enjoyed the story. I found that it flowed, and was very character driven. Elliot's struggles, failures and triumphs are what pull the story along, and it really is very much her story. I found that she was someone whom I could feel for as a character- I wanted her to have her triumphs, after everything she's given up and how much she's struggled. The ending was wrapped up quite tidily (almost too tidily, but it  is based on a Jane Austen novel).

In addition to being told in third-person limited perspective (hurray, third person!), where we see only inside of Elliot's head, there are also a series of letters that they exchanged as children,and up until the time when Kai left. (I gather that this is a change from Persuasion, which I have yet to read, and which contains a single letter). Given their different standing in the society where they lived, they would leave letters for one another in secret, hiding them in a knothole in a barn. Even four years later, Elliot can't help glancing that that knothole every time she enters the barn.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed For Darkness Shows the Stars, and I recently discovered that it is part of a series (or has a companion novel?) which was released last year, and I'm looking forward to reading it when I can get my hands on it.

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