Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Release date: October 15, 2013
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 464
Source: Purchased
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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.
For Darkness Shows the Stars, the first book set in this world, drew me in because it was a retelling of one of my favorite Austen novels, Persuasion, but I wanted to read Across a Star-Swept Sea because of how lovely, respectful, and well-written the first was. There's a lot of pressure to live up to a book's predecessor, and Across a Star-Swept Sea not only lived up to that pressure but outshone For Darkness Shows the Stars by leaps and bounds!

Diana Peterfreund has created a fascinating and very well-built world that one can't help but want to know more and more about. In this quasi-sequel, we see an entirely new part of the world, one that has reacted to its history in a completely different way. They've eradicated the Reduction, but that doesn't mean everything is calm in New Pacifica, though. The people of Galatea are revolting against their monarch and punishing their enemies with a drug that brings back the Reduction. While Albion is mostly peaceful, the governing body refuses to intervene--that's where Persis Blake, aka the Wild Poppy comes in.

Persis is, by far, one my favorite characters in a long time. She is an aristo, born into wealth and convenience, the heir to her family's vast estate, and best friend to the princess regent. She is whip smart, but chooses to hide her great qualities in order to help those who can't help themselves. Instead of being the unmatched brain and beauty in her country, she settles for being just the unmatched beauty, who no one believes could think any deeper than how her shoes look with her dress. She's got her reasons to want to save those dosed by the revolutionaries, but most in Albion and Galatea are too selfish to act. Persis, who has so much to lose and no connections to Galatea, saves countless people--some of whom don't even thank her. It's an effort to avoid her deep-seated fears, but it's so admirable. To me, Persis is amongst the best of female heroines.

That's not to say there aren't innumerable aspects of Across a Star-Swept Sea that are fantastic. The plot will immediately draw you in and keep you hooked until the last page--at which point you'll want there to be more. Justen is a perfect match for Persis, though neither of them know it at first, and it's great to see them square off. The mix of the two books is done just perfectly and not too heavy-handed; each book has its own world and characters, but they intertwine to create a larger, fascinating whole. The writing is beautifully descriptive but not too flowery to overpower the story itself. Peterfreund's world is lushly drawn.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is an adventure that excites with its intricate plot, rich characters, satisfying ending, and a romance that makes you want to swoon. I can't hope enough that there will be another book set in this world!

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