Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

This book, oh people, this book just wowed me on every level. I fell hard for this story, an adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion, which is an Austen book I actually don't remember all that well (must re-read). I really had no expectations going in and I'm so glad because this book totally slayed me in a way few books have done recently.

Synopsis: Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, 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. (Goodreads.com)

Can I just tell you how amazing the main character, Elliot North, is?? She is strong, vulnerable, a fighter, beaten down and coming back for me. She has heart and intelligence and I admired her greatly. She may not be the lord and master of the North estate but she is the one the Reduced and the Posts (terms explained in the book, but basically people who work on the estate, not in quite a slavery relationship but definitely a Master/Underling relationship) can come to when there is trouble. She is the one they know will look out for them and their interests because Elliot's heart? It beats for everyone and she truly wants to make the world a better place, wants to make the North estate a better place for those living on it. Elliot is courageous even when going against her father. She is a character to be admired but yet, she has very few people on her side.

Growing up, her best friend was a Post boy, Kai. They wrote letters to each other and left them in a little knothole in the barn. These letters detailed their growing friendship and growing awareness of the injustices in the world around them. I will totally admit, I am not usually one for stories featuring letter correspondence. It tends to bore me and I usually end up skimming. But not in this case. These letters are the foundation of Kai and Elliot's relationship and are crucial to understanding his reaction when he returns to the North estate to work on a new project for the Cloud Fleet, a group of smart and hardworking Post explorers. Kai is angry. He is insulting. He is downright mean to Elliot and if you're anything like me, you will mentally cuss him out. But it's clear he is in pain too. I don't want to make this seem like a book where a "bad boy" doles out insults to the female character and she takes it because it isn't that. On some level, Elliot unfortunately feels like she does deserve Kai's anger but she is not immune to her own anger and growing disillusionment about him. Elliot stands up to him in her own quiet way as the story continues. Kai is not the boy she knew but then, she is not the young girl he knew either.

Their relationship just made me ache in the best way possible. There is so much suppressed longing between them. Even with Kai being angry, that suppressed longing to have Elliot with him, to explore together is there, just vibrating on the pages. Seriously, my heart was just aching for these two. This is romance that for me works on every level. Kai and Elliot are destined to be together, I firmly believe that, and Diana Peterfreund obliges me by writing it that.

But this book is not all romance. Elliot is a farmer, a makeshift, haphazard, trying her best farmer to be sure, but she is only one person and is doing what she can to hold the North estate together as creditors come calling and as food and money become harder to come by. She is an inventor but of course, she cannot tell anyone. She fights against the Luddite ways but yet sees herself partly as a Luddite. (And how much did I love Peterfreund for using Luddites in such a creative way but that pays respect to their historical significance and still gives them her own twist). Elliot bears a heavy load and this story is just as much about her responsibilities and her dreams as it is about her feelings for Kai. Elliot is a fully-fleshed out character that is made up of her past hopes, her present situation, and the dreams she still harbors for the future even as she believes they will not come to fruition.

And I know I mentioned the lovely letters these two shared but the last letter, THE letter, it made me gasp with joy. Seriously, I think I literally put my hand to my mouth and made a sound because it was just... perfection. I expected something coming, giving this book's parallels to Persuasion but I firmly believe Diana Peterfreund made this letter and this overall story her own.

For Darkness Shows the Stars... if you cannot tell, I LOVED this book with everything in me. In a month where I've been reading mostly mediocre stories, where I have been left feeling frustrated by my current books, this book just soared straight into my heart. It made me happy. And guys, this is a STANDALONE! You're going to get one complete, fully formed story in this book. No waiting and drawing it out. Just utter magic contained in the pages.

For Darkness Shows the Stars is available on June 12, 2012, from Balzer + Bray. Do everything possible to get your hands on this book. Finally, another book I can add to my meager list of favorites from 2012. This is the first time I've read a Diana Peterfreund book and it will not be my last. Definitely seeking out her other books.

Other reviews:
Anna Reads reviews For Darkness Shows the Stars
Angieville reviews For Darkness Shows the Stars
Book Harbinger reviews For Darkness Shows the Stars

ARC provided by Around the World Tours.


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