Genetic experiments gone wrong led to the Reduction, which decimated humanity. Generations later, the Luddite nobility rule and have outlawed most technology. Elliot North was born into a Luddite family, so she knows her obligation to the people who live on her family’s estate. Four years ago, she chose to stay to help her floundering estate rather than run away with her one true love, a servant named Kai. Desperate for money to support the people she’s responsible for, Elliot rents out some of her land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet. The Cloud Fleet is made of shipbuilders and explorers, including the renowned Captain Malakai Wentworth, Elliot’s old friend Kai. Now Kai will barely even look at Elliot. Soon she discovers Kai is hiding a secret, one that has the power to change or possibly destroy the world the Luddites worked so hard to save.
I love Jane Austen, so a dystopian retelling of her novel Persuasion sounded right up my alley. And to sweeten the deal, my book club friend Jamie absolutely raves about this book, so I knew I had to read it. This was one of the best decisions ever, because seriously, I love FDSTS.
The beginning was a little slow for me. It took a while for me to get into the world and understand what it really meant to be Luddite, Reduced, or Post. Once I got it, I loved the complexity of this world. Everyone is basically defined by their birth rank. The course of your life, how people perceive you…all of it determined by who your ancestors were. Fear and hatred of the Lost, who caused the Reduction, is so ingrained in Luddite minds that I felt so sorry for the Reduced and Posts who were senselessly abused on Luddite estates. The best part of this world is its believability. Technology caused the Reduction, so even though the Luddites chose an extreme method of preventing it from happening again, their actions still made sense to me.
Though the world took some getting used to, I took to Elliot as the heroine right away. I felt her sadness at Kai’s leaving but also understood why she stayed behind. With her father and sister mismanaging the estate, Elliot was her people’s only hope for survival. I really respected her for choosing her responsibility over her heart. It might not have been the romantic or glamorous decision, but it was the right one. I cheered for her when she finally stood up for herself and her people.
And Kai! Sa-woon. In the present, he seems like a real jerk who’s purposefully trying to hurt Elliot for her choice four years ago. We really get to know him through his letters to Elliot, which are interspersed between chapters. Kai is someone who questions the status quo, with a curious mind and a thirst for something more for his life. I loved watching Elliot and Kai come to terms with each other’s decisions over the years and finding their way back to each other.
PS. I got my book signed at Books of Wonder during the NYCTAF and Diana Peterfreund is one of the nicest people ever. If you have the chance to meet her, do it!!! Also, I share a name with her daughter, which we bonded over haha.
For Darkness Shows the Stars is a lovely story with a slow-building romance, an interesting dystopian society, and a perfect ending.