Friday, June 15, 2012

Why FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS has the Jane Austen Triple Threat.

Diana Peterfreund's FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS was pitched at BEA as a post-apocalyptic retelling of Jane Austen's PERSUASION. I've never read PERSUASION, but I'm quite the sucker for anything based on or inspired by a Jane Austen novel, especially when it's done well.*

Description from Goodreads: Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, 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.

In short: DARKNESS didn't disappoint in the least.

You know how some books just give you feelings? I mean, all-caps FEELINGS?** This one did.

It took me about thirty pages to become fully engrossed and fall in love with the story***, but when I did, I fell hard, and I finished the book in two sittings.

For me, Jane Austen novels are so fantastic because they have her trademark Triple Threat:
  1. Characters you connect to and care about SO MUCH.
  2. A world that immerses you completely.
  3. Romance that makes you clutch at your heart in torment.
DARKNESS had the Jane Austen Triple Threat, no doubt about it.

1. Character Connection

When Elliott felt flustered or embarrassed, I cringed. When her heart ached, mine ached for her. When she defended herself, I felt proud. You get the idea. Throughout the book, Elliot's torn between her responsibilities and her dreams, between what she's been taught and what she believes, and it made her completely relatable as a YA heroine. She rocks, flaws and all, because she tries so hard to do right by the people who depend on her.

And it wasn't just Elliott who is well-developed. There's a large cast of characters, and they are all written with depth. Even minor characters are so well-nuanced that I remember all their names, which never happens for me. Plus, there's a distinct class hierarchy among the Luddites, Post-Reductionists (Posts), and the Reduced, which enhanced each character's background and point of view.

2. Another World

When you hear "post-apocalyptic" and "Jane Austen" in the same sentence, you have one of two reactions: "come again?" or "that sounds awesome!"

I wasn't sure what to expect. Would DARKNESS feel super-modern a la Clueless? But the premise worked perfectly. Peterfreund's future, post-apocalyptic world feels almost historical because it's run by Luddites, who shun the technology and scientific advancements that led to the Reduction.

The class structure, strict rules of conduct, formal speech, and old-fashioned clothing also echo Austen's world, as do the shifting social norms and the desire for something more than what the societal limitations allow. (Wow, did that sound like the sentence of someone who's written a LOT of English Lit papers.)

An apocalypse brought on by genetic engineering is eerily plausible, and I loved the hints of the world's pre-apocalyptic glory. Overall, the worldbuilding is deft and detailed, without overloading the reader. I'd love to see the Post-Reduction world beyond Elliott's island, which is a neon blinking sign of quality storytelling!

3. Bringing the Swoon

Elliott and Kai have a complicated past and, after a four-year separation, an even more complicated present. Like with Elizabeth and Darcy, sometimes you want to reach into the book and shake them until they wake up and smell the swoon. But that's what I went into the book hoping for, and that's what I love: the torturous "Oh my God you're perfect for one another so please notice and do something about it!" feeling.

Peterfreund developed their relationship like a pro, both through childhood letters and especially through their present-day interactions, fraught with tension and conflicted emotions and old anger and misunderstandings. It's the most delightful kind of romantic torment, and it's executed perfectly.

So that's the DARKNESS Triple Threat! Just in case you weren't sure, I highly, HIGHLY recommend this book. If you've also reviewed DARKNESS, leave a link in the comments!

The Austen Question: I chose what my Austen Triple Threat is. Any Austen fans think her writing Triple Threat includes something different?

BEA Moment o' Awesome: I chose this book at BEA because Diana Peterfreund is one of those authors I've been meaning to read but never had the chance to. Now I'm looking forward to delving into her other novels!

Extra, Extra!
Want more DARKNESS? Download the free prequel story, AMONG THE NAMELESS STARS!

* See also: Clueless

** Awesome new blogger friend Jen described the book as leaving her a "mass of flails," which is spot-on.
*** If we want to be precise, page 44 was when I knew there was no turning back. I felt my first moment of full-on, Austen-worthy, heart-clutching swoon. I was done for.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out! And great review! You hit the nail on the head with all three points: there's so much swoon, I loved the characters and the world was fantastically well done.

    I hadn't read Diana Peterfreund before this either, but I'm going to make it a point to read her future (and past) works!

  2. I would add to your Triple Threat Austen's use of wit and irony to write about the ridiculousness of her society and people in general. I don't think I would take anything off your list though, so I don't know what to do about that.

    I am SO excited for this book. Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel. :)


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