Rummanah Aasi
  For my last challenge of 2013, I'm participating in the Classics Double Challenge hosted by One's Librarian Book Reviews. The object of this challenge is to read a classic (the term is used loosely to include fairy tales, mythologies, classics, any kind of original story) and couple it with a retelling (the original and the newer book have to relate in some way that you can define; it doesn't have to be a straight-forward retelling). My objective with this challenge is to read some classics that I've haven't read yet.

Description (from Goodreads): 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.

Review: For Darkness Shows the Stars is a retelling that does everything right. Though it superficially maintains the plot points and themes of Jane Austen's Persuasion, it goes beyond and creates a new darker, post-apocalyptic world. Some readers were not thrilled by how Peterfreund dealt with rough handled morality in the story, but I would disagree. I think her decision to narrow her focus on the society enriched my pleasure of reading Austen's original work considerably. 
  The world that Peterfreund created is very intricate and detailed. While it takes some time for the world to unfold and one to grasp the social hierarchy, I was never confused but rather engrossed. Elliot North is our heroine who happens to be a Luddite, one of the elite destined to care for the mentally Reduced remnant after human genetic engineering went catastrophically wrong. 
  Eliot is just as charming as she is in the original book. She is duty bound to her family and her society, but the more she works with the Reduced, the more she has begun to question her duty; her family seems more interested in luxurious leisure than estate management. Her people will starve without recourse to forbidden technology, and more and more Post-Reduced children are being born. 
  One of the "Posts" that we get to know intimately is that of Kai Wentworth, Eliot's secret best friend turned romantic interest. Kai is extremely intelligent and longs to explore the world outside his designated boundaries. He and Eliot both know their romance is doomed due to their social status and the gap of his disappearance has wounded our heroine deeply. Now he has returned with the fleet of Post explorers who could be the last hope for saving Elliot's heritage, but his bitterness toward Elliot may be hiding a more dangerous secret. 
  I loved how the author gave insight to Eliot and Kai's relationship by interspersing letters written by their younger selves. You can see how naturally their relationship grew and evolved unlike the Austen original which underplayed the romance and reducing it to body language and signals. His passion rubs off on Eliot and we understand where their spark comes from. Though I already knew the outcome of the story, I couldn't help but feel frustrated whenever an obstacle came in Eliot and Kai's happily ever after, which I think is a sign that the author knows how to write a romance. 
While I liked that the society was different and original but still addressed the major themes of social and class distinctions, the book still felt a bit unfinished. I would have liked to see how the issues of slavery, anti-intellectualism and fundamentalist religion play out and hopefully it will be explored more when Peterfreund revisits the world in a different angle in her companion novel, Across a Star-Swept Sea, which will be released this fall. Readers looking for a swoony romance that isn't hindered by some depth, a steady pace, and a likable heroine should definitely check this book out. 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are rumors of possible sexual situations involving a character but it's never really explored or clarified. Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up.

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6 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I haven't read Persuasion Rummanah, so I couldn't really compare this book to the original, but I absolutely loved it just the same. I was a huge fan of the inclusion of the letters between Kai and Elliot, especially given the Kai of the present time is so different from his younger self. It was nice to get to know him that way:) Can't wait for Across a Star-Swept Sea! Beautiful review:)

  2. I agree that the use of the letters is a great device. One of the problems with Jane Austen is that the characters never really get to know one another. Of course, that's a function of the time period. I like how the Lizzie Bennet Diaries showed Lizzie and Darcy's relationship developing. Have you seen that?

  3. I haven't read this one yet but now I am burning too. I am reading the companion novel soon because I know it is a retelling of one of my favs... The Scarlet Pimpernel. Have you read that one?

  4. Oh I have this one and time is the only one that has kept me from reading it. Every time I read a fabulous review of it I tell myself I need to read it. You and Jenny have really made me want to find time to read it this month!! Great review!

  5. I'm so glad you loved this one too, Rummanah. The letters definitely add more depth to the romance, which I thought was so well written. Even though not one kiss was exchanged, the romance still managed to have lots of chemistry.

  6. As a general rule, I try to avoid retellings at all costs, and since I really love Persuasion, I think this would make me grumpy, awesome as it may be. I wish I were like Jenny, she was at an advantage from my perspective, not having read the original. Then again, maybe this is one retelling I would love. Everyone else seems to have.
    Thanks for the lovely review.

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