Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway

Your chance to win either:  For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund 
or Cinder, by Marissa Meyer (both with main male characters named Kai - one a prince, and one a pauper-turned-self-made-millionaire).  

CONTEST CLOSED - congrats to Devan @ Book Strings and and Suz Reads!

Just follow my blog and leave a comment telling me which one you'd like to win  - there will be two winners. Open until midnight August 1st. 

This giveaway is hosted by Colorimety & I Am A Reader, Not A Writer, with over 150 other participants and lots of chances to win good books!

I've seen a lot of buzz about Cinder (and with good reason, it's a great book), but I haven't seen anyone talk about For Darkness Shows the Stars yet. So here's my take on it:

5 out 5 stars!

A beautiful, haunting retelling of  Persuasion, by Jane Austen. It made me want to go back and re-read the classic Jane Austen version, but I loved this version because of its setting: an un-named island that isolated from the rest of the world after a genetic apocalypse.

Previous generations had played around too much with genetic manipulation, and their offspring were born "reduced" - a kinder word for retarded, still functional but barely able to speak.

The Luddites, in this story, were those that refused genetic manipulation and therefore became the ruling class over the reduced.

The story begins at the point where a new generation has been born from the reduced that has normal intelligence again, the Posts. The Luddites aren't quite sure what to do with them. They still treat them as second-class citizens.

So the parallels to Persuasion begin with Elliot who is Luddite, and has grown up friends with Kai, a Post. Her father, like the father in Persuasion, is a lord and a terrible snob. So is her older sister, and they forbid Elliot's friendship with Kai. So they resort to secretly exchanging letters.

The bulk of the story is set 4 years after Elliot and Kai had a falling out and stopped exchanging letters. He went off to find his fortune, hurt that Elliot wouldn't leave her family's land to join him. Elliot was heartbroken, but she couldn't leave her land because her father and sister, Tatiana, were irresponsible and if left to their own devices would bankrupt the estate, which would result in starvation for all their Reduced farm workers.

Elliot rents out part of the estate to the Cloud Fleet so they can build a new ship. Enter some more familiar Persuasion characters: the Admiral and his wife, and Kai - now Captain Wentforth, who is cool and almost scornful of Elliot.

The book continues in present day painful interactions between Elliot and Wentforth, interspersed with letters from their childhood and adolescence, which I loved because that's one major thing missing from Persuasion: any sense of what Anne and Wentworth's relationship was like prior to their falling out. Here's an example of one letter that caught my breath:

Dear Kai,
I don't need to see the trail to know you're at the end of it. My grandfather's compass may not work, but mine is still true.
Yours, Elliot

The two other captains in Persuasion also play a role in this version - but one is a lady, which is an interesting twist. I also delighted to recognize several other Persuasion characters... one of which I had forgotten his role, so that lent some mystery to the story. There are also a couple new, non-Persuasion characters that add some extra tension and complications to the story, such as Elliot's grandfather (the Boatwright- I loved his title!) and Ro, Elliot's Reduced friend.

The mystery and tension of the story is grounded in the falling out between Elliot and Kai, but the genetic manipulation - is it truly as destructive as the Luddites believe? I loved the plot elements and questions it raises, and it blended so well with the love story and family elements.

Captain Wentworth writes a letter to Anne at the end of Persuasion - it's perhaps one of the most famous love letters ever composed.  Through the whole book I was curious to see if Wentforth would write a similar letter to Elliot, and how it would match up. Of course, they wrote each other many secret letters, but as for the final one - well, I can't say, that would be too much of a spoiler. But I will say that the end was very, very satisfying - both similar to Persuasion and also quite different.

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