For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund – A Review

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund (2012)From the desk of Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Several months ago I kept hearing a lot of buzz about a book by Diana Peterfreund entitled For Darkness Shows the Stars. Nearly every blogging friend I had seemed to be reading and raving about this novel.  As I did some research on it I discovered that it’s a young adult, sci fi/dystopic version of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I was 100% interested. When Laurel Ann suggested I review it for Austenprose, I was at first super excited and simultaneously nervous. What if it didn’t live up to my expectations? Nerves aside, I dove in eager to see how Persuasion translated into a dystopic world.

Many years ago, the scientific over-manipulation of food, animals, and even people resulted in an event known as the Reduction, which set humanity back hundreds of years technologically and socially and ushered in a new nobility that outlawed most forms of technology. Elliot North is a member of this group, and understood that it was not her place to run away with her childhood sweetheart, a slave known as Kai. Now, years later, the world has begun advancing back to its former glory. A new generation is beginning to reignite progress and cause change, and with this comes the stagnation of the old elite. Therefore, Elliot’s estate is forced to rent land to the Cloud Fleet, a mysterious group of shipbuilders, in order to make ends meet. Little does she know that one of these men is Captain Malakai Wentforth, the same man she loved but dutifully left so many years ago, now under a new name. Although she wonders if this may be her second chance at love, Kai does not seem so sure. He also holds a secret which could alter the very course of their humanity for good or otherwise. Will Elliot be able to persuade him to give her a second chance? What will Kai do with his secret?

At first this book moved very slowly in my opinion. It took me a good 70 pages to really become invested in the story and understand the history as to how the world got to be in its present state. The terminology of all the different social classes was confusing at first, as the “racist” terminology that the upper class used was completely separate from how the underprivileged classes spoke. After I understood this, however, the book definitely caught my attention. Elliot is a conundrum of a character, as she’s stuck in this in-between place of fearing how modernization and technological advancement could harm society again, but also seeing how said advancements could help the depressing current state of affairs. She has all these people on her farm that she needs to feed, yet doesn’t have enough money or time to grow enough food. Therefore, she sees what genetically modifying food could potentially do to save hundreds around her. On the opposite spectrum her grandfather is extremely sick, but comes to find out that there are medications and procedures that had they not been outlawed could have prevented his continual deterioration. She’s a revolutionary in her own right, doing everything in her power to help those around her. The inner battle that she experiences for the majority of the book is an understandable one, and one that can be relatable in multiple contexts. She has all these things that she has been taught to fear, yet sees the benefits of certain modifications once Kai and the Cloud Feet people become a part of her life. She learns that not everything has to be a lesson in extremes, that everything doesn’t have to be either one way or another, and that sometimes the hardest sacrifices you have to make yield the best and worthiest results.

One thing that truly surprised me about this book was the characterization of Elliot’s father and Kai. Elliot’s father was extreme and harsh. The events towards the end of the novel and his reaction to certain revelations were frankly shocking. Upon first glance he seemed aloof, but he’s actually very observant and conniving. He knows exactly what buttons to push to get the results he expects. Additionally, I felt similar feelings about Kai. The level of his anger, rudeness, and spitefulness was too extreme in my opinion. At one point he violently grabs Elliot and is unforgivably rude to her. It’s understandable that he is angry over what happened between the two of them four years prior, but it just seemed a tad too much at times.

Upon finishing this book, I read the prequel, Among the Nameless Stars. The prequel delves into Kai’s journey after he leaves the North State but before he returns to it for the events of this novel. It definitely helped me get a better understanding of the emotional turmoil that Kai faced alone. His anger became more understandable, but only slightly. I’d recommend reading the prequel after For Darkness Shows the Stars, as there are things revealed that are better left as surprises.

I truly enjoyed the way that Peterfreund adapted Austen’s work into this dystopic world. It fit surprisingly well, especially the whole idea of differentiating social classes. The small pieces of the novel told in an epistolic fashion made me all the more anxious for the “Wentworth letter” (I can happily tell that you the letter does not disappoint.) Peterfreund has definitely earned a new fan in me, and I’m excited to continue this new series with her as she adapts The Scarlet Pimpernel next. 

Peterfreund’s website describes this series as, “In a distant future, teens work to rebuild their societies in breathtaking adventures inspired by timeless classics.” This series is made up of novels about hope, change, love, and redemption. I can’t think of traits I’d want the current teenage generation to learn more. This is definitely a series I’d recommend sharing.

4 out of 5 stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray (2013)
Trade paperback (448) pages
ISBN: 978-0062006158

Cover image courtesy Balzer + Bray © 2012, text Kimberly Denny-Ryder © 2013, Austenprose

25 thoughts on “For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund – A Review

  1. No kidding about a slow read at first. I struggled too. Whenever a writer creates a new world, there is a giant learning curve for me as a reader.

    I am glad you liked this Kim. It is an interested concept for a retelling.

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  2. I read this one recently, too. I enjoyed it, but more for the parts that remained true to “Persuasion” than for the sci-fi “lite” parts. The cover really bothered me, though. That young woman on the cover is not how I imagined Elliott based on Peterfreund’s descriptions of her.

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  3. I haven’t read this one but I’ve heard great things. I admit to having difficulty getting into stories about dystopic societies, usually because the terminology and proper names used are too outrageous for me to keep straight in my mind, or because I’m too creeped out that it could realistically happen to Earth in ny lifetime. lol But because it’s an Austen adaptation I’d be willing to give it a shot. I’m happy you liked it, Kim.

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  4. Pingback: Kim’s Guest Review of For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund | Reflections of a Book Addict

  5. You review makes this one appear fascinating. I’m always looking for suitable material for my 13 year old granddaughter (and myself, of course) because we are such kindred spirits. The spread and depth of writers adapting Jane Austen’s original works continues to amaze me.

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  6. I read this books and fell in love and I cannot wait for Across A Star Swept Sea to come out in October, this is awesome book from the cover to the end. Great review!!!!

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  7. Haven’t read it in its enterity (yet), as it’s news to me. But sounds somewhat like The Hunger Games meets some Jane Austen mish mash, sprinkled with what in comparison would be a happier version of Huxley’s Brave New World?

    I know that sounds scathing :) *blames it on numerous JA-sequels and Austenesque lit. of varying quality downed these past couple of months* Though on the other hand… perhaps this sort of remake could be a way for the younger generation to find their way to the originals? So shouldn’t judge too harshly…

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  8. I loved this one! I thought she did an amazing job of using Persuasion as a frame for the story. I hadn’t realized the prequel was out… Adding it to my list now. Great review.

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  9. Pingback: Austenprose’s Top Jane Austen-inspired Books of 2013 | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

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