Review Detail

4.2 12
Young Adult Fiction 4724
Not Quite What I'd Hoped
Overall rating
Writing Style
This is going to be a tough review for me to write. It seems the books you've most been anticipating are the ones that are most difficult to reflect upon. I had so many expectations going into For Darkness Shows the Stars (FDStS), something you can tell if you scroll back through my blog posts. In fact, I was entirely confident that this book would be a new FAVORITE, because how could a dystopian/Austen combo NOT become one of my top reads of all time? Well, with those weighty expectations, FDStS did not entirely satisfy me.

Peterfreund is a marvelous author, and she truly accomplishes what she aimed for in FDStS. First off, she got the Persuasion aspects of the story pitch perfect. The characters and their emotions are all by the book. Though many of the scenes and the overall situation are greatly changed, there is no doubting that this is a futuristic retelling of Persuasion. I am seriously impressed by Peterfreund's talent and how she made a story about an older couple (for their time) into a story about teenagers. Though I do feel it might have worked a bit better with slightly older main characters, she did make the tale work for youths.

What makes that work is the society in which FDStS is set. The world has regressed, run by Luddites, those who fear technology. Messing with genes, robotics and medicines, humans became close to gods, but there was an unfortunate consequence: the Reduction. Wars and, perhaps, divine punishment left the world populated by the Luddites, largely unchanged and the Reduced, unable to speak and used as slaves. The Luddites are much like the landowners of Austen's time: wealthy, privileged and built upon the backs of abused workers.

This political and social landscape is complicated more and more as time passes. Not all children of the Reduced are Reduced as well. Some of them (1 in 20) has all the capabilities of a regular person. The Luddites, comfy in their estates, try to keep the CORs (Children of the Reduced) in the same menial state, bound by the same laws. The CORs prefer to think of themselves as Posts (Post-Reduction), the beginning of something new. This is a time of upheaval, a nice parallel to the social issues in Austen's novels. The Posts have money and talent that Elliot's Luddite family now lacks, much like Captain Wentworth earned a fortune in the army in Austen's Persuasion.

Elliot, like her namesake Anne Elliot, does not fit in with her family. Her father and sister care only about material things: clothing, racetracks and other such trappings. Elliot works hard to try to help the Posts and the Reduced on the family farms and estate, burdened by her family's extravagance. Meanwhile, she is haunted by worries about what has become of the boy she loved as a child, Kai, who left to find fortune at 14.

In Persuasion, Anne Elliot turned down Wentworth's initial proposal because her family deemed him unworthy. In Elliot's case, she let him go of her own volition, not because of any direct social pressure. Still, she has always loved him and they have been friends since a young age, due to their shared birthday. Interspersed with the main part of the novel are letters the two snuck back and forth to one another throughout their childhood. These, while sometimes entertaining, perhaps could have been reduced, or at least put into chronological order. Bouncing around in time really didn't help their impact.

My issue with the book, despite its quality, is that I did not connect to Elliot or to Kai. Persuasion, though beautiful, is not my favorite Austen novel. I have trouble forgiving Anne and Wentworth for their behavior to one another, especially Wentworth's stupid and shameless flirting with the stupid neighbor girl. Peterfreund did such a good job with their characters that I feel much the same about Elliot and Kai. While I root for them more than I do for the other characters, I also didn't feel any special warmness towards them.

So there you have it as clearly as I can manage to put it. FDStS is brilliantly done, but it didn't touch my heart, at least not on this reading. I do think it's funny that her unicorn series is much darker than her dystopia. Still, if you're interested in this one, do give it a try.
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