By Diana Peterfreund
Available now from Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS came onto my radar when I read Angie's brilliant review of it. At TLA I was touring the HarperCollins Children's Books booths and said something extremely eloquent like, "Oh, this one! The PERSUASION update! I read a great review of it." The very nice woman telling me about the books responded in the best way possible. "Let me get you a copy." (Publishing people rock. I probably don't need to tell you that, but it's true.) Angie's glowing review was the correct response to FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS. I'm not sure my review will be as persuasive or as lovely as hers, but one can hope.
I adore Jane Austen and PERSUASION is one of her best novels. It was her last completed novel and shows the progress she'd made as a writer since NORTHANGER ABBEY. It has an elegance and maturity her other novels lack. Plus, Anne Elliot's transformation is breathtaking. PERSUASION is as much a novel about Anne rediscovering her vitality as it is her relationship with Captain Wentworth.
Diana Peterfreund takes the essentials from PERSUASION and makes them her own. I'm surprised by how many plot points she was able to use, considering how different the post-apocalyptic FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is from its inspiration. Most importantly, she understands what made the relationship of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth a great romance. You pierce my soul.
Elliot North and Malakai Wentworth are lovers who part on bad terms, only to be reunited four years later. Wentworth behaves badly, but I still loved him because Elliot's love imbues every line of text. She knows everything that's wonderful about him and can see it shining through his cold facade. Her love hurts. Her duty hurts. But she accepts the choices she made and moves on, because there are more important things to worry about.
Elliot is a Luddite, the second daughter of Baron North and the one who really runs the North's farm. Her father and older sister are more interested in keeping up appearances than working. Elliot knows that she is responsible for keeping the Reduced clothed, fed, and safe. The North's financial woes and her friendship with her tenants keep Elliot's mind open to the future and new possibilities.
Kai is a second-generation Post. Unlike the Reduced, he is as intelligent and capable as a Luddite. Tired of being treated like a second-class citizen he strikes out on his own - and Elliot does not go with him. Now he has returned, handsome, successful, and rich. But he's not the boy he was when he left.
I'd tell you more about the Luddites, Reduced, and Posts, but part of the pleasure of FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is figuring out how the world works. With the rise in popularity of the dystopia, so many future worlds feel like quick sketches designed to shock. The world Peterfreund creates is detailed, coherent, and complex. Luddite society may be oppressive, but it has its moments of beauty. And 'oppressive' is a key word. Peterfreund's tale is about social justice as much as it is romance. It's a powerful and intriguing blend, resulting in a book that makes you think as well as feel.
Without question, FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is one of the best books of the year. It delivers everything it promises. There are complicated characters, a touch of mystery, beautiful descriptions, betrayals and redemption . . . I can barely resist picking it up and reading it again immediately. FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is the kind of book that leaves you in a daze afterwards, still lost in the story even though you've stopped turning pages.