Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Rating: 5/5
Released: 12 June 2012
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, 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 loved this book so much. I can't even... Ok, two things. First, I have to say that I read Persuasion when I was about 12 years old and do not remember much of it. I would love to re-read it to see how this compares.

Second, the cover is completely misleading. I read the blurb a while back and, after seeing the cover, thought this was set in space. And, yes, as Diana Peterfreund herself pointed out on her blog, stars are visible from Earth. But when I read that Kai is a shipbuilder/explorer and captain of a CLOUD FLEET, I kind of assumed it was a spaceship. I seriously was imagining this: (in fact, I still sort of can)

Treasure Planet. So under-rated. 

This book is not set in space. In fact, the entire book is set on a farm. It was strange to me that after having trouble connecting to the world in SHADOW AND BONE, which I still loved for its sheer fun and great characters, I had absolutely no problem with the world in this one, even though we never see beyond Elliot's land, or the neighbouring Groves'. In fact, Channel City, the sort of leftover equivalent of a 'capital city' post-Reduction, is barely described.

But this worked in so many ways, because a key part of this book was the sense of being trapped, and of being owned. This was, at a most basic level, essentially what came between Kai and Elliot - she is a Luddite, and genetically pure, and he is not. This classic class division has been done countless times, and I liked how Peterfreund interspersed the chapters with Kai and Elliot's letters to each other over the years to show their developing awareness of their difference in status, even though this got a bit old toward the end. But much more interesting was Elliot's own lack of freedom despite her high status in society. She is controlled by her father, and trapped by her duty to her land, and is as much of a slave as Kai is in these respects. And so, when people come to visit - the glamorous, colorful Cloud Fleet - we see them as she sees them, having only seen the North farm. We feel as trapped as Elliot feels.

Elliot is one of my favorite protagonists, ever. She was so complex, and I felt the full impact of her regret and longing, and could not stop reading. She is unlike many YA heroines - indeed, unlike many teenagers - in that she is incredibly responsible and self-sacrificing. While I love reading about characters who take that leap into the unknown and have amazing adventures, it was so refreshing to read about the other side: what happens when someone chooses to stay at home? Her choice is selfless and difficult, and she bears her burdens, which are the burdens of others, heavily, yet rarely expresses self-pity even when provoked.

"What more was there to say? His whole life was a monument of mockery to Luddite society, and Elliot couldn't even hold it against him. He hated being here and couldn't wait to get away, and she couldn't blame him for that, either... She didn't need to hear him gloat about how all his dreams - the ones they'd once created together - were about to come true. Envy hurt exponentially more than heartbreak because your soul was torn in two, half soaring with happiness for another person, half mired in a well of self-pity and pain. If she spent any more time with Kai, he'd see it written all over her."

On the other hand, Kai, for most of the book, is cruel, and selfish, yet you can't help but understand completely. He feels like a real teenager. He has suffered, overcome, and fought his way to freedom. But while Elliot has aged too quickly, Kai, for all his adventures and exploration, feels like he is just coming of age. They complemented each other perfectly, and I loved them both.

Ignore the misleading cover (it's also disappointing how the girl on the cover doesn't look like how Elliot was described AT ALL) and BUY THIS BOOK. Is it dystopian? Post-apocalyptic? A bit of both, I guess. It's also even religious. It really doesn't matter. The story would have been beautiful without all of that. I would have liked to have learned more about some of the secondary characters like Tatiana and Benedict, who were a little less developed, but overall, this was one of my favorite reads this year!


Regular Isabelle
Evil Isabelle
Side notes: 

I don't normally try to cast actors as characters, but when Elliot was described as having black hair and being very somber looking, I automatically pictured Isabelle Fuhrman, who thankfully looks less creepy outside of Orphan...


  1. I have been dying to read this for a while now. I'm hoping to get it before the month ends.

    I love that Elliot is responsible, complex and self sacrificing because you are right. You don't see that too much in YA heroines!


    Awesome review, Lauren!

    Jennifer @ Dream Reads

    1. I was so desperate to read this, I stupidly bought the Nook ebook even though I have a Kindle... so it looks like it'll live in my computer forever, haha.

      But it was worth it! Elliot was definitely a breath of fresh air. Get to it as soon as you can, and I'm looking forward to seeing your review! And hopefully a Dreamcasters post for Kai? :) Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! x


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