Meredith's Reviews > For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
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's review
Jul 24, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: 2012, austen-esque, fantasy, romance, science-fiction, ya
Read from August 11 to 18, 2012

Originally posted on The Librarian Next Door:

Luddite Elliot North is single-handedly running her family’s estate, desperately trying to keep it afloat. When the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of Post-Reductionist explorers who venture beyond the islands, offers to rent her grandfather’s shipyard for the winter, Elliot jumps at the chance for the extra income. But she’s shocked to find out that the famous Captain Malakai Wentforth is none other than her childhood friend and sweetheart, Kai. Four years ago, Elliot chose to stay with the estate, instead of running away with Kai. She still harbors feelings for him, but Kai seems cold and indifferent to the girl he once knew. Elliot’s hopes for a second chance might be lost, but the Cloud Fleet is hiding secrets – and so is Elliot. And when these secrets unravel, everything could change.

Diana Peterfreuned’s novel, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a brillant, unique and exciting science-fiction/fantasy re-imagining of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Though I’m quite fond of Lizzie and Mr. Darcy, Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel; I love its themes of first love, regret and second chances, so I was thrilled to see a truly original spin on a classic story. Peterfreund’s writing is beautiful and she conveys such precise details. I could clearly picture each place on the North estate, each character with his or her quirks and each new aspect of this world. Peterfreund clearly respects and cares for Austen, as the allusions to Persuasion are evident throughout the book, but she still writes with a distinct style that’s all her own.

Peterfreund’s world-building is remarkable in its exactness and in the details of its history that we learn over the course of the novel. Readers have to piece together the bits of information they’re given to create the picture of how this world used to be and how it came to be as it is now. While there are certainly some slightly sinister dystopian elements to this world and the novel, Peterfreund is really showcasing a world that’s evolving. Kai, the Cloud Fleet and the other Posts are proof of the rapid change occurring in the world and the excitement – and uncertainty – of what lies ahead. I was especially intrigued by Peterfreund’s exploration of scientific ethics. In For Darkness Shows the Stars, technological and scientific advances are directly responsible for the Reduction and therefore forbidden, and yet there are still plenty of people willing to take chances again, willing to experiment and push the boundaries ever further. It raises some interesting questions: how far is too far when it comes to innovation? Just because you can create or modify something, does that mean you should? Are the benefits – or potential benefits – worth the risks?

For me, the best part of For Darkness Shows the Stars was Elliot. I love her as much as I love Austen’s Anne. She’s loyal, hardworking, steadfast, and determined, with a quiet strength and remarkable resilience that serves her well. She refuses to let circumstances define her or bring her down. She keeps trying, even in the face of Kai’s rejection, her father’s careless lack of compassion or yet another setback. Elliot stirred in me an empathy that so few fictional characters can manage. I was happy with her, sad with her, angry on her behalf and triumphant when she succeeded. And even knowing how the novel would end (thanks to many re-readings of Persuasion), I still agonized over the outcome of her relationship with Kai.

Most of all, I loved how Elliot isn’t perfect. She struggles throughout the novel, not just over how to help the people on her estate, but with her own beliefs. She’s caught between her duties and responsibilities and her desire to chase after her own dreams. She’s trying to stay true to what she was raised to believe, all while knowing that the world is rapidly evolving around her and she’s playing a part in it. And, of course, she has regrets. She knows she’s made mistakes and she knows she’s the one person holding the estate together, and yet she still wishes she had been able to run away with Kai.

As much as I loved For Darkness Shows the Stars (and I think, by now, it’s obvious I did), there were two aspects of it that I definitely did not like. The first was Kai. Unlike Austen’s Captain Wentworth, who almost immediately earns readers’ sympathy, Kai really had to work for my affection and respect. His behavior towards Elliot is harsh, even cruel. He seems determined to make Elliot suffer, holding her decision to stay against her. And yet Elliot stayed not for herself, but for everyone else. Elliot stayed to try to help the estate Posts and so Kai’s constant anger and hostility seem horribly selfish in comparison. There were several times I felt like punching him on Elliot’s behalf and though Kai’s attitude does eventually change, it felt like too little, too late for me to truly embrace him as a character.

The second aspect I had trouble with was the abrupt way the novel ended. I felt like there were far too many questions left unanswered, especially regarding the consequences of some of the choices the characters (Kai, and the Innovations in particular) had made. Furthermore, (*mild spoiler alert, unless you’ve read Persuasion*) while I was thrilled to see Elliot finally get her happy ending, her sudden acceptance of Kai’s second offer to run away seemed directly at odds with her behavior previously. For the majority of the novel, Elliot’s sole focus is the care and upkeep of the estate, so it seems out of character for her to simply give it over to others and run off.

Even with these two issues, there is still a lot that I loved about Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars. From the intricate world-building to a truly remarkable main character, Peterfreund has cleverly reworked Jane Austen for science-fiction and fantasy fans. Even if you haven’t read Persuasion and especially if you have, you will want to read For Darkness Shows the Stars. You will not regret it.

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