October 31, 2013

Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Title: Across a Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars #2)
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Release Date: October 15th, 2013 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Page Count: 464
Source: ARC from BEA
Rating: A stunning companion to one of my favorite 2013 reads. 

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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]


The two islands of New Pacifica have the same cure for Reduction but each have responded to said cure very differently. In Albion, the regs work for the aristos, just as they did when they were Reduced. They are paid, not slaves, and pretty much co-exist and are good to each other. In Galatea, the regs didn't like that the aristos were more important just because their ancestors were once reduced, so they've risen up and taken control of the island. But instead of just arresting aristos, they've decided to Reduce them (and other anti-revolutionaries) using a new drug that's been developed. Which generally ends up killing the people who take them.

Since this is pretty much murder, Persis decides to become the Wild Poppy and go on special missions to save aristos and their supporters. As all of this is going on, Justen, the grandson of the people who developed the cure, decides what the revolution is doing is wrong and defects. But Persis can't tell him who she is and Justen can't tell her some other things so basically this book is one fantastic romantic and revolutionary mess.

Let's break this down:

UGH. Diana Peterfreud has this way of creating romantic tension that makes me melt into a puddle in the ground. It's very possible this comes from her source texts (since both this book and For Darkness Shows the Stars are retellings), but the woman's still gotta be able to write it well, and write it well she does. I mean, Justen and Persis are so stupid about everything the whole book it just makes me want to pull my hair out. Or push them together. But it was realistic, fantastic stupid, not throw the book at the wall and yell at everyone terrible stupid. 

I hope that made sense. But if it doesn't, you all should know that the romance in this book is pretty swoon-y and sigh-y. The end cuts it a little short, but you know it's there and you can imagine the rest. And I'm kind of hoping there'll be a short little extra chapter put out like there was with For Darkness Shows the Stars with Elliot and Kai. 

And speaking of Elliot and Kai, they show up in this book! They, Ro and the rest are totally a plot point in all of this and I love how they're woven into the story. I really enjoyed seeing Elliot from someone else's perspective. I don't think she ever struck me as reserved and quiet, yet that's how she's depicted in Across a Star-Swept Sea. It makes sense in hindsight, I guess, but I never really thought about it and it's pretty cool to get a chance to see it and think about that element of the story. I mean, how do first person protagonists come off to other people? We're really stuck in their heads so we don't actually know.

But I'm going to stop this line of thought because I start questioning how people perceive me since I only know the world from my head and no one else's. 

Yeah. Definitely stopping. My brain is starting to hurt. 

So romance and Elliot/Kai plot point aside, I really loved Persis. She makes for a fantastic responsible person as well as a brilliant, clothing-obsessed ditz. Because you can be interested in both. You can be smart and responsible and whatever else and well dressed. I hate that society makes everyone feel like you're either smart or obsessed with clothing and you just can't put those two things together. 

Persis is also great because she's doing awesome things for society and she's strong and wonderful and all that, but, personally, I'm really into the stereotype-breaking.

I also really like Justen. I'm a little confused about his loyalties for some of the book. I'm also a little confused about his sister's loyalties, but his more-so. He's loyal to Galatea, but he's not, but he is? I'm not totally clear on it. I know he feels guilty about a lot of things, and I totally understand why that is. I'm just don't get his motivations. Which kind of explains part of the reason Persis doesn't trust him and all that. But doesn't really help me totally understand him as a character. Which is a little infuriating, but I like him well enough. 

Another thing about this book: I suppose you don't have to read For Darkness Shows the Stars to understand this installation, but if have read the companion book to this one, you might be a little confused at the start. Across a Star-Swept Sea uses slightly different jargon and stories about how the islands came to be. Which makes sense because things develop differently when isolated and what have you. But you have to be ready for it. I will say, though, that, to me, the world building (ie how we got to where we are today and the whole timeline and all that) made more sense in For Darkness Shows the Stars than in Across a Star-Swept Sea. To me. You might feel differently.

But if you do, I'd like you to explain things to me, please and thank you.

The long and short of it?

Plot: I've never read The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I liked this retelling well enough.
World Building: I was a little confused. But I still liked it. And I really liked the two different islands and the Civil War and what not. Excellently complex plots.
Character Development: I loved Persis, clearly. Justen was okay too. And HI ELLIOT & KAI! I MISSED YOU GUYS!
Prose: Just as beautiful as the prose in For Darkess Shows the Stars. Which is pretty freaking beautiful.
Would I Recommend This Book?: If you like retellings of classics, For Darkness Shows the Stars, stories with an older feel but a futuristic setting or lot of romantic tension, this is the book for you. And if you like all of those things, I think you should get to this book ASAP. 

Have you read this one? How about it's companion? Which did you like better? Or maybe you like them both equally/for different reasons. Whatever the case may be, be sure to let me know in the comments below!