For Darkness Shows the Stars
Balzer + Bray, 2012
Oh. My. Word. Seriously, you guys. This book was amazing. This is the Persuasion I always wanted Jane Austen to have written. Set in a world that's dramatically under-technological, generations after an apocalypse-like event that split society into castes (Reduced and Luddites), our story takes place.
The basic premise is Persuasion, with Elliott North (Anne Elliott) left behind on her family farm as Kai (Wentworth) runs away to seek adventure and perchance fortune. And, as the familiar story goes, he waltzes back into her life years later, and she realizes everything she lost in not following her heart and leaving with him. But here's where the story takes a dramatic left-turn from Austen's. Elliott chose to stay on her farm. It was her choice to stay, and try her best to run the farm and protect the Reduced and Posts (children of Reduced parents who were untouched by the developmental limitations). While she wasn't always successful, her heart was in the right place, and even though she aches over the loss of Kai, she knows it was the right decision. When the Post Fleet comes and rents space to build new ships, Elliott's rocked to her core to discover that Kai - now Malakai Wentforth - is a star captain of the Fleet. Meeting Kai again in such startling (and somewhat reversed) circumstances is only the beginning of everything that happens to make Elliott start questioning everything she's ever been taught or believed. The Post Fleet brings with them many wonderful stories and objects - but also more secrets than Elliott would have ever suspected. And through it all, she's forced to face the truth of the tension between herself and Kai.
The story ... the characters ... I wish my reading of Persuasion had been as enjoyable as my reading of For Darkness Shows the Stars. Where Anne Elliott got on my last nerve for being so easily swayed, and having no backbone or apparent mind of her own at all, Elliott North is keenly aware that she has made the choices that cause such aching loneliness and pain. Another wonderful development is that we get to see the history of Kai and Elliott, through the letters they exchanged throughout their childhood - and which Elliott secretly kept, and has reread to the point of memorization. By seeing these letters, interspersed through the story, we can get a sense of who Kai and Elliott were - and how they've become the mature characters they are now. It's a wonderful addition, and really helps build sympathy with both parties: you know that they had a close relationship in the past, and that their separation would have been mutually destructive.
Honestly, my only real complaint is that the story ends so soon. I want more - I want to know what happens next - and can only hope that there's a sequel in the works.
Many, many thanks to the ever-amazing Jen Ryland for sharing this Austenesque find!
Book provided by my personal library.