Saturday, August 25, 2012
For Darkness Shows the Stars
Balzer + Bray, 2012
YA Science-Fiction Austen-Inspired
Source: Picked up from the library for review.
This book was billed as a science-fiction adaptation of Persuasion. Um, what more could I need to know to want to pick this book up? I've read only a few Persuasion retellings and I don't think I've ever read a futuristic Austen-adaptation. Those two little elements alone help this book to stand out.
In this version, Anne is reworked into Elliot North, younger daughter of Luddite Baron North, and the only one who is actually working to keep the estate profitable while her father and older sister lounge around and bask in their privilege. Although it has been hard for her since the death of her mother and since her best friend Kai ran off the estate, she keeps going and has hopes of turning around their fortunes. One way to do that is to accept the generous offer from the Cloud Fleet to use their shipyard; this rent money should put them in a better position. Unfortunately it also brings back Kai, now known as Captain Malakai Wentforth (not sure why that was changed from Wentworth as it irked this Janeite) who seems determined to hurt Elliot for her decision not to leave with him o so many years ago.
Okay, so there's actually a lot more to the setup of this book but I'm going to leave that all to you to discover if you choose to pick up this book as well. It took me almost a hundred pages to feel comfortable in the world and its behaviors, which is not my preference. I want to be at home in a world within a few pages. But there were so many new histories and rules I had to learn that were slowly doled out over the pages.
However my biggest complaint about this book is how cruel and unfeeling Kai is. I love Captain Wentworth for the entirety of Persuasion even as I see how Anne is hurting. Meanwhile I flat out hated Kai for over half of this book. Elliot believes he thinks the worst of her and his actions do nothing to dissuade her and this reader from that. I knew that the two had a long-standing friendship (cleverly shown through letters every couple of chapters and setting the reader up for the final letter that harkens back to the beautiful one in Persuasion) and that romance was inevitable in a retelling. But I had a hard time rooting for them because Kai was just so loathsome. This disgust is furthered by the discovery of a big decision Kai made during his years away, one that is particularly abhorrent to Elliot's way of life. Somehow Kai does change into a more acceptable romantic partner (not entirely sure how Peterfreund managed that) but the bad taste lingered in my perception of him.
Obviously I spent a lot of time comparing this book to Persuasion. While many of the changes are understandable (I loved the change in Elliot's cousin to be a stronger villain), some were a bit baffling. For example Elliot no longer has a younger sister; I liked the indolent older sister and the frivolous younger sister bookending the sensible Anne. They really highlight her isolation within her own family. Additionally this Elliot has a loving if dying grandfather and friends among the servants. Although Kai is really the only one who understands her, she finds many people who love and support her unlike Anne's virtual isolation. Furthermore there is no Lady Russell character to talk Elliot out of running away with Kai; she makes that decision on her own. While this book is not titled Perusasion and has its own focus, this departure from one of the critical themes of the original displeased me.
Have you read Persuasion (if you haven't, you should-it's pretty short!) and this book? Did you have similar feelings about the changes?
Cover: I actually really don't like this girl. First it is whitewashed as has been pointed out but second I hate her ponytail and how it goes around her head.