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.
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund smashed all my expectations to pieces. I obviously underestimated how much I should hope to love this book, because all I could do when I finished it was stare at the last page with that silly little grin you get when you’ve just been immersed in an amazing fictional world and now find yourself back in reality – but you don’t care because your time away was amazing and you know you’ll visit again.
Instead of a straight narrative, the regular chapters in For Darkness Shows the Stars are interspersed with letters back and forth from our two main characters, Elliot and Kai. And they are not in chronological order, either. Rather, the letters jump about in time (four years ago, one year ago, ten years ago, etc.) as they help explain the plot in current time. The letters give the background to Elliot and Kai’s relationship, Elliot’s life and even how this new society works. And speaking of new society, the world Diana Peterfreund has created is one in the future, after Earth and its population have been devastated by what seems to be a disease of some sort, brought on by human genetic tinkering. It’s intriguing in the fact that though we learn about the world as the story progresses, it’s still very incomplete. We only find out as much about it as the characters think or talk about, and I liked that. It was very real.
While it’s mostly Elliot and her relationship with Kai that is the focus of the story, there are numerous secondary characters that are wonderfully fleshed out. Elliot’s father is a real piece of work, very controlling and quite mean. Her sister is better, but still fairly awful. I enjoyed the other members of Cloud Fleet, and Elliot of course. She’s quite a strong character, though she has her doubts and insecurities. She makes the best out of what she has to work with, and honestly cares for the people around her. It is through Elliot that we the reader question how the Luddite society is run. Her letters to Kai highlight her curious nature and the events that unfold really take Elliot through a change of not only ideals, but her very faith.
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is such a unique sci-fi in the fact that it doesn’t play out like what you would expect of a traditional science fiction story…no outer space, no cyborgs, no flying cars. Just a very interesting farming estate society with an underground idea and past of genetic modification and the experimenting that caused it to all change. The technology present is interesting and captivating, as is the slow burn reacquaintance romance between Elliot and Kai, the questions Elliot possesses about society and what is right, and whether or not humanity should play with genetics. It’s an intense, amazing read that I highly recommend to anyone.
Hardcover copy obtained at BEA 2012 through author signing.