For Darkness Shows the Stars
By Diana Peterfreund
Expected publication June 12, 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Elliot North has always known what her future holds - four years ago, she denied her heart and remained on her father's land, overseeing the farm and the people who rely on it for their livelihood. But Elliot also has a secret, one that would shame her Luddite ancestors and makes Elliot confused about who she really is. When the boy she once loved (has loved, over the four years he has been gone) returns, carrying a new name and fortune, Elliot's world is thrown in turmoil. Soon, she will discover that he holds a secret as well. Will she protect the boy who has captured her heart? Or will she remain true to her family's ways?
This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year - I've read Peterfreund's killer unicorn series and really enjoyed it and early reviews of this all seemed pretty positive. Additionally, the premise of it sounded very intriguing - a post-apocalyptic sci-fi retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion. However, I knew that this was on many people's most anticipated lists this year and so I did not expect to find an ARC at Midwinter. I was beyond thrilled when I did manage to get one and couldn't wait to get started reading. Despite how awesome the premise sounded, I was a bit worried before getting started on the book. I can't recall ever reading Persuasion and, if I did, it was surely at least ten years ago. I wondered if this would hinder my enjoyment of this new version of the story. I'm happy to report that it didn't. Sure, it might have been nice to see the parallels and know just exactly how different Peterfreund has made the story, but this way, everything was a surprise to me. I never knew what to expect. Additionally, Persuasion is, at least I believe it is, one of Austen's lesser-known works, so the bits and pieces of it are not ingrained in our cultural memory (the way, say, Pride & Prejudice with the dashing Mr. Darcy has been). This kept me on my toes while reading as I never knew what might happen next. I actually find myself wanting to read Persuasion now so I can compare the two and see just how far Peterfreund's imagination ranged.
Aside from the inevitable Austen discussion, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Peterfreund has imagined a very unique apocalypse, brought on by humanity's desperate and ever-increasing hunger for bigger and better technology and the never-ceasing war between religion and science. Thankfully (at least in my opinion), she never gets political, despite presenting a sensitive issue. The most political we get, really, is watching Elliot's internal struggle between her beliefs and her hopes and dreams. On that note, I found Peterfreund's characters spectacular as well, though here she perhaps had a direct helping hand from Austen. I believed in Elliot's voice and felt tortured and confused along with her, as well as frustrated and helpless and strong and defiant. I loved the alternating chapters that featured the correspondence of Elliot and Kai in their youth - it helped reveal the backstory in pieces, building the reader's knowledge at a gradual yet satisfying pace. Though the setting is strange and unfamiliar, I don't think readers will have any difficulties relating to Elliot and her emotions - her desire to know what else might be out there, her struggles with her religion, her confusion over who she is expected to be and whether that aligns with who she wants to be. The universal emotions are sure to appeal to readers of all kinds of fiction. Additionally, this is not a "hard sci-fi" - I believe after the wave of dystopian fiction (or perhaps concurrently, as who knows when that wave will die out) "soft sci-fi" may be the next trend. As someone who doesn't like my sci-fi to feature spaceships or terribly difficult science (I'd rather just read a science book if I want to know), I'm all for this trend developing. Some of my surprise favorite reads of 2011 were these kinds of books. But I'm going on a tangent here. What I'm trying to say is that I think this book has broader appeal than perhaps some of the "hard sci-fi" and I truly enjoyed it. I fell in love with the characters and the setting, and the book kept me in suspense the whole way through, as I longed to know what would happen (and even what had happened). I think this is a fantastic new novel from Peterfreund and I imagine it will be a great success.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.