{Review} FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS by Diana Peterfreund

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

ELLIOT NORTH RACED ACROSS the pasture, leaving a scar of green in the silver, dew-encrusted grass.  Jef followed, tripping a bit as his feet slid inside his too-big shoes.
"You're sure your ma said the southwest field?" she called back to him. 
"Yes, Miss," he huffed.  
She picked up her pace, hoping there was still time to save some of the crop. But she could tell it was too late even before she saw the stricken look on her foreman Dee's face. "It's all gone, she said, meeting Elliot on the road.  "I'm so sorry."  
Elliot crumpled to the ground and rough road gravel scoured her palms.  She scraped her fingernails against the dirt.  All her work had come to nothing.

(page 7, US hardcover edition)

Check out my review of the ebook novella AMONG THE NAMELESS STARS by Diana Peterfreund, a precursor to FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS.  It's only 99¢, and I'm glad I read it first! 

I've had FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS on my wishlist since the minute the book deal was announced in 2010.  It sounded absolutely fascinating, was being touted as dystopian (which I would say it isn't, but at the time, dystopian was on the horizon and was a new genre both to me and publishers, so yes, I wanted it even more because of this!), and had been written by Diana Peterfreund, an author who had previously written great stuff about killer unicorns.  I was hooked.  I wanted this even more after seeing the absolutely gorgeous cover it promised to be sporting and bought the book the day it debuted in June.  Sadly, I didn't have a chance to work it into my reading schedule until the last week of December, but I'm glad I finally have.  Definitely time well-spent, and it was easy to become immersed in the story.  For once, wanting a book for so long didn't result in over-expectations and liking the book less for it. Instead, I wanted more.  I'm really excited to hear that a stand-alone companion novel, ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA, will come out in 2013, because I'm eager to return to this world.  Plus, I need a new gorgeous cover in my life!

One of the most intriguing things about FDSTS is that it's a futuristic, sci-fi retelling of Jane Austen's classic novel PERSUASION.  Granted, I'm going to be a loser as I admit that this is one of the few Austen novels I have yet to read--or watch.  Peterfreund left me really wanting to read this after the last page was turned, however.  What parts pulled from the novel or were altered?  I went onto Wikipedia to read a fast summary of PERSUASION because I was so curious, and plan to watch the movie soon, but I unfortunately have no time to slip the book into my reading pile for a while.  Later this year, Peterfreund's ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA will be a re-worked version of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. While I've never read this novel either, I'm very familiar with the Frank Wildhorn musical of the same name.  I love that Peterfreund is bringing classics into such a new setting.  It's smarter than all of these retellings that just add zombies and vampires to the mix, while still being entertaining, fresh, and new.

FDSTS is such a rare mix of "new" and "old."  It's "new" because it has a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic feel, yet "old" because the Luddites who survived have a very Amish feel to them.  At times, I felt like I was in Lancaster, PA, thrown back to a place that doesn't embrace technology.  At others, I was reminded of the sky-pirate ship from Neil Gaiman's STARDUST (The movie, at least.  Despite my best intentions, I have yet to read my copy of this as well).  FDSTS centers around Elliot North, a Luddite whose family owns an old, powerful estate...despite the fact that it's collapsing around them as they run out of money and lose their works.  The Luddites rule in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone but them was destroyed by the overuse of technology, and righteously feel that they were the sole survivors thanks to their ability to do without.  They take care of the Reduced, humans affected by a genetic experiment gone wrong.  After a few generations of the Reduced being born, Posts began entering the mix, able-minded and ready to work.  Is this a sign that the mistakes of the past have been forgiven and that the rest of humanity is being given a second chance?  Is it time for the Luddites to stop living in so much fear?  These questions are an undercurrent in the novel, but there is no dystopian uprising.  Instead, Posts leave their estates to become free on their own.

One such "free Post" is Kai, the star of Peterfreund's e-novella AMONG THE NAMELESS STARS.  He left and joined the Cloud Fleet, making something of himself before being forced to return to the North Estate and brought face-to-face with Elliot, a girl he loved until the day he left.  Having read ATNS first, I understood Kai's motivations for his coldness throughout much of FDSTS and knew how much he was hurting, how this encounter with Elliot must devastate him.  I read FDSTS in a way I might not otherwise have.  Sometimes when a character is standoffish, I can't become emotionally attached and my enjoyment of the book suffers.  Because I understood why Kai was being such a jerk, it was easier to forgive his demeanor, though my heart broke for Elliot, who was torn apart by the reunion.  Elliot has such a good, pure soul and only wants to do what is right for her estate, as well as the Reduced and Posts living on it.  She's the polar opposite of her greedy, indifferent family.  When the Cloud Fleet comes and treats her like a typical, run of the mill Luddite, including Kai, it's devastating.  Readers will find it easy to fall into Elliot's emotions and root for her to turn a bad situation good despite everything stacked against her.

There are so many new ideas to love in FDSTS.  Peterfreund captures the essence of a Jane Austen novel, while still balancing her own unique idea.  The world is wholly original and quite unlike everything I'd ever seen before, with both an old-world view and new innovations breathing the same air as one another.  Peterfreund's sentences are lovely and poetic from the very first line (See above hook).  I do wish there had been more description of the world itself.  Everything was so different and new, and I would have liked to see more of the sci-fi setting.  ATNS took place before Kai joined the Cloud Fleet, and in FDSTS, Elliot is grounded to her estate, so much of this really isn't possible except through brief, thrilling glimpses.  I'm hoping that more of the world is shown in AAS-SS this year, or that another novella or full-length novel is written taking place onboard the Cloud Fleet.  Because I couldn't see it clearly in the novel, I envisioned the sky-pirates from STARDUST, even though I'm sure this isn't quite what Peterfreund intended me to do.  I would love to see a future novel in this world that is like Lois Lowry's SON or Kristin Cashore's BITTERBLUE, where familiar characters come back as a backdrop to a new story that actually explores the glitter ocean of stars we were introduced to in FDSTS.

I really like the way FDSTS is so against the grain of what's "hot" in YA right now.  It's not dystopian and isn't the post-apocalyptic novel you've come to expect in the genre.  It's fresh and innovative, introducing the concept of sci-fi and the texture of Jane Austen to a whole new generation of teens.  So much of what's out there focuses on scary new technology and the way it takes over, transforming our lives.  FDSTS focuses on technology gone wrong and the shunning of it, taking us back in time while still propelling us forward, creating  something fragile that hasn't been done before.  I'm really excited to see more novels set in this world!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I adore this cover so, so much.  I had already wanted FDSTS before I saw the cover, but coveted even more after seeing this gem!

I love the way you can see the universe in the title alone, which is full of so many complex colors and variations that I'm always spotting something new.

The way the model's dress fades away into a galaxy of stars is both striking and haunting.  

Seeing this cover instantly makes me want to know more about the novel.  I would pick this one up at the store with no background knowledge to see what it was about!

Simply stunning!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Diana Peterfreund
Publisher: Balzer + Bray / HarperTeen 
Release Date: June 12, 2012
Received: Purchased

It's been several generations since a genetic experiment gone wrong caused the Reduction, decimating humanity and giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology. 

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family's estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot's estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth--an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go. 

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret--one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she's faced with a choice: cling to what she's been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever. 

Inspired by Jane Austen's PERSUASION, FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.


  1. Great review Bonnie! I actually just ordered this for a signing in a couple weeks and I can't wait to read it. I'm glad it's not dystopian bc I'm getting pretty tired of them, lol.

    Confessions of a Vi3tBabe
    Deity Island

  2. I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would. Though I did have a problem with the ride off into the sunset ending. And all I kept thinking as I put it down was I want more. I'm so excited to see a sequel based on another classic that not Austen. Excellent review too. Especailly since I didn't read the preqeal.


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