The story is set in a world where many people are born "reduced" or mentally undeveloped as a by-product of genetic enhancement gone wrong and the world has been destroyed by war technology. These reduced are like simpletons used for slave labor and often locked into working on big family estates of non-reduced families. In the story, a new group of post-reduced (free Posts) or the rare children born from reduced parents that are perfectly capable of highly mental thought are emerging and taking higher positions in society. Elliot, our main character, is the daughter of a Luddite family. The Luddites were people who opposed to the use of technology and retreated in hiding places during the wars only to reemerge after the wars to rebuild.
The story beings with Elliot finding out that her father has destroyed her field of special wheat in order to build a racetrack. Elliot feels trapped because she knows the moment she reveals how important the wheat is to her, her father will be even more inclined to take it away from her as is his cruel nature. Elliot's father is a rather out-of-touch and silly creature who thinks he is wealthy but doesn't realize that Elliot has been scraping for pennies to keep the family going through projects like the special wheat which her father has just sabotaged for an inane reason. Elliot's father and sister are obsessed with maintaining their Luddite lineage and bearing even to the point of ridiculous spending when they have no money. It is left to capable Elliot to manage the bills and feed and care for the slave labor. Elliot finds out that a famous Admiral would like to rent rooms at their manor and use some of their slaves to help build a new ship.
Elliot pays a visit to the Boatwright which is her grandfather. She tells him he needs to move back to the manor because the Admiral will be needing his rooms. Her grandfather can't speak due to strokes he had and so uses sign language to communicate. Her grandfather loves her and understands the need to bring in some money to sustain the house and lands. The new tenants are free Posts who have achieved great success in their lives. She thinks of Kai, a childhood friend, and wonders whether he has achieved success as a free post as well.
Back at the manor, Elliot is introduced to the Admiral and his wife as well as his captains. Elliot is impressed by the behavior of these Posts - they are so brazen and confident. To Elliot's shock, one of the captains turns out to be her childhood friend, Kai, who now calls himself Captain Wentforth. There is a history between Elliot and Kai - Kai and Elliot were lovers when they were young. Kai asked Elliot to run off with her but she, bound by her duties and pressured by societal expectations as well as familial objections, refused. Kai left her, feeling angry and now they have reunited on equal ground with Kai being a successful Captain and he is cold towards her because he is still angry at her.
Elliot tries to calm herself down and act as if nothing untoward has happened. The Admiral quite respects Elliot as he is not fooled by who actually runs the estate. Later that night, Elliot discovers Kai at his old haunt but he is leaves brusquely, breaking Elliot's heart again. The next day, Elliot and her sister Tatiana, accompanied by another old Luddite family, Horatio and Olivia Grove meet the guests. Kai seems to take an interest in Olivia and Elliot pretends that she doesn't care. The group travel to the star-cavern sanctuary on their estate. These sanctuaries were where the Luddites hid during the wars. Throughout the visit, there are a lot of hidden meanings in Kai's comments. It seems like Kai is slighting Elliot for being a coward and afraid to break the rules for the sake of love. Kai seems bitter against Elliot and her family in general, calling them all snobs and conservatives that are against progression. Olivia insists that Elliot is different, however.
Later in the day, Andromeda, one of the captains, shows Elliot a sun cart part of the new technology they invented. Elliot finds that because she is used to driving tractors, she can easily drive the sun cart, surprising Andromeda who expected she'd be hopeless at doing anything so hands-on and practical. During the outing, it is inadvertently revealed that Elliot participates in some of the farm work herself - even driving a tractor. But the tractor is broken. Kai offers to fix it.
As the weeks pass, Elliot busies herself with the harvest. One day, the Admiral's wife, Felicia who is also a Post healer arrives at the estate to help see what she can do for Eliot's grandfather. Elliot learns that her grandfather is dying from having small strokes every day. Elliot and Felicia go horseback riding on the famous horses that Felicia has helped breed. They become closer friends and Felicia asks Elliot to visit them at the Boatwright's house. Elliot reveals that she, unlike most Luddites, would love to see the world beyond the boundaries of her estate. On their way back to the stables, the horses are frightened and Elliot is thrown off the horse but she is caught by Kai who immediately sets her down politely. Elliot becomes hopeful again that Kai has reopened his heart to her a little however he returns to his cold demeanor. He even meanly says that she would do better to walk back to the Manor rather than waste his fleet's resources on a sun cart. She and Kai finally have a frank conversation in which she reveals that she thinks Kai doesn't want anyone to know he has a history on Elliot's estate because it would hamper his rise in social status. Elliot also thinks that Andromeda is hostile towards her because Kai has told her the misery he suffered on Elliot's estate.
The next few weeks Elliot keeps away from Kai and busies herself with work. She overhears that Kai is planning on marrying Olivia Grove. Elliot finds she is still frustratingly in love with Kai because the news tears her up. At a Post party, Andromeda continues to challenge Elliot, trying to make Elliot seem an insincere and ill-informed rich and useless snob. Elliot continues to surprise Andromeda but that doesn't lessen the feeling of mutual animosity between the two girls. Eliot learns that Felicia's daughter had passed away. Felicia's daughter suffered from all manner of ailments and her mother would search the ends of the earth to find cures for the them - if they didn't exist, she would even create them, something that goes against the old sentiments of the Luddites that are afraid of dabbling in science and tampering with God.
Kai makes an appearance at the Post party and he and Elliot again argue. Elliot is almost aghast at how lowly Kai thinks of her and how his anger comes out in such bitter, mean-spirited ways. Even some of Kai's old friends from back when he worked on the estate are aghast at his behavior. Kai makes the point that the Posts that are still working on the estate are kidding themselves if they think Elliot can protect or care for them because Elliot certainly didn't protect or care about him. At some point during the party, Elliot's father the Baron arrives and primly asks to speak to Elliot once she returns. Elliot prepares to walk home on foot but Andromeda decides to give her a lift on a sun cart. She admits that she may have treated Elliot unfairly and that Elliot is not like how Kai has described her. The beginnings of a grudging friendship emerge. Elliot must now face her father. At the manor, Elliot is shocked that the prodigal nephew who is slated to inherit the estate has arrived. Benedict, the cousin, appears quite surprisingly genial and progressive. Elliot is ordered to find him a room so that he can settle in.
The next day, Elliot learns that Kai has been apologizing to everyone about his behavior the night before, including to Elliot. That same day, the whole troupe decide to go for a ride on the dunes. Elliot is reluctant as she doesn't want to be stuck in another awkward situation with Kai. At the dunes, Elliot is privy to the fact that Olivia really likes Kai. Elliot and Kai tentatively have a grudging truce for a few moments as they compete with each other in an old childhood game of who can step furthest at the lip of the cliff's edge. In the past, Kai used to always beat her, but Elliot is determined that Kai should see that she's no longer the girl who is afraid to take risks. Kai then jumps off the cliff and lands, amazingly, on the nearest tower, something that doesn't seem possible but Andromeda claims is due to updrafts of the wind. Elliot puts two and two together and figures out that Kai along with most of the Posts are genetically enhanced. Elliot is horrified as this was the reason why society had fallen in the past. Olivia, having not arrived at the same conclusion, tries to jump herself but falls and is severely injured.
There is major panic and Kai jumps over to rescue Olivia however he is so frazzled that he can't think straight. It is up to level-headed Elliot to tell him what to do - bring Olivia to the Boatwright house and get Felicia to attend to her. Elliot organizes everyone amazingly, keeping in mind what they can do and what they need. After the traumatic moment is over and Olivia's condition is stabilized, Elliot needs some time alone. Kai wants to walk home with her, it is obvious he has much on his mind, but Andromeda insists he doesn't follow Elliot because Elliot is really upset. Elliot retreats to her barn where she thinks deeply about her values and how they are clashing with the direction society is progressing and what she herself needs to do in order to keep her estate going. Even the special wheat - the genetically modified wheat - scares her, now as she realizes the magnitude of what she is doing. Later on, she confronts Kai about what she knows. Kai is no longer the same Kai she knew - he has literally been modified. Kai reveals that when he was in the enclaves (the dangerous places where free Posts gather), he took the risk to be experimented upon in order to survive. Kai reveals that the experiments were actually to help save Felicia's daughter.
Kai tells Elliot he will give her anything if she will keep his secret. She is disgusted that he thinks so lowly of her that she would tell anyone or blackmail him into giving her something in exchange for keeping a secret that will preserve the dignity of him and the other free Posts. Kai realizes he has been unfair to think that way of her, that she has never in the past broken her promises. Elliot spends the rest of the weeks avoiding all the free Posts. Back at the manor, her cousin Benedict tries to get to know her and insists that she show him the Boatwright house. Benedict takes an unusual interest in one of Elliot's reduced friends, Ro. Though Elliot is surprised that Benedict is so progressive in his thinking, she is still suspicious of him and his motivations. During the visit, Elliot finds out that her grandfather had a fatal stroke. No one except Elliot and Felicia are around to care for her grandfather. In fact, Elliot's uncaring family are busy planning a house party so that they can network and mingle with society.
One night, Elliot discovers Kai in the barn with Ro, who is showing him her collection of hybrid flowers. Apparently, Ro, though she is reduced, has learned how to hybridize flowers to create beautiful combinations. Elliot finds out that Kai has been around the estate fixing things in secret, things that Elliot herself has been trying to fix. Elliot is defensive and confused. Kai is in a better mood than he has ever been. It helps that Ro is there to mediate more normal conversation between Elliot and Kai. Just when it seems there is a breakthrough in the relationship between Elliot and Kai, there is news that Olivia is finally awake from her comatose state.
Later in the week, Elliot learns that Kai has left the estate to deliver a shipment of sun carts. Elliot also learns that he submitted himself to the experimentions because he loved Felicia's daughter and the family has always treated him like a son-in-law. Later that day, Elliot hears that her grandfather has passed. She mourns for him alone since no one else seems to care. One night, however, Kai makes his reappearance at the barn, and sends his condolences. He tentatively reaches out to try to console Elliot but she has closed herself up. Elliot's family force her to join the house party they cold-heartedly organized for their new racing track. Elliot is near the breaking point of caring about what her family thinks anymore. Elliot starts to stand up to her father flippantly when before she used to be ultra aware of trying not to make a scene or embarrassing her family. During the party, Kai and Elliot have another confrontation in which Elliot accuses Kai and his lot of free Posts as being a bunch of liars and maybe not even explorers. Kai accuses Elliot of being a hypocrite for being so judgmental when she herself dabbled in genetic experiments with the wheat. Later that day, Elliot's grandfather's will is read aloud. In the will, it is revealed that Elliot will be given the entire estate and almost everything in it.
Of course, there is immediately posturing and bullying from her father and sister but this time Elliot is strong. Elliot's father threatens to inform the authorities that Elliot has been growing illegal genetically modified wheat. He banishes Elliot from the estates. Elliot, feeling strangely empowered and free, decides to leave the estate. Before she leaves, she is confronted by Benedict who claims to want to marry her for the sake of business and maintaining the estate. Tatiana shows that she is surprisingly free of malice when she shows up at the barn. She informs Elliot that she will not be able to leave the estate unless she signs over the estate to her, like their father wants. Outside, the Baron has the reduced workers at gun-point to threaten Elliot into doing his will. In a surprising twist, Elliot doesn't give in and leaves. The posts and reduced workers riot against the Baron much to Elliot's dismay, as she doesn't want anyone to get hurt.
Eventually, Elliot will get the estate. She and Kai will reunite - Kai will understand why Elliot couldn't just leave the estate and run off with him. She needed to stay and protect the reduced workers from the poor treatment and neglect they would get from her father and sister.
Best part of story, including ending:
I love that this story is based on Jane Austen's Persuasion, a love story that is very subtle and moving.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Elliot stands up to her father properly near the end because it is the epitome of how much her character has changed.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that Elliot is quiet and generally un-assuming and caring.