- For Darkness Shows the Stars
- Across a Star-Swept Sea
Quite a long while back I read Across a Star-Swept Sea, and while I overall liked it, there were parts of it that I found really confusing/not well-explained. Well, guess what, it’s because it was actually a sequel, despite there being NO indication of this anywhere on the cover or in the front of the book. THIS IS A PET PEEVE OF MINE – I do not understand WHY publishers publish sequels and act like it’s a secret. Just. Why.
Anyway. I’ve been meaning to go back and read both books and I finally got around to it!
The first book, For Darkness Shows the Stars, is a riff on Persuasion, which is what finally made me get around to it – after rereading Persuasion, I thought it would be fun to read this one while the original was fresh in my mind. I thought this book did a great job capturing the basics of Austen’s story, but all the characters were somehow amplified. In Persuasion, Anne’s dad is self-absorbed and a bit ridiculous; here he’s cruel and willing to do anything as long as he has everything he wants. Austen’s Wentworth is a bit stubborn about recognizing that Anne had valid reasons for her past choices; here he is harsh and unforgiving, to the point of purposefully inflicting pain on Anne with cruel and snarky comments and actions. It made this story grittier and the stakes higher, as now it’s not just that Anne’s family may have to tighten their belts and live a little more frugally, it’s that the lives and livelihoods of so many people are on the line.
This book would have garnered an easy 4*, maybe even 4.5*, from me except for one HUGE problem – the ages of the characters. Like I think what was happening here was Peterfreund wanted this book to be YA, so she needed her characters to be YA-aged. But the problem is that the whole POINT of Persuasion is that TIME HAS PASSED, so Peterfreund’s brilliant solution? That the Anne/Wentworth characters were FOURTEEN when they separated and now it’s only FOUR YEARS LATER so they are still only EIGHTEEN and I’m sorry but it made the entire story COMPLETELY, and I do mean COMPLETELY, unbelievable. Like sometimes I can kind of get behind young people doing things that are obviously beyond what they would actually do, because circumstances can swiftly mature some individuals… but this just made no sense, especially since Peterfreund also chose to make Wentworth’s character SO harsh and unforgiving about the fact that Anne didn’t come with him… WHEN THEY WERE FOURTEEN. I’m sorry, but you’re still mad because she didn’t come with you when you were both CHILDREN?! I can’t even begin to describe how distracting these ages were from the actual stories. There are lots of times that I can kind of pretend the ages are different or somehow work around in my brain, but it was impossible here and it made the entire story absolutely absurd, to the point that even though I thought it was really a great story overall, I almost can’t recommend it because the age thing made the whole book just stupid and pointless. It just turned the Anne/Wentworth story into some ridiculous teenage angst instead of an actual crucible of maturation like it was in the original story.
This just shouldn’t have been a YA story, and I think this is where the obsession with categorizing books by the age of the intended audience has screwed everyone up. Now adults feel like they can’t writing stories about adults because obviously no teen would ever be interested in a book about adults. I see adults basically apologizing for reading YA because it’s not “for” them, and other adults saying that only teens should be “allowed” to read YA because otherwise adults are “stealing” those books and fandoms. It just annoys the heck out of me. Who cares how old the characters are if the story is good?? The characters should be the age that fits their actions, attitudes, and situations, not the age of the intended target audience. It’s just absolute nonsense, and For Darkness Shows the Stars definitely emphasized the ridiculousness of forcing fictional characters to be a certain age just so a certain age will read your book.
ANYWAY. After that I reread Across a Star-Swept Sea. I gave a pretty detailed review of this Scarlet Pimpernel retelling in my original review (linked above). I enjoyed this one even more the second time around, because it made so much more sense as a sequel! Here, the youth of the characters is still somewhat annoying, but also somewhat makes sense, because, let’s be real, smuggling people across enemy lines while pretending to be a complete airhead definitely sounds like something teens would get into.
All in all, I did enjoy both these books and actually would love to read a third book set in this world (although since the second book came out back in 2013, it probably isn’t going to happen). There were fun scifi/futuristic reads and both (besides the age thing) were actually great riffs on their original stories, stay true to the essence of the tale while still making it something new. I don’t particularly see myself rereading these again and again, but I did enjoy them this time around. 4/5 for the pair.