Word Spelunking

For Darkness Shows the Stars - Diana Peterfreund Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars was nothing like I expected it be, which is actually a good thing. My enjoyment of this story kind of slowly crept up on me and multiplied the more I read it, and it turned out to be quite the captivating read.Generations after the Reduction (genetic experiment gone awry) all but destroyed humanity, three new classes of people have risen: the aristocratic Luddite, the simple-minded Reduced and the Post-Reductionsists, children of the Reduced who are born “normal”. Elliot North, a Luddite, must run her family’s farm since her mother passed and her greedy and irresponsible father and older sister have no knack for it. Elliot’s best friend and secret love, Kai (a Post), left the farm four years ago, but returns a new man. When Elliot is forced to rent part of their land to the rich Cloud Fleet, Kai returns as the renowned Captain Malakai Wentforth. This new Malakai has nothing but anger and resentment for Elliot and he harbors a dangerous secret. A secret that could change everything, but whether for the better or worse, Elliot doesn’t know.For Darkness Shows the Stars is inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, but one needn’t read that in order to enjoy this YA dystopian. But those who have read the Austen book will recognize the similarities in the basic storyline (apart from the dystopian and sci-fi elements) and the familiar names. Peterfreund has made a bold move in retelling Austen’s famous story and adding her own mix of post-apocalyptic dystopian and sci-fi elements.I’ll admit that, for a good portion of the first half of the book, I had my doubts about this book and just where the story was going. But something about the story gripped me tight enough to keep me reading. And I’m so glad I did because in the second half of the book Peterfreund’s breathtaking and striking story really plays out in unexpected and enthralling ways. This isn’t a fast-paced story and at times it does move too slowly, but for the most part it paces nicely. Peterfreund has crafted a very layered and complex story and has done so deftly, and her writing is quite lovely, capturing both an old world and modern essence.The world-building is impressive, although in some places it is lacking. I wish there were more backstory or history about the Reduction threaded throughout the story, but the main focus really seems to be on Elliot’s immediate world and story. The southern farm setting is lush and vivid, although at times I found it difficult to blend the 19th century plantation like elements with the more modern and even futuristic elements, even if this is a very original mix of elements. And the mix of an Austen inspired romance, post-apocalyptic dystopia and plausible sci-elements is without a doubt refreshing and intriguing, but I did find this mix a bit jarring at first. But as the story picks up and finds its flow, this blend of elements begins to mesh really well. The world of Luddites, Reduced and Post-Reductionists is as fascinating as it is thought-provoking. The technology-lite environment the Luddites have created and the extreme religious and political laws they’ve instated are understandable in the wake of the apocalypse their ancestors survived. Although I’ll admit that the Luddite’s self-righteous and intolerant outlook on science and technology is hard to relate to, even if I understand the purpose it plays in the story.There’s an eclectic group of characters in this book. I have a very love/hate relationship with Elliot. I admire her compassion, determination and the way she loves, but her extreme selflessness is over the top and I didn’t like the way she let people walk all over her. She does grow a great deal by the end of the story though and I really like the mental/emotional/spiritual place she’s at in the end. Kai as a young boy is endearing, but when he returns as Malakai he’s harsh, bitter and cruel. His anger, resentment and bitterness are understandable, but his cruelty and thoughtlessness make him hard to like. For the most part I did not find him swoon-worthy, but his character is redeemed by the end of the novel. Elliot’s father and sister are unbearable, but I think they’re supposed to be. I liked the various Posts and Reduced workers on the farm and the charming Innovations.This is a stand-alone novel, although it could easily be turned into a series. I like how the book ends, with a resolved but open ended conclusion.MY FINAL THOUGHTS: A post-apocalyptic-scifi- Austen inspired romance is about as original as it comes and thankfully Diana Peterfreund has blended these genres beautifully and created an unforgettable story. This may not be a perfect novel, but it is a captivating and worthwhile read.

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