For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund

ImageI can only seem to blog about books I have issues with.  Books I like, books I don’t care about, and books I just plain dislike, I can’t really talk about.  I also seem to mainly have issues with retellings of familiar stories.  Spoilers for Jane Austen’s Persuasion and For Darkness Shows the Stars

I was curious about this book because my sister and I have had conversations about whether modern retellings of Persuasion would work.  She argues that having the Anne character be persuaded in a modern setting would make her look too weak, and the reader would lose all sympathy for her.  I would argue that Anne is supposed to look sort of weak at the beginning and get stronger as the book goes on, and that having friends influence one away from a boyfriend is not uncommon now.  Regardless, this book sidesteps the issue by having the Anne character, Elliot, have rejected the Wentworth character, Malakai (formerly Kai), for a noble reason.  

My other problem with this book is that it is yet another story of an oppressed group of people finding a better life told from the point of view of an enlightened member of the oppressing class.  Maybe I only felt this way because the next book I read was Lions of Little Rock by Kristen Levine, but I know it is a criticism leveled at a lot of media especially about the civil rights movement (The HelpLincoln) and often the “defense” is that movies/books need white protagonists to appeal to the majority white audience and otherwise the media won’t make money.  But this book takes place in a dystopic future, and there are no Luddites or Posts or Reduced to care who the book is about.  In and of itself, this is not especially a problem of this book, and it makes sense in the retelling, but there are just so many books with this plot that I’m getting kind of sick of it.

Elliot’s father was just poorly done.  The character in Persuasion is supposed to be rather stupid, willing to go off their own “fiscal cliff” as it were rather than give up his extravagant lifestyle.  In For Darkness Shows the Stars the character is sometimes this foolish, but then we are also supposed to take his violent threats seriously.  He ends up coming off as two different characters merged poorly, and makes the parts where he is supposed to dangerous weird.

As far as the good stuff goes:

I loved the world-building.  I thought it was really clever to show how humanity’s arrogance had caused this dystopia, but that we hadn’t really learned our lesson anyway.  (That’s how I interpreted it anyway.  I’m willing to entertain other interpretations.)  The world seemed to have been arranged as a way to provide a historical setting geared toward sci-fi fans.

Elliot as a character is really well done.  I would have liked more Ro.  I missed Mary from Persuasion, but there was already so much more to say here, that section would have made the book even longer.  I liked the way she incorporated the part where the Louisa character gets injured and made it relevant to the plot in other ways.  

I mostly liked the book.  I doubt I’ll reread it, but it was enjoyable and surprisingly faithful.


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