Review Detail

4.2 12
Young Adult Fiction 4724
For Darkness Shows the Stars
Overall rating
Writing Style
Important point: Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel, and it’s one of my favorite novels ever. Period, dot, end of story. Any attempt to “retell” that novel will rub me the wrong way, since it can only ever be a knock-off (read: desecration) of Persuasion. Now, just to be clear, For Darkness Shows the Stars is an extremely awesome book, and Diana Peterfreund actually does Austen’s original justice. But. It isn’t the original, it can never compare to the original; therefore, I hate it. And I love it.

Stupid book, making my feels take sides against each other. It isn’t fair.

This book was pitched to me by several sources as being “Persuasion in space.” Considering the title and cover, I was expecting aliens, spaceships, and something or other about Luke’s father and Wookies. Alas! There was no space travel (or Jedis) in For Darkness Shows the Stars—I almost feel cheated. Rather, this novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where excessive genetic modification has made people stupid, i.e. “Reduced.”

Apparently, this Reduction was God’s punishment on mankind for attempting to be, well…God. Cue my first issue with this novel. So I get that God punished people; that’s fine, I have no problem with that (as a plot point). I do have problems with the fact that Elliot North (the protagonist) never really resolves and/or reconciles her God problems (like daddy problems, only worse). Is genetic modification really bad? It created the apocalypse, so it must be, yet Elliot’s off doing her own experiments that she feels are “sin.” You can’t have it both ways, honey. In the end Elliot just kind of…stops thinking about God? Like because she’s in love and her world is suddently perfect, so she can just forget about the great emotional turmoil that she’s been fighting because she doesn’t know if God approves of what she’s doing.

Seriously, Peterfreund? You can’t throw in a HUGE theme like “doing God’s will” into your book only to blow it off at the end, throw your hands up in the air and say “Oh look, they get married!” and all is resolved. Nope, not buying it.

Yeah, um. Most of my problems with this book have to do with the way the plot was resolved. But good stuff first.
Characterization was top-notch. Of Jane Austen’s heroines, Anne Elliot is the least proactive, which many readers don’t like. Peterfruend’s version of her, Elliot North, is definitely very proactive. She sticks up for herself and for others. The scene where she looses her temper and tells Kai off for being a grouchy haterboy was absolutely phenomenal, and I just liked her personality all around. I found it very interesting how the author was able to stay true to the Spirit of Austen (yes, that is a proper noun) yet manage to create a protagonist who’s entirely different.

Kai—Malakai Wentforth—was also a strong character, though he stayed more true to his inspiration, Wentworth. Supporting characters were all good and interesting, though Elliot’s older sister, Tatiana, had some very ambiguous motivations that, looking back, I now question.

Also: world-building. One reason I hate reading dystopian fiction is because I’m never satisfied in the world-building department. Not the case here! The whys and wherefores of how this society came to be were explained to my satisfaction, and not in an info-dumpy kind of way.

Plot in general was also good. Obviously, I knew how everything was going to end and I wasn’t surprised in the least by any of the various plot twists. Peterfreund definitely stayed very true to Persuasion as far as plot points, character relationships, etc. go. I was a little annoyed when she lifted lines or sentences straight from Austen, because it felt forced and jolted me out of my reading zone and made me remember that I was, in fact, reading a retelling.

But the end was awful. I just…mmm. Me = angry. Many thoughts, no words to express them. I think what the author was trying to do was give For Darkness Shows the Stars a nice kick in the pants and zest things up with some originality. Except it was just awful and lovey-dovey and yuck. Yuck yuck yuck. The “letter scene” is one of the most powerful and memorable things in Austen’s novel, and it was something I was looking forward to in this retelling. Major disappointment.

And there you have it. I have not read another desecration of Jane Austen that I enjoyed nearly so much. This novel stayed true to the Spirit of Austen, took a few well-intentioned liberties that may or may not have panned out, and managed to tell a good story, too. I would probably recommend this more towards readers who haven’t already read Persuasion. Just be forewarned that there are no Wookies, lightsabers, or incestuous twins in sight.
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