FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARSDiana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray
Available June 12th
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY(from Goodreads)Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, 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.
MY THOUGHTSCompelling and poignant, For Darkness Shows the Stars is an intimate portrayal of a relationship tested to its very extremes–a war between belief, knowledge, desire, prejudice and need waged as Elliot and Kai are brought face to face after a separation that changed them both irrevocably. Interspersed between present events are letters exchanged between Kai and Elliot’s younger selves; the tender moments shared with us they compare thoughts and question the belief system they’ve been taught providing us a beautiful familiarity with both protagonists before we’re returned to the time where they are practically strangers, the openness and honesty expressed in those brief missives gone in the blink of an eye. Elliot and Kai’s story is a painful one–quiet and at times cruel–the intensity of it stemming not from grand, sweeping conflict, but rather from fleeting moments filled with tension and overflowing with such possibility that our hearts swell to the point of aching as we wonder whether that stunning potential, hidden deeply behind caustic words and deliberate callousness, will ever be reached.
Elliot is a young woman of unmatched strength, making choices for the North Estate and its inhabitants no one her age should have to make, and sacrificing the only person she’s ever been able to be her true self with for the good of those under her care. When we meet her, we know she let Kai go to ensure those who work on the estate would have a buffer between them and her father’s fluctuating iron fist and cool selfish negligence, choosing to stay behind in body while her heart fled with Kai. She handles Kai’s repeated verbal jabs with a grace befitting someone far older and world-weary, taking his hurt and absorbing into herself as punishment for what he views as a betrayal all those years ago, and never once allowing him to see just how deep his words cut. While she never speaks outright in her defense, she also doesn’t cower from the force of his hatred, and we can’t help but read with our backs held ramrod straight, hoping to lend her some of our strength even though she doesn’t appear to need it.
Kai is an intriguingly complex character, someone it would be easy to dislike instantaneously when faced with his uncaring treatment of someone who loved him four years ago–and loves him still–were it not for the letters written to Elliot as they grew up together. Not fully understanding why being a Post made him less of a person, we can feel his confusion as he tried to sort out the ways of his world with Elliot when he was younger, and we long for a glimpse of that sweet boy in the dauntless Fleet Captain who takes advantage of every opportunity to hurt Elliot. Still, it’s clear to us his actions are those of a man in pain, lashing out when faced with the one person who threatens to render his impeccably-made armor useless, and the pounding of our hearts echoes loudly in our ears every time he finds himself alone with her as we wait for him to see past his anger and to the truth of his history with Elliot. The truth being he asked of her the only thing that was not hers to give: the lives of everyone on the North Estate who would have suffered or perished had she abandoned them to run with Kai.
Those readers who love their dystopian reads to have a thoroughly well-developed world haunting in its dark grittiness may find themselves a touch disappointed in this tale, the history of the Posts and the Reduced just brief enough for us to understand the terminology but lacking in copious amounts of detail. Instead, we’re given a thorough look at a tiny piece of this world, the development of the characters given extra attention and their personalities crafted so intricately that the world outside the two of them almost becomes irrelevant in the face of the stunningly tragic romance laid before us. Our hearts bleed, scream, and beg for mercy before we reach the final pages, and we can’t help but revel in a story so emotionally charged.