For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Darkness ShowsIt’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. (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.

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’d Die to Meet

by Tee

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is: Top 10 Authors (Living or Dead) I’d Die to Meet.  Not as easy as it sounds, mainly because it’s hard to name only ten. So here is my list, though I’m sure I’ll kick myself later for forgetting someone vital.

1. Meg Cabot– Ok, in actuality, I’ve already met Meg Cabot Goddess of YA Literature and Creator of Michael Moscovitz Fake Man of My Dreams.  And yes, before you ask, I babbled on about Mr. Moscovitz like a total idiot, even saying he’s better than Mr. Darcy (which he IS. I mean, hello. Ever heard of a sense of humor Darcy?) and made her sign my Forever Princess book while all the other ten-year olds waited to have their Allie Finkle books signed (my little one among them).  In truth, she was very funny and gracious, she took her picture with us and gave my daughter–who dreams of being an author someday–lots of advice about writing.  Still, I’d love to be her new best friend meet her again someday. Obviously, I’m hoping some of her awesomeness will rub off on me, but I’d settle for another picture and signed book.

2. Jane Austen– I know I make fun of Mr. Darcy alot (ahem, like in the paragraph above), but I love the pants off Pride and Prejudice.  The whole story gets me EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  And then, of course, there’s Emma, which is probably my favorite Austen novel because it’s so funny.  And Persuasion.  Can we talk about Captain Wentworth and his amazing, romantical letter at the end?  Swoon City!  Jane Austen found a way to be pro-female while still being humorous and romantic.  She, and let’s be honest, Mr. Darcy, are the standard by which romantic love stories/heroes are measured.

3. Harper Lee- Holy bananas, so do I need to say anything else except that she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird and, in doing so, created one of the greatest literary characters ever when she breathed life into Atticus Finch!!??!  And I’ve always loved that this beautiful book was written from the perspective of a child, rather than an adult.  It takes such a keen perception to get back to the innocence of childhood and to recall it so perfectly.

4. Charlotte Bronte- Two words: Jane Eyre.  Such a beautiful, perfect book that it has me on the edge of my seat with every reading, even though I know what happens.  Bronte wrote a great novel that was truly feminist (in a feminine way, meaning her character never had to revoke her femininity to rise above her circumstances) and showed me that even the most difficult circumstances can be overcome with grace and poise.  And she created Mr. Rochester, who I love like a crazy person (so like Bertha, only less stabby).

5. E. Lockhart– This woman exudes awesomeness. I mean, I don’t know her personally (sigh) but I love her books.  First off, she invented Frankie Landau Banks. Secondly, she wrote the Ruby Oliver series. She has a way of creating sweet, funny girls who, despite their insecurities (or perhaps because of them) are bold and lovable.  And funny. So, so funny.

6. CS Lewis– You guys, having gone to Christian school my whole life, I obviously knew about CS Lewis. As such, since everyone read The Chronicles of Narnia I, like a total idiot, refused.  It wasn’t until I was an adult and found out that the films were coming out (and seeing how awesome the first trailer looked) that I decided I’d better get on the ball and read them. And holy cow, I can’t believe I waited so long! I loved the story behind them (how he wrote them for his niece) and that they were sweet and magical enough for my young children to fall in love with, but interesting enough to keep my attention.  Beyond that, I read another of his books, Mere Christianity and was pretty much sold on him.

7. Roald Dahl- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my favorite book growing up. I read it over and over and even now, watch the film quite often (the original one).  It wasn’t until my oldest child studied his other works in school that I realized how incredibly brilliant his books are.  Though Charlie is the pinnacle, there are so many fun, kooky stories.  His ideas were lively and unique and, even when I read them with my children, still feel as if they are magically transporting me.

8. Sarah Dessen– Girl Crush alert.  I love me some Dessen.  It’s not just that I think her blog or Twitter feeds are hilarious (though they are), or because she created Wes and Bert Baker (though they are both good reasons to throw Ms. Dessen some love).  No, it’s just because every time I read one of her novels, even if it deals with a tough subject, I want to crawl inside it. I love her words and am amazed at her talent.  Also, I heard she handed out whoopie pies at BEA and I’m very easily bought off by dessert.

9. Gayle Forman– Oh my goodness, I hope this woman writes thousands more books because I have absolutely loved her two most recent ones, If I Stay and Where She Went.  Yeah, I actually said in my review of Where She Went that I wanted to marry it.  Kind of embarrassing.  Hopefully if I ever meet her at a signing I don’t act like a complete idiot, but I’m not promising anything.

10. Judy Blume– You guys, Superfudge, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Are You There God?  It’s Me Margaret (the book that told be I’d get boobies if I worked at it.  It totally didn’t work, but it gave me hope)…  Judy Blume was with me during so much of my childhood.  Her stories made me laugh and smile and cringe in all the right ways and they made me feel as if someone understood me.