Hey everyone! So in my effort to find something to do during this isolation, I’ve started rereading books in series that I haven’t finished but plan to. And since I owned this book and the sequel (that I hadn’t read), I decided to reread this. Why not? It’s been about 7 years since I last read it. (If you’re interested, my original post/review is here!)
Obviously back in the day I loved it. I gave it 5 stars. But looking back on it this time, I didn’t really remember why. In fact, for the last 7 years while I’ve stared at it on my shelf, I couldn’t even really remember liking it. Not that I hated it or anything, but I was utterly indifferent to it.
In case this is your first time hearing about this book, it’s basically a dystopian take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion. (Side note: I’ve never read Persuasion. That may matter later.) We follow Elliot, a rich Luddite who’s the only one in her family who truly cares about the servants on their land. Her father and older sister only care about social class and whether they can continue living in comfort. Four years ago, she had the chance to run away with her childhood love, Kai, a servant on the estate, but she turned him down. Desperate to bring in some money, Elliot rents out some of the land to the renowned Cloud Fleet, a group of Post-Reductionists (the lower class, essentially) who are changing the world. And one of their explorers is the famous Captain Malakai Wentforth–or Kai, as Elliot knows him. There’s a lot of other stuff going on as well, like how Kai is determined to ignore Elliot at every turn, the estate is falling to pieces around her, and the changing of society as a whole.
Rereading my original review really showed me how much I’ve grown as a writer and a book reviewer because it feels really juvenile now. So let me try to rectify that.
This book is stunning. Absolutely stunning. I spent hours at a time just constantly reading to see what happened next–and I’ve already read this once before!
My forte is characters, so let’s start there. Elliot is a very complex character. As a Luddite, she is supposed to look down upon the Reduced and the Post-Reductionists. It’s a long story what those both are and maybe I’ll cover that soon, but just bear with me that they’re the serving classes. Anyway, Elliot has a big heart that causes her to want the best for her servants, even if it hurts the estate in the end. That is not a Luddite thought and she frequently gets called out for her “dangerous” ideas by other Luddite characters. She’s very aware of her duty and while I wouldn’t call her selfless, she is very giving. She knows what her role is and how to play it. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want more out of life.
There are many other amazing characters as well. Kai isn’t as developed as I would maybe like, but that feels kind of Austen-esque anyway, you know? (Her books fail the reverse-Bechtel test, which is kind of hilarious.) But still, Kai is a fascinating character for the way he changes throughout the novel, from what we see of him as a child to the Captain to how he deals with seeing Elliot again. You really do understand why Elliot loved him.
The minor characters are incredibly interesting as well because they put the social classes into perspective for you. The other Luddites, the other Posts, the Cloud Fleet, the Reduced. You see all the different groups and classes and it really helps to build the world that Elliot exists in.
Speaking of that, the world building is phenomenal. Sure, it essentially looks like a 19th century British estate with some dystopian elements thrown in, but there’s more to the world than that. There’s a different religious system with its own rich history. There’s all the genetic engineering they reference and the history around that. Even the term Luddites comes from the 18th century. (They were a group of people who opposed the industrialization of Britain and frequently destroyed machinery and factories to slow the march of Progress.) It was a weird–but awesome–mix of history and futuristic elements.
There are so many layers to this story that work incredibly well. There’s the focus on social class, the constant question of what kind of Progress is acceptable and what’s playing God, and obviously the very human elements of trying to play nice with an ex you still happen to love. It’s just so much fun and so immersive. Like, I feel like I could just about write a dissertation on their world right now. (That…might be a stretch.)
Anyway, if you’re looking for a fantastic book that will help you lose track of a few hours, I HIGHLY recommend this one. I’m so glad I rediscovered it on my shelves.