This book absolutely blew me away. It was sent to me by Amanda from On a Book Bender with her compliments and a-score-of-10 review. Then, because there are just so many books to read and so little time, it sat on my shelf for a little while. When I picked it up the other night, I saw that it’s a dystopian book drawing inspiration from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I was sold right off the bat.
I have been a huge fan of Jane Austen for years. Admittedly, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite of her works, but Persuasion isn’t far behind. In Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars, Elliot North is a the youngest daughter of a Luddite lord. Raised in privilege, she and the other Luddites are charged with the task of caring for the population of Reduced – humans who have been left simple and mute following an apocolypse brought on by genetic engineering and DNA manipulation. Among the Reduced, a new generation is rising – the Posts. Elliots best friend, Kai, is a Post, the son of the North estate’s mechanic and the boy who she will fall in love with.
Elliot is the story’s narrator, telling her tale between the present and glimpses of letters she and Kai wrote and hid for one another since the time they were eight years old. Kai is gone from the North estate when Elliot’s narrative begins. He has left and Elliot, who was to go with him, fears for his safety. And then one day he returns with the Cloud Fleet – a group of rich Posts who seek to rent Elliot’s grandfather’s estate for building a large ship in which to sail away from the island and see what – and who – else is beyond their shores. But the Kai that returns to the North estate is very much changed from the boy Elliot once knew. He seems to despise her and Elliot bears his disdain with a quiet dignity – so like the characters in Persuasion.
In short, this novel is astounding. It felt like a modern-day Jane Austen and I was enchanted. Elliot’s devotion to the Reduced and the Posts on her estate, as well as to her grandfather, is palpable and moving. And so is the pain she feels when she speaks of Kai – both as the boy she once knew and loved, and as the man whose hatred truly pains and wounds her. While I’m generally a fan of a more demonstrative romantic narrative, I think the style of Darkness was spot-on and perfect. Moving, heartfelt, and very passionate in it’s own quiet way.
I’m both eager to read more about Kai and Elliot’s adventures, and worried. For a novel inspired by and based on Persuasion, how will Diana Peterfreund craft a series from a one-book tale that seemingly resolved in For Darkness Shows the Stars?