Book Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

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.

My Rating:  4 cupcakes

I’m ashamed to admit that I have never read Persuasion. As a result, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from For Darkness Shows the Stars, but I was very pleasantly surprised that my lack of knowledge surrounding its predecessor didn’t hinder my reading experience by any means. Instead, it finally caused me to put a Jane Austen book onto my reading list, which is no small feat!

As a biology student, I found myself fascinated by the world that Peterfrend created. In this world, scientific advancements have gone much too far in unlocking one’s true genetic potential. Experiments were carried out on young children in an attempt to engineer the perfect human who was stronger, faster, and better in every way. Of course, as in reality, these advancements do not come without consequences… and that’s where the story starts to get interesting. If we can determine whether or not a child has a disability and use gene therapy to treat certain illnesses, who’s to say that we won’t eventually be able to engineer a human? It wasn’t difficult to imagine this world as a possible future for mankind, adding a dose of scary realism to the story.

One of my favourite parts of For Darkness Shows the Stars was, surprisingly, the relationship between Eliot and Kai as told through their childhood letters. Their relationship has always been one with an imbalance of power, and it was interesting to see how that dynamic impacted their already forbidden friendship. Through these letters, we see how Kai’s knowledge and experiences challenge the information that Eliot has always blindly accepted and how that shapes her future actions.

Eliot North was a very admirable heroine. After I got over the initial shock that Eliot was, in fact, female, I found myself fascinated by her quiet determination. She knew which battles were worth fighting, even if they required tremendous sacrifices, and she also knew when to walk away. While I sometimes wished she wasn’t quite so passive, I can’t imagine that I would have acted any differently given the burdens, responsibilities, and secrets that Eliot shoulders throughout the course of the story.

Overall, For Darkness Shows the Stars is more than a romance story: it’s rife with heavy themes such as class conflict, the dangers of genetic modification, and acceptance. Most of all, though, it shows the importance of hope, and how even the smallest actions can impact someone’s life in dramatic ways.

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