Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: June 12, 2012
Status: Stand alone, though there is a companion novella prequel from Kai’s perspective.
Source: Received as part of a trade with Kelly at Reading the Paranormal!
Genre: Teen Science Fiction, Dystopian
Other Info: Peterfreund is also the author of the Killer Unicorns and the Secret Society Girl series.
Description and link from Goodreads):
Most of the time, when I get into discussions with fellow appreciators of Jane Austen, their favorite book is Pride & Prejudice. Sometimes I’ll come across an Emma or Sense & Sensibility fan, but I’ve yet to meet anyone who, like me, put Persuasion at the top of their list. (I won’t pretend I’m not hoping to hear an outcry denying this once the post goes live.) I put out a couple of ARC requests when I first heard about this book, but when I didn’t hear back from the publisher, I decided that it was probably a blessing. My expectations for this book were so high, I didn’t think I’d be able to write a review if it disappointed.
The thing I failed to prepare for was a feeling of ambivalence. I’m enough of an Austen fan to realize that any adaptation (or re-imagining, etc.) will fall short of the real thing. Still, there have been a few books that have paid homage to the great Jane Austen in the best way. The authors of the “good” adaptations don’t so much try to retell Jane’s stories as take a narrative leaf out of her books. They highlight the ridiculous, provide a grounded heroine in a world of bizarre priorities, and introduce heroes so awesome thousands of women (and probably a few men) go to sleep fantasizing about them. All this, and a heaping dollop of wit, too.
Peterfreund’s adaptation of Persuasion is more straight-forward than that. You can easily pick out which characters are meant to be which, and in that respect, I think she relies a bit on Jane Austen’s characterization rather than bothering to create her own. Surprisingly, I think this book would have been more successful if she had paid a little less attention to Persuasion and a little more to creating her own story. I think that trying to adapt the story limited its potential.
Additionally, Peterfreunds’ Elliot and Wentforth didn’t do justice to their namesakes. I didn’t even particularly like Kai. Wentworth (from Persuasion) is a remarkable hero because he never once utters a word of reproach to Anne, and no matter how much he wants to resent her, he can’t help loving her still. Kai, in contrast, knowingly spreads lies about Elliot and comes off as spiteful, petulant and grudging. And Elliot is much more uptight, mopy, and self-righteous than Persuasion‘s Anne could ever be.
Finally, there was ending. It was too perfect, and yet left the major plot twist unresolved. It is, I think, the greatest argument I can make for suggesting that Persuasion limited Peterfreund’s story-telling. The whole subplot of the book is about the enslavement and mistreatment of the Posts. Spoiler Warning: One of the minor characters sets out to reverse this, but Elliot just rode off into the sunset with Kai. I found myself wishing she had rejected him and stayed on at the North Estate where, as an affluent and influential landowner, she could have made a difference. And that’s saying a lot from someone who hates it when the couple doesn’t get an HEA.
While I don’t think I’d recommend this book on the basis of it being an adaptation of Persuasion, it raises some interesting questions about technology, duty, and family. If it weren’t for the ending, I’d say go for it. I can’t ignore it, though, so I have to take points off for it. For Darkness Shows the Stars is an ambitious novel, even if it was not entirely successful.
|3 1/2 Matryoshkas: I’d flirt with this book over drinks.|
Enjoyed For Darkness Shows the Stars? Then try Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn! It’s a SciFi retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.
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