Book Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars

8306761It’s been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and 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. 

ashley | There’s been a trend lately in taking classic stories and fairy tales and using them as the inspiration for modern day tales. Once I discovered that For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, I couldn’t pass it by. I’m a huge Austen fan and was anxious to see what Peterfreund would do with it.

The two stories are comparable; boy and girl fall in love, girl rejects boy for the duty of her family, boy returns years later only to rub his success in her face while she watches her own life and estate crumble. But For Darkness Shows the Stars adds a more dystopian, political feel on top of that by working in the Reduced, the mute and childlike slaves born out of the Reduction. Sure, it’s a similar class system to that in which Persuasion exploits, but there’s a strong sci-fi element as well, a heavy science aspect and some pretty cool astronomical mythology.

Maybe it’s just the cover art lingering in the back of my mind the whole time, but it felt like I was floating through the starry sky while I was reading this. While it’s a powerfully heavy story, one of heartbreak and loss, there’s a very dreamy aspect to it blended seamlessly with that regency feel and a lot of beauty that keeps pushing through the darkness.

Elliot and Kai are the kind of characters I fall in love with. They are flawed and temperamental characters that I can relate to and will root for as I read about them growing into their own. They are smart, but so are the supporting characters. There is so much depth to these people that you feel like you actually know them, that you’re spending time with them, so when they hurt, you hurt and when they thrive, you can’t help but be proud of them.

What I loved most about this love story is that it wasn’t mainly a love story. Elliot knew where her heart belonged, but she also knew how much was being carried on her shoulders and she sacrificed her own happiness for the sake of everyone who relied on her. You don’t see that too often in YA books. Those love stories are the desperate priority, no matter what is lost as a result. It was a stance that I admire.

I had seen a lot of great reviews about this, but hadn’t heard all that much about it, but now I want to stand on top of a cliff and scream about this to everyone and anyone who will listen. I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in some time and my heart is breaking to have to end this journey here.