Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
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Release Date: October 15th 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #2, companion novel that can stand alone
Goodreads description: Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.
On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.
Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.
In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.
Across a Star-Swept Sea was on my fall TBR (and yes I’m still working on that!) because I liked For Darkness Shows the Stars. I actually have a post drafted for FDStS but my thoughts were messy and it never really evolved into a publishable review. Hopefully this one will be better!
This book is set in the same post-apocalyptic world as For Darkness Shows the Stars, where there have been wars that reset the population. Genetically modified foods (and I think other genetic modifications) altered human development and caused the Reduced, people who are mentally handicapped. People that abstained from the modifications and are unaffected are generally in power.
In Across a Star-Swept Sea, I will completely admit some of the politics kind of confused me. But, the story is based on the Scarlet Pimpernel, so think French Revolution-ish. Persis Blake is a wealthy friend of the Princess of a Albion, and the island of Galatea is in a state of revolution where the oppressed cured Reduced are now lashing out at anyone that had power, or anyone related to anyone that had power, in vicious ways. Persis Blake interferes with this as Wild Poppy. Justen is a medic from Galatea and doesn’t agree with what is happening, even though he’s grown up on the side that is currently in power. He goes to Albion for help/asylum and meets Persis, who purposely appears to be vapid and flaky. They pretend to be in a relationship. There are a whole lot of aspects to this story that are just really difficult for me to summarize quickly.
I liked Persis! She was smart and self-sacrificing. She worked hard to make a difference and help others. She wasn’t perfect, which made her interesting and realistic. She was also snarky and witty. Justen was interesting, but I don’t feel like I got to know him very well as a character. He was nice and wanted to help people, too. I liked their romance and wanted things to work out, but I didn’t feel extremely invested. I think it just needed more of them spending actual time together for me to feel like it was OMG amazing. I did think they were cute, but I needed more depth.
“Love was magma, shooting from the Earth. It had the potential to form pillars of rock that would last for a thousand years or plumes of ash that choked the sky.”
I already mentioned that there was a bit of confusion. I think that maybe some of the terms used might have been slightly confusing. I think the history of the islands and political groups needed more details, or at least details put together differently. But mainly it seemed to boil down to people not in power wanting power, people in power abusing power, and some people trying to fix things.
There was also a lot of medical stuff and genetic stuff going on that was both interesting and sometimes confusing. There’s a cure for the Reduced but the cure sometimes leads to another sickness. The people of Albion have palm ports, which are kind of like smart phones but are a part of the body, and they have to eat certain things to have energy to use them. They also have genetically engineered animals! Creepy but also cool.
There were also some interesting gender issues going on. I think the society and world operates on a patriarchal system, but a lot of people don’t agree with it. Some people seem to just accept it and others kind of go around it. It wasn’t just that that was the issue though, but the characters discussed the issue. I loved the discussion of it, and that the characters were realizing so many problems in their world and that was one of them.
I enjoyed Across a Star-Swept Sea! It kept me entertained and wanting more. I think it’s one I could probably read again at some point, too! I’m not sure if there are going to be more books set in this world, but I kind of hope so. It’s odd and can be slightly confusing, but I do like it. I do think the characters could use a bit of depth, and I think the romance could use a little bit more. I think you might like Across a Star-Swept Sea if you like dashing lady heroes in disguise and intelligent characters!