Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund


Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Rating: Heart-wrenching, heart-soaring, intensely romantic, so beautiful, oh God the pain, holy crap this world building, what even are sentences.



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.


I need to take a moment to calm myself. Simply put, I loved this. This is the kind of book that drowns you in feels. Right now I'm kind of a bit like:



BUT IN THE BEST WAY. Because the true strength of For Darkness Shows the Stars, beside the tremendous world building and the gorgeous themes of progress and the fear it inspires, is Elliot's perfectly nuanced and detailed emotional journey. I felt every moment of her pain. I wanted to reach through the page and hug her and tell her you is kind, you is smart, you is important, because she's amazing, and she suffers so. And I loved it. I cared so much about Elliot, because she cares so much.

 

Full disclosure: I'm a Jane Austen nut. As in, I just counted, and I own over twenty copies of her books even though she only wrote six full length novels, plus a Jane Austen cookbook, three biographies, What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens knew, a Lizzy Bennet action figure, and a purse with Jane's face on it. Needless to say, I've read Persuasion many a time, and basically have it memorized. I'm not sure how much this influenced my adoration for this book or my understanding of the plot, but I'm sure it did. Obviously I recommend reading Persuasion, because it's awesome. I can only write a review from the point of view of someone who has the original story deeply internalized, even though FDStS is such a quality novel I'm certain it can stand on its own. It's not necessary to have read Persuasion to read FDStS.
Also, I would just like to say, I realized halfway through that this book is set in NEW ZEALAND, though it's never explicitly stated, and it was a massive light bulb moment that I think is worth knowing beforehand. So there you go.

Anyway, here's the deal. Centuries ago, scientists decided to play God and do experiments on themselves, making themselves superior creatures by cheating death, illness, and human frailty with something called the ERV vaccine. The aptly named Luddites are all:
 


and want no part of these shenanigans. So they don't take the vaccine, which turns out to be a good move, since all this war and apocalyptic-ness transpires because of it. The Luddites seek refuge in the caves, and when they come out, the world is completely devastated, and the children of the enhanced have become Reduced-- lesser versions of humans, nearly incapable of speech, and far less intelligent. The Luddites think God has punished the scientists and their ilk for striving to outdo Him. So they rebuild their cut off, technology-free world into a feudal society where all progressive thinking is banned.

Our story starts generations later. These two battling concepts of moving forward and holding back are perfectly embodied in cautious Luddite Elliot and bold Children of the Reduced Kai. The complex world building unfolded slowly, and in the beginning I was frustrated, because I didn't know what was going on,  but once I found out, I was glad for the pace. It led me to understand it better. Reading this book made me feel like I've been living in Elliot's unjust society myself.

http://24.media.tumblr.com/c21b07d8f9a6016b436113a2eaaa6a2f/tumblr_mg6x017dz01qe2w2ao1_r1_250.gif
Oh Wentworth. Don't be like that.

Strong, loyal Elliot is the only reason her family's farm hasn't completely disintegrated. All the Posts and Reduced on her estate adore her and see her as their friend. Except for Kai. He's a Post. He's descended from the Reduced, and should therefore be almost mute and mentally impaired, yet he and many others are completely normal. And they all strive for more. They all look to the stars and the future. Which the Luddite lords do NOT like. He and Elliot were besties growing up, and eventually fell in love, and Kai was all, "Run away with me! We'll see the world! Invent things!" and Elliot was all... "I cannot." Because of her duties, because she's a Luddite, because SUFFERING SUFFERING SUFFERING.

And when these two come together... Oh sweet lord. There is such Unresolved Sexual Tension. Kai is grand, important, and clearly furious at Elliot's betrayal. Elliot has missed him like crazy and her heart is  one big open wound. They just keep hurting each other, even though they're both trying to do the right things, even though they both think they're right. And I just wanted to cry and smush their faces together and go "PLEASE JUST LOVE EACH OTHER! PLEASE!" But there are romantical misunderstandings galore. And the rest of the narrative does not disappoint. There's mean nasty Baron North, Elliot's utterly heinous father, lovely complex side characters, and pain. Lots and lots of pain.



I knew the general structure of the narrative because of how well I know Persuasion. But I did not know exactly how everything would transpire, or how brilliantly Peterfreund would portray this crazy world where it's illegal to change things for the better. Where it's verboten to change, period, despite the fact that the world always does. And Elliot is an incredible heroine. She's so strong and intelligent it just boggles my mind. She deserves everything. And KAI. I loved him. Despite the fact that he's cold and horribly cruel to Elliot, you know it's just because he's all hurt. He appears on the outside like this:

http://25.media.tumblr.com/68de1c2616d057085a2919b3418b8556/tumblr_mg6x017dz01qe2w2ao6_250.gif
You have broken my heart I will destroy you how dare you arrrrrgh
(...or something)

But really he wants to be like this:

http://25.media.tumblr.com/08b48290823f570e25be065cf23d50b1/tumblr_mg6x017dz01qe2w2ao5_r1_250.gif
You're preeeeetty.

We get to know how much they mean to each other through the letters they exchanged in childhood. And their slow, beautiful journey back to each other is just magnificent. I teared up. I clutched my heart. I had to stop reading to do a little dance around my apartment because of the feels.



 Obviously I recommend this book. This is a true, deep romance between two minds, not two bodies. I'm totally bereft that this isn't a series, not because the book feels unfinished, but only because I want more of this world. Elliot and Kai's story is both perfect and perfectly contained. This is the kind of book where you sigh upon finishing and just sort of stare dreamily into space because you're so happy and contented and clutch the book to your chest because it will live there forever.

26 comments:

  1. Wow.Now you have me interested in this book. Another one for the never ending to-read pile.

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    1. I know how you feel. My to-read pile is ridiculous.

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  2. YOU READ THIS? *resisting the urge to hunt you down to grab your book* Love Jane Austen much? That is way beyond amazing how much Austen stuff you have, honestly. But great review! I didn't think it possible for me to want to read this even more...but I do now.

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    1. "Love Jane Austen much?" she says. Only about a lot. My middle name is Elizabeth because of Elizabeth Bennet. My Austen-love began IN THE WOMB.

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  3. Ahhh... I always get scared whenever I see anything about angst. Everyone nowadays is obsessed with angst, but angst does not appeal to me in the least. Drama, intrigue, and suspense? Hell yes! But not angst. Still, this book sounds incredibly intriguing. I teeter-tottering. To read or not to read? That is the question.

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    1. To clarify, I meant to imply that the angst was for ME. I was feeling the angst! I too get annoyed when characters are drowning in their own feelings. What I liked about this book was that Elliot WASN'T very angsty. She has really intense feelings, but she's always striving to overcome them, never wallowing. You're smart to be wary of angst, though!

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    2. Actually, that's what I meant by angst, haha. The characters wallowing in their own self-pity is annoying, but it's the over-the-top situations designed to put the reader in a never-ending state of angst that drives me nuts. I love crying and feeling when I read, but I don't like to be manipulated, if that makes sense.

      If the main characters need to go through all the pain and heartache in order to be together, because there really is no other way, then I'm cool with that. But if the author depends on misunderstandings to force them apart and drive an over abundance of emotion into the story, that's angst, and that's BAD, haha. At least to me. A lot of people seem to crave that sort of thing.

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  4. You love the LBD too? I KNEW YOU WERE AWESOME FROM THE START!

    But anyway, I haven't read For Darkness Shows the Stars yet, but after your review, I'm thinking I should. But the angst. Yikes. ;)

    Ah what the heck, I'll read this!

    And is it just me or are there a lotta Kais out there? Like from Sweet evil and CInder now this? (It's okay though, they're all yummy Kais!)

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    1. OF COURSE I love the LBD, if by LBD you mean the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and not little black dress or something. And like I said above, vis a vis the angst:

      "To clarify, I meant to imply that the angst was for ME. I was feeling the angst! I too get annoyed when characters are drowning in their own feelings. What I liked about this book was that Elliot WASN'T very angsty. She has really intense feelings, but she's always striving to overcome them, never wallowing. You're smart to be wary of angst, though!"

      And I agree on the Kai thing! I was thinking the same thing! I think with three books it's officially A TREND.

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  5. Of course I mean the Lizzie Bennet Diaries! :D The last episode was like whooaaa! (Honestly, nobody will EVER see me in a little black dress. I can count the number of times I've worn a dress last year with one hand. ;) )

    Ah, I see what you mean with the angst. And if by emotion you were talking about the Unresolved Sexual Tension, then this must be very interesting indeed! ;) (I mean, there IS a Kai in it after all!)

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  6. I originally wanted to read this book because of the pretty cover (not making that up lol), but I couldn't figure out what it was about because I'm dense or something so I've been holding off. BUT OMG THIS SOUNDS FANTASTIC AND I NEED TO READ IT ASAP. Also, your gifs are perfect, as usual.

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    1. I frequently make my reading decisions based on covers. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn't (see: Undeadly), but I can't help but be swayed by the pretty.

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  7. When I first heard about this book I passed it by without much thought. It wasn't that I was not interested, there were just other things that I wanted to read more. I did not bother to put it on my TBR shelf but I am definitely going to do that. After reading your review I literally purchased a copy online. I'm definitely excited to start reading this one. Great review.

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    1. Yay! I hope you like it. I always get nervous when people leap to buy things at my recommendation because books are so subjective and I worry that people won't love things like I did, but I really do hope you love it!

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  8. Great review. I so want to read it. And even better, it's set in my home country! Should be interesting to se what the author does with a post-apocolyptic NZ (or something like it) :-)

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  9. So, you liked it alright huh? It sure seems that way. I need to try again with it I think. I must have been in a funky mood when I tried this because I just couldn't get into. I have never read a Jane novel. I know, I know. I can't call myself a book lover. But I plan to read the original, and now I plan to try this one one more time. Thanks for the review!

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    1. Funky moods can change everything. I was in a funky mood when I picked this up, too, and put it down because I was having trouble understanding Elliot's world. And you so can call yourself a book lover! You're lucky, because you get to read Jane Austen for the first time!

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  10. You make me laugh. I love you. That is all.

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  11. THEY MAKE JANE AUSTEN ACTION FIGURES?
    That's amazing, I need it.

    I reeeeally need to read this, but I've forbidden myself from buying any more books until my to-read pile becomes more manageable.
    I'll probably give up on that rule in a week.

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  12. http://www.amazon.com/Historical-Figures-11513-Austen-Action/dp/B000CIU6XG

    This isn't the Lizzy doll I have, but it is still AWESOME.

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  13. So glad you loved this book as much as I did--I was a bit apprehensive, since I love Jane Austen so much and was worried this wouldn't live up to her standards, but I was so pleasantly surprised! Definitely one of my favorite reads of 2012, and a definite book to own and re-read many times :D

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  14. Ah!
    This books sounds amazinggg! :]
    Thanks for the great review! I have been eyeing for some time now, and I wasn't sure
    what it was all about. I will definitely be reading this now!

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  15. I've been wondering about this book and a few of my Austen fan friends haven't read it. I've put it on my TBR list. I really liked the gifs used-they were perfect!

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  16. Lol you never fail to entertain with your reviews! Still not so sure about this one...may pick it up one day...the title and the cover are what have me wanting to read mostly.

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  17. This caught my attention the first time I heard about it! And now I'm even more desperate to read it but I want to wait until I read PERSUASION. It's quite high on my TBR list though. I don't need to, but it's kind of like reading the book before watching the movie kind of thing for me. I'm kind of excited about it.

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  18. Just so you know, there is a second book. It's called ACROSS A STAR SWEPT SEA (which, *squeal* <3) and it's based on The Scarlet Pimpernel, and is not about Elliot and Kai. It comes out October 15th, 2013, and I'm DYING!!!!!!

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