For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
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)
This modern retelling of Persuasion by Jane Austen (le sigh. One of the most lovely, romantic books ever. Oh, Captain Wentworth, you slay me with your letter!), is so beautiful, so well-done, and yet so very much its own story that I find it difficult to describe.
But I shall try. Pull up a chair.
The Setting: Elliot North is the youngest daughter at the North Estate (basically a plantation). Baron North is not terribly interested in the day in day out functions of seeing his estate prosper and as such, the spending and frivolity of both he and his oldest daughter have left the once prosperous estate weakened. Elliot is left to manage the day-to-day challenges that come with running things, managing the workers (but let’s call them what they really are: slaves) and seeing that the farming produces a profit and all those on the estate are fed. The North family is made up of Luddites, the upper crust nobility who reject technological advancement.
The History: Long ago, men got too big for their britches and believed they could improve upon God’s handiwork by surgically altering themselves. The punishment for this resulted in the The Reduction (something that caused people to be born “reduced”, different from the Luddites). Years later, a new group of people emerged, born from The Reduced. They were born without the obvious setbacks of their forefathers and were like the Luddites in most ways. These people, referred to as Posts (as in post-reduction) we’re still looked down upon because of the caste system in place, and the Luddites who made the laws. The Posts and the Reduced were all treated as slaves and the few Posts who ran away didn’t always find a better life.
The Drama: As a child, Elliot befriends Kai, the young son of the North’s mechanic. Kai is learning his father’s trade to one day take over at the estate, but really he’s just a boy. He and Elliot have a secret friendship forged in innocence and curiosity, laid out in the letters the write to each other on a regular basis. As they grow older, it develops into something more, and though neither acts upon it, it’s there. When Kai decides to run away from the estate in the hope of a better life, he wants Elliot to leave with him. But she never shows.
This decision, one she regrets in many ways, haunts her when Kai returns later as a successful young man. He’s part of an entourage of explorers who are in town to rent Elliot’s grandfather’s boathouse while they build a ship that Kai has designed. Kai is cold and angry and as much as Elliot cares, she has an estate to care for and people who depend on her. It torments her to see him, to watch him court another girl right in front of her face, but she knows she has to accept the choices each of them made.
My Thoughts: There is so much more to this book. I know it sounds like a lot, and it was a bit confusing at first, but it is a wonderful book. You do not have to read Persuasion to understand it. This one is part romance, part dystopia, and a little bit science fiction. Bravo to Diana Peterfreund for doing such a beautiful job at creatively adapting this story. It is so different from the original book, but the inspiration is still there and still completely recognizable.
Elliot is a wonderful protagonist. I felt her despair and her regret, but the situation she’s in is difficult. There is so much at stake on the estate and there are so many people there who would suffer were it not for her care. Her willingness to forsake her own happiness for theirs is evident in everything she does.
And Kai, what a gorgeous, painfully good hero. His love for Elliot is always there, even when he doesn’t want it to show.
Crush Intensity: 4.5/5 Read this book. I enjoyed it in every way.