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PFS2012 Book Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Title: For Darkness Shows the Stars
Story Arc: Standalone
Publication: June 12, 2012 by Harper Teen
Hardcover: 402 pages
Genre: Sci-fi Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Retellings
Age Group: Teen, Young Adult
Source: Bought from Amazon
Excerpt(s): from pg 233
Content: Implicit Abuse, Slavery

Dear Kai, My name is Elliot, and I am six years old and live in the big house.

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.
This hasn’t happened to me in A WHILE. But, it’s so difficult to concisely explain to you why I enjoyed For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund and why, at some points, enjoy wouldn't be the appropriate word. You could consider this a mixed review in itself, because on the one hand I found myself in love with some specific elements and then not so much with more elusive aspects of the book.

First, let's talk about my starry-eyed love affair with the cover of For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. I know that the theme lately is 'beautiful girl with equally beautiful makeup and dress' graces the cover, but IT JUST NEVER GETS OLD. Frankly, if you’re going to put a model on the cover then she might as well be pretty to stare at since we’ll be staring at it a long while. Then there’re the sparkles that somehow make it look futuristic and a little sci-fi-ish; after reading For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, they totally coincide with the story inside. Also, THE FONT. It’s not only shaped beautifully, with a profusion of swirls thrown in for us cover whores, but it’s also wonderfully pigmented with a fabulous gradient.

Two thumbs way up, like thumbs to the sky up.

The plot of this story is as intricately designed as the cover, although not nearly as absorbing. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is definitely very layered in it’s story line—there’s a lot of mystery going on, as well as several other points of conflict that pertain to Elliot’s relationship with her careless, vindictive, and petty father and sister, the care of the workers on her property, and the sudden return of the boy she loved and let go.

Despite how much is going on, I didn’t feel totally invested in the thick, elaborate plot, perhaps because it’s brimming with so many dilemmas. Though I sympathized with Elliot’s position as sole caretaker of this piece of land she loves so much and admired her determination to keep the place floating and to beat back the wolf encroaching on the doorstep, there's this sense of unresolvable distance I can't fully explain.

What’s probably the most enthralling and absorbing facet of For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is what Peterfreund has done to twist up a classic story. Because it’s such a mishmash of post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and sci-fi elements, fans of Kiera Cass's The Selection or Marissa Meyer's Cinder will enjoy the world that’s been built here. There’s an unspoken caste system broken up into Luddite, Post Reduction, and Reduced—basically, high class, low class, and REALLY low class (so much so that their rights are pretty pitiful). I loved that the world has been divided and shrunken to focus on this one remaining piece of the world still left standing. How after so much disaster has struck, the world has transformed into a place where technology is advancing more swiftly than the exploration of the stark unknown outside of it. The characters have as many questions about their world as we do, and yet it’s constantly exciting to see the changes that have occurred, that are available to us for dissecting. The world-building is as intricate as the plot but is WAY more engrossing and almost believable.

As I mentioned, Elliot is a strong heroine. She’s loyal to the people who care for and work her estate to the point she’s willing to suffer indirect cruelties and undermining commentary to ensure their survival and the survival of the property her mother nursed so well. She’s picked up all the burdens that should be tended to by the adults in the family—one of whom is her completely incapable grandfather due to his health and the other being her careless, worriless father. She doesn’t back down, doesn’t leave the people she’s loved all her life to their own devices, their own miseries. She puts these Post Reductionists first because no one else will, and the price she pays for doing so, she does so not only consistently but painfully.

Her friends—which include Ro, Dee, Horatio, and Olivia, among others—are mostly ignorant of the severe burdens she carries, but they care for and support her nonetheless. Kai’s return only solidifies their bond. The Post Reductionists she’s befriended keep her safe from the cold and judgmental gaze of her longtime friend and first love, who has changed in ways that burn Elliot to her core, and I basked in their protection of her.

“Three syllables and three thousand memories.”

Now, I believe it’s the author’s job to make a retelling accessible to EVERYONE, even those who HAVEN’T read classics like Persuasion. Everyone should have a chance to enjoy it. Retellings should be strong all on their own with a little something extra for fans of the original stories to appreciate. What I know is probably the most closely connected to the classic has to be the romance—Peterfreund incorporates these little quotes that are subtly mirrored in the dialogue and actions of the characters. What I’ve gathered about Persuasion from those who’ve been really pumped for For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is that it has to do with a wealthy young woman rejecting the love interest of a lower standing only to have the roles reversed and for this love interest to treat her coldly. Even without this tiny bit of insight, I could see the connection.

And the romance itself turned out to be the highlight of the book.

“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.”

Elliot’s hollowed heart and dutifully buried anguish over sending Kai away all those years ago is DEEPLY felt. To understand how heart-breaking and profound of a bond they share, you’d have to read the messages Kai and Elliot have secretly passed to each other back and forth over the YEARS of essentially growing up together. They’ve known each other since they were children and have faced so many obstacles even in their friendship over their differences in class and class history. Their turmoil combined with their slow, subtle communication of the change in the nature of their feelings throughout their long-spanning correspondence rouses turbulent emotions. That innocent, sweet taste of first love is mixed in with the present in which Kai is cold and disdainful toward Elliot. These two are devoured by miserable insecurities, unsaid thoughts, and countless misunderstandings, so that they’re all but forced to reacquaint themselves with each other once again.

“In every letter, in every line, she saw him. He hadn't changed - he'd only grown into the man he'd meant to be.”

When I stand back and really translate my feelings into thoughts, I see a good book before me—smart, well-written, layered, and emotional. However, these intangible things didn’t reach in and touch me as deeply as I wanted them to. And I noticed the absence of that touch.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund has the potential to alter the heart, leave marks and scratches, and for some that might even be the case, but it didn’t affect me as profoundly as I’d hoped despite all the quality working parts.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund has all the parts but the sum of them didn't strike me with blinding admiration and love, didn't leave many memorable pieces behind to relive and gush over. It’s a book I could live without but nonetheless enjoyed.
“I’ll give you whatever you want. Whatever it takes for you to keep our secret. A sun-cart? Or money? I have plenty. How much will it take?”
She blinked, as the dream smashed around her. So this is what it had come to. Kai didn’t trust her. He’d never trust her. If he did, he wouldn’t think he’d have to buy her silence. Because now it was Elliot, the Luddite lord’s daughter, who was the beggar, the desperate one, who’d compromise the principles she’d had drummed into her since birth . . . for money. He thought she was a hypocrite, a traitor to her people, and he might be right. But not the way he thought. Not for money. She’d do it for him. Not for a sun-cart.
He loved the people who’d stolen his humanity, but he’d never loved her.
She stepped back. Stumbled, really. And sputtered. “Get out.”
It was Kai’s turn to blink in surprise.
She waved the lantern at him. He was fortunate she didn’t throw it at his head. How could he know her so well and so little at once? “Get out of my barn. Now.”
He stepped away from her, his hands held out to brace himself should she choose to swing. “I’m serious.”
“So am I.” She advanced, and he retreated toward the door. “I don’t want anything from you.” Not his money, not his pity, and most especially not his false kindness. “Don’t you ever speak to me again, Malakai Wentforth. I hate you. I hate you. And I’m not sorry anymore.”
“What?”
“I’m not sorry I didn’t go with you. Because I hate the man that you’ve become.”
Rating: Sud-Kissed

IN LESS WORDS: While in many ways For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is as fabulous as people have made it out to be, my mind wasn’t shattered and my heart wasn’t blown to smithereens as a result of indulging in this intriguing world full of interesting characters. There’s nothing particularly flawed or unpleasant about the story; For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund, for some reason, was incapable of reaching beneath skin and bone to get to my vulnerable emotional places. There’s nothing overly striking about the story as a whole and that in itself left me underwhelmed. Overall, however, I do think fans of retellings will enjoy what they find in For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund so long as thefy’re willing to be sympathetic toward the characters and patient with the story.

OTHER REVIEWS:
  1. Candace's Book Blog
  2. LC's Adventures in Libraryland
  3. Harmony's Radiant Reads
SIMILAR TITLES:
  1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  2. The Selection by Kiera Cass

Got something specific in mind? Dare I believe I might NOT have covered something you wish to know? If so, let me know down in the comments section. Food for thought: are you good at letting go when it seems necessary?

13 comments:

Sam @ Realm of Fiction said...

Ooh this is an interesting review! I think I understand your feelings towards this book. I've felt similarly about a handful of titles before in the past, where I've appreciated the technical side of a story but haven't been touched by it as much as I should have. I look forward to giving this a shot soon though. :)

Annette Mills said...

I will never get tired of covers with beautiful girls in beautiful dresses... I loved Cinder and liked The Selection, so I'm happy to hear this compared to those books. I was going to read it, but now I must have it SOON! Great review!

Danny Bookworm said...

Love your Review! I love this in depth thoughts on this this book! I was always wary about this and after reading your thought I do not think I will pick it up !

Asheley said...

This one is sitting super-close to the top of my TBR, like at the side of my bed. I completely agree with the beauty of the cover. GOOD GRIEF, so pretty. I'm so interested in what you're saying about not being completely invested and blown away by it (I wasn't completely blown away by Persuasion, please don't hit me Jane Austen peeps!) so that won't bother me so much - I can't be emotionally wrecked with the beauty of every single book. ALSO I completely agree with your thoughts on re-tellings and how they should be written so people who haven't read the original can still follow along and love them and "get" them.


Brilliant thoughts. Love this. I wish I had clones of myself so I could read ALL THE BOOKS at the same time. Because I would totally do that if I could, you know.

Bookworm1858 said...

For me, the romance was the big letdown. I hated Kai for about half of the book even as I knew that the two were going to end up together. This was a total bummer because Wentworth is one of my favorite Austen heroes and I fully expected to love Kai. But I didn't until toward the end when I realized that I kind of liked him...but not loved him like I had hoped to.

Lili said...

I haven't read this book because so many people seem to say that it had a lot of potential and just didn't live up to it. I saw that the romance was a letdown on several other reviews as well. I've heard that the male lead is incredibly infuriating. I think I'll still be avoiding this book.

Mindful Musings said...

Do I see the word STANDALONE at the top of this review? When does THAT happen anymore? Lol. Anyways...I've heard a ton of great things about this book, so I finally caved and put it on my wishlist a few weeks ago. Can't wait to read it! :)

April C said...

Awww, I am so sad you did not fall head over heels for For Darkness Shows The Stars. For me, it's a book that reached in and made me feel all of the things. I loved the romance, the writing style, the characters, the worldbuilding, everything! But this also really aligns with my reading tastes.

Montana G. said...

I love the cover. I have this book, but I still haven't finished it. I'm bot liking Kai too much so far.. Thanks for the great review!

Heidi said...

I really liked the cover for this one as well, but was pretty upset when it sounded as if Elliot was supposed to be black and that it was another case of whitewashing (though I haven't read it yet, so we shall see). I'm so interested to pick this one up and see how I feel, because I've seen so many disparate reviews. Yours is probably the most balanced between the good and the not so good points of the story. I do have this one, but I'm doing Misty's (The Book Rat) Persuasion readalong this month, so I probably will wait until that one's good and done to pick this up.

Nichole said...

Words cannot describe how excited I am for this book. I just need to save up the money to go out and get it! The cover is beautiful, the premise is heartwrenching, and the writing style (thanks to your little bit you added!) looks smooth and interesting...I just cannot wait to read this book. I'm sorry it wasn't as great for you...I think I'll try to lower my expectations a little so as not to be too disappointed so thank you for your honest and detailed feedback!

Sonia said...

I LOVE THIS COVER <3 Just... everything you said. I love sparkly covers! :D

I'm sorry you didn't connect to this one on that flat-out LOVE level. It definitely sounds like it has a lot of the necessary elements for that but I get that sometimes it just doesn't work out. Still, happy to hear that you still enjoyed it! I haven't read Persuasion either but I guess I shouldn't be too worried about that :) The quotes and passage that you included in your review sound AMAZING to me and coupled with all of the praise I've been hearing, I am super excited to get my hands on this one! Thanks for the fabulous, honest review!

Jen said...

SEE... now I don't feel bad for putting this one down after 40 pages. I gathered early on that this would've likely been a heavy read. And obviously, I was right. I may give it a go one day, but I'm feeling rather lean lately. I cannot do the heavy. LOVELY review, as always. You are truly a book blogging star. One of the best. I look up to you like whoa. Just thought you should know.