Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review: Across the Star-Swept Sea

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.  Quoted from Goodreads


Love, love, love this book.  It's sort of the perfect storm of perfectness for me.  First, I adored Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars (a dystopia retelling of Jane Austen's Persuasion), so this sequel/companion book would have been on my list regardless.  Then I found out it was a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and I was completely hooked.

Let's start with characters.  I loved them all.  Seriously, this book is full of well developed, interesting characters.  Not everyone is perfect; some have some pretty huge skeletons in their closets, but it just makes everything more interesting. The relationships are well developed, and there are a lot of relationships.  It's not just dealing with the boy meets girl romance angle, but we have relationships between siblings, parents, cousins, best friends, enemies, and the list goes on.  It makes the world seem real despite how different it is from our own. Plus while Persis and Justin are the main POVs, we also get perspectives from Justin's sister and cousin, who give us different viewpoints on the revolution.  Everyone's voice is distinct and rather essential to the story.

As for world-building, it's excellent. It's created on the same foundation as For Darkness Shows the Stars, but how New Pacifica handles everything is vastly different from it's predecessor.  We get a lot of fun, new technology and cures that come with their own sets of problems.

As for the action, it's paced similarly to it's source material.  It isn't all daring rescues, though we have several of those thrown in there.  But there are a lot of other issues going on that the author explores, like political conflict, social inequality, disease, hatred, etc. There's as much internal conflict as their is external, which kept me basically glued to the book while I was reading it.

As for the romance, I thought it was well developed.  It was fun seeing it from both Persis and Justin's POVs. You see why Justin would fall for the shallow girl Persis is pretending to be and why Persis likes Justin despite the serious reservations she has about his character. You know how the story goes, but I loved watching it develop and deepen despite all the lies they told each other.  I also enjoyed the story of Persis's parents and her best friend Isla's forbidden romance.

Really, this is a delightful book everyone needs to pick up.  It's a stand alone, though you would probably enjoy it more if you've read the first one simply because some of those characters show up half way through. It's got lies, secret identities, revolutions, intrigue, action, romance, brilliant characters . . . what more could you possibly want. I'm rating it a delightful 4.5 stars, and I hope Diana Peterfreund keeps writing more in this series.  It's exactly what I was looking for.

Oh, and you should check out her short prequel novella, The First Star to Fall.  It's free on Amazon and a great introduction to this world.

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