Release Date: June 12, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: BEA 2012
It'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.
Inspired by Jane Austen's Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it. (courtesy of Goodreads.)
It's always a little intimidating to read a book that everyone raves about. What if you're the only person who doesn't like it? Inevitably, you'll feel like something's wrong with you. Luckily, I had no such problem with For Darkness Shows The Stars. I agree with all the other cool kids - it's an awesome book.
For Darkness Shows The Stars is an adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion. I've read Persuasion, but it's been a long time. I found myself going over to Wikipedia to read a synopsis of the novel. By no means is it necessary to have read Persuasion to enjoy For Darkness Shows The Stars. I just enjoy a book or movie more if I am familiar with the source material.
It took me awhile to get into For Darkness Shows The Stars. Partly because I was trying to figure out how each character and plot element related to Persuasion and partly because the dystopic society was a bit confusing at first. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The culture is complex and fascinating. Post apocalyptic is the best basic descriptor I can think of, although that isn't exactly right. Society has reverted back to a semi-feudal society after a genetic experiment resulted in mass numbers of mute, childlike humans, known as "Reduced." The Luddites, those who resisted the genetic technical advances are now the Lords of society. Also in the mix are the Post-Reduced, the children of Reduced who are mentally equal to the Luddites but still mostly enslaved.
Elliot, our narrator, is a delightful character. She is an enlightened Luddite. Unlike her father and sister, she understands both the privilege and responsibility of being born in to the ruling class. She cares deeply for the Reduced and Post-Reduced on her land, who are essentially her family's slaves, and works to improve their lives and treats them with dignity. Elliot is a forward thinker. She's willing to flout convention to improve the lives of her family and those around her. Even though Elliot's father and sister give little back to her, she shows incredible dedication and loyalty to her family. She gave up the chance to be with Kai, her best friend and great love, because she knew that only she could keep the family afloat. She has a maturity and perspective that very few YA female protagonists do.
Kai/Malakai, our leading man, is a tough nut to crack. We meet a bitter, angry person who flaunts his success in Elliot's face. If it wasn't for the flashbacks to Kai and Elliot's youthful letters throughout the novels, Kai would seem like a horrible person. Instead, I pitied Kai more than I hated him. His anger looked more like pain than cruelty. I loved seeing how his character evolved as Kai and Elliot came to understand each other better.
Like I said, I had some trouble getting into For Darkness Shows The Stars. I'm not sure when the book clicked into place or exactly why, but it definitely did. For Darkness Shows The Stars has that wonderful indefinable quality where everything just fits and feels wonderful. I came to appreciate the complexity of the world-building. It was vivid, fully-formed, and eventually made a lot of sense. Similarly Kai and Elliot were wonderful three dimensional, flawed but lovable characters. The side characters too had strong back-stories and fit into the plot well. Pretty quickly, I was flying through the book. By the last page, I had that happy, floaty, good-book high accompanied by the bittersweet sadness that all good things have to end.
Rating: 4 / 5
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