Late last year, I complained about the market’s oversaturation of Jane Austen rewrites. I was so tired of retellings, mash-ups and parodies that I even went so far as to declare Miss Austen the Author Who Most Deserves a Year Off.
Sometimes it’s nice to be proved wronger than wrong.
Read the last Bookshelves of Doom on the trend of serial killers in YA.
If Austen had taken the year off, we’d have missed out on Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars, and that would have been tragedy indeed. I enjoyed it so wholeheartedly and so unreservedly that I told my husband that reading it was like “being stabbed over and over again...but in a good way”—a compliment reserved for my favorite kind of romance. For Darkness Shows the Stars is the sort of romance that will cause many heart pangs and much swooning, that will make you want to hug it close and want to throw it across the room in frustration—sometimes all at the same time.
Unlike the vast majority of modern Austen titles, this isn’t a retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Instead of the been-there-done-that-three-thousand-times* story about two people getting past, you know, pride and prejudice, it’s a story about a romance that doesn’t work out and about what comes after that. Yes, that’s right. It’s a retelling of Persuasion.
It’s set in the far future, post-apocalypse. Due to the actions of her ancestors, Elliot North is a Luddite, a member of the highest caste. The human race only survived the Reduction because of people like her family. They, and others like them, rule over the other castes and keep the post-Reduction world technology-free in an effort to prevent another catastrophe.
But now, a new caste is rising, and their actions threaten—at least from the Luddite perspective—the status quo. One of the members of that new caste is Captain Malakai Wentforth: the man who grew up as Kai, Elliot’s former playmate, best friend and childhood sweetheart. Four years ago, Elliot chose duty over love and broke both their hearts. But now...well, now things are even more complicated.
Oh, guys. Long story short, you’re going to love it. It’s a swoonfest, sure, but it’s not a swoonfest in the way that you’d expect. It’s all about anticipation: not the anticipation of future smoochies, but the anticipation of Elliot and Malakai coming to an understanding. The anticipation of their mutual forgiveness and of their moving forward together, of renewing their friendship, becoming partners again, and maybe, of rekindling their love. Neither of them is perfect—they’re both stubborn, and due to long-held hurt, willful misunderstanding and anger, they treat each other quite poorly at points—but their flaws make them that much more human.
I read Persuasion quite recently, and one of the great things about For Darkness Shows the Stars as a retelling is that it doesn’t adhere too strictly to the plotting of the original. Rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae of recreating every scene, character and detail, Peterfreund created her own characters, built them their own world and story...and infused it all with the spirit of the original.
*Which isn’t to say that I don’t still adore it!
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.