Release Date: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
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. (courtesy of Goodreads.)
Companion novels seem to be a thing lately. You have Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series and now your have Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars series. If all companion series are going to be this good, I think we should do away with straight up sequels forever!
Across a Star-Swept Sea is based on the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel This immediately puts me on a positive footing with this book. I love The Scarlet Pimpernel (Have you ever seen the musical? It's as good or better than the book). For Darkness Shows the Stars was based on Persuasion, a novel that I'd read but really couldn't remember. So that set up a barrier to the first story at the beginning (although I did end up loving it). By no means is it necessary to have read/watched The Scarlet Pimpernel before reading this book. It just adds an element of fun.
At first, there seemed to be little connection between Across a Star-Swept Sea and For Darkness Shows the Stars aside from the basic mythological world and the annoying long titles ("irritating" at least to this blogger typing them out multiple times in a review). You have the concept of Reduced (vast swaths of the population born mentally disabled as a result of a human caused genetic manipulation), but it's almost been completely eradicated - very different from the first book. Except for this kingdom (think of Revolutionary France) who is forcibly administering medicine to its aristocrats to make them Reduced. Then you have another kingdom (call it England) that finds this abhorrent but is reluctant to do anything about it.
Enter Persis Blake, one of the best strong female protagonists in years. She's brave - rescuing large numbers of Aristos from right under their captors' noses. She's selfless - she has a privilege life, she doesn't need to put herself at this risk. Yet she does and never asks for any credit (which she couldn't do anyway since it would ruin her cover, but still). She doesn't wear her emotions on her sleeve. When Persis falls for Justen, she doesn't let herself fall to pieces. She keeps up her act, remains strong - puts her cause above herself. She is all these strong things without coming off hardened or overly aggressive as a lot of character (i.e. Rose) tend to do.
The book is also told from Justen's perspective. While he isn't as engaging a character as Persis, I still liked him and thought he was worthy of Persis's interest. He's a brilliant scientist. He's a commoner and looks down upon the Aristos, but also deplores the senseless destruction of their minds. He's also a haunted character - he's done something that wasn't wrong at the type but had horrible consequences that he never intended.
The slight disorientation I felt because of the mythological differences between Books 1 and 2 went away quickly as I got caught up in the story. Plus, Kai and Elliot eventually show up and the differences are explained. The plot flows extremely well. There are so many different layers to Persis and Justen's lives. Persis particularly encounters physical dangers as well as family dynamics, the perils of politics, and the importance of social appearances. All this is presented in a way that makes each page feel relevant to the story. It's a relatively dense plot, but none of it feels superfluous.
I really can't recommend Along a Star-Swept Sea highly enough. To say it's well-written is an understatement. The characters are lovable, the story is engaging, it ties in to the first book while also standing on its own...I could go on. You really must read this series. Diana is a master author.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
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