Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: 'For Darkness Shows the Stars' by Diana Peterfreund

Inside, the darkness rustled around her. She moved through the space from memory.
The floorboards creaked beneath her feet, and slips of paper whispered upon her face
and hands...She lifted the shade and bathed the room in silver...Moonlight skimmed over
the foorboards...It wasn't enough to read by. But who needed to read? She new them
by heart. All around her, strung from the ceiling and wafting softly in the draft,
Kai's paper gliders glowed in the moonight like pale spring shoots
bursting from the soil.

Elliot's life is controlled by the protocols.  Laws put in place after the Lost Wars decimated the human population, leaving two classes of people, the Reduced, those with limited intelligence and speech abilities, and the Luddites, the children of the group who survived the wars unscathed by the biological weapons deployed during the conflict.  In the post-war devastation, the Luddites created a society of landowners and serfs where wealthy plantation owners harness the Reduced's physical strength and in return for providing food and shelter.  Now generations have passed and a new, unrecognized, "class" of human has developed, the Posts (post children of the revolution).  Posts possess the same levels of intelligence and skills as Luddites, but are the children of the Reduced.  As more and more Posts rise to positions of power throughout the Luddite world, rumbles of social revolution are arising, heralding changes that threaten Elliot's very existence.

There is a lot going on in Peterfreund's dystopian world; revolution, social justice, noblesse oblige, religion, science, exploration and more.  The reader is thrust into this world with little in the way of explanation which means that the first several chapters require the reader to both follow the plot and develop the world.  A prologue or brief history of Peterfreund's world would have allowed the reader to pay more attention to the initial relationship between Elliot and Kai; a relationship that informs the rest of the novel's events.  However, this initial confusion is quickly resolved and does not detract overmuch from the story.

According to Peterfreund, 'For Darkness Shows the Stars' is based on Austen's 'Persuasion'.  Having never read that particular Austen novel (I'm somewhat shamed to admit that), I have no real comment on the relationship between this story and its inspiration.  However, I do not believe that readers need to have read 'Persuasion' to enjoy 'For Darkness Shows the Stars', or that the novel needs the support of Austen's novel to stand on its own.

Elliot's emotions are at the forefront of the story and readers experience her fears, triumphs, joys and pains as though they were experiencing the events themselves. Kai is, in my opinion, not quite as likable as Elliot, but still authentic for an angry teenage boy who has been taken advantage of by multiple people.  Several secondary characters have histories that I would have loved to learn more about but, as the novel is already over 400 pages, I understand why further development of secondary characters was avoided.

This novel's strength is in the emotion behind the action, which Peterfreund conveys with poignant and sometimes unsettling efficiency.  Overall, this is a good read and has the potential to generate quite a bit of discussion in a classroom setting or book club.

Read Diana's response to questions about 'For Darkness Shows the Stars' cover art.

Book Source: Local Library
Reviewer: Rebecca

Recommended Ages: 14+ Adult themes alluded

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