For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray, 2013, 448 pages
YA Science Fiction
Based on Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars begins with eighteen-year-old Elliot struggling to maintain the land and estate of her family while nursing an old heartbreak. In the company of her sister, Tatiana, and controlling father, Baron North, Elliot manages the servants on her family’s land. These servants, a combination of the Reduced and Children of the Reduced (also known as Post-Reductionist or Post), are treated well by Elliot, though others in her Luddite society believe the Reduced and the Posts are serving for their ancestor’s wrongdoings in pursuing genetic and biological enhancement. Fearing for her ailing grandfather’s health, Elliot knows she has to do something to save the family’s estate. When childhood friend and former Post, Kai, returns with a makeshift family to rent Elliot’s grandfather’s land, Elliot seizes the opportunity. But the politics between the Luddites, the Reduced, and the Posts continued to be strained — none more so than those between Kai and Elliot. In a novel that questions the rejection of scientific advancement and the cost of moving forward, author Diana Peterfruend tells an engaging narrative with an exceptional handle on language and memorable characters.
Peterfreund employs a near-perfect language in her nontraditional post-apocalyptic dystopian novel. With vocabulary and sentence structured which loosely mirrors Austen’s original text, the novel not only reminds the reader of its source material but easily reflects the lives of the Luddites who star in the story. Peterfrend throws in the occasional exclamation with a more modern sound to it, which serves to emphasize the futuristic setting which might otherwise be forgotten. Peterfreund consistently chooses just the right word to portray captivating moments. In one instance of heightened emotion, Peterfreund describes Elliot’s flesh as “burning” where many authors would instead choose “warmed.” Choices such as this one really make this science fiction particularly human and approachable.
Meanwhile, For Darkness Shows the Stars benefits from a cast of well-defined and lovable characters. Elliot, as the main character, is not only easy to love, but is complex. As her reasoning plays out paragraph by paragraph, sympathizing with her becomes that much easier. Whether or not you agree with her actions — which you sometimes may not (one of the greatest achievements of this novel) — Elliot’s thought process is undeniably fascinating and humanizing. Nearly all of the other characters — Andromeda, Felicia, Tatiana, Baron North, Dee, Ro, there are far too many to name — accomplish similar effects. Kai is the only exception, who could have benefited from further development. (I understand this may be rectified in a companion story — more here.)
Peterfreund also does well on world building, giving the reader enough information to enjoy the story and appreciate the content of Elliot’s problems without overloading on detail. For readers looking for more on the background of the society, Peterfreund has written a prequel as well as another novel which takes place in the same universe and is a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Readers who shy from science fiction due to the sometimes-overwhelming world building need not avoid this novel, which is based more in the matters of the heart than of the machine.
❤❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤