Across a Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars #2)

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Across a Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars #2)
Publisher
Age Range
13+
Release Date
October 15, 2013
ISBN
978-0062006165
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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.

Editor reviews

2 reviews

Lovely and imaginative follow-up to FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS
Overall rating 
 
3.7
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
3.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
The setting for Across a Star-Swept Sea is far removed from the Luddite estate of For Darkness Shows the Stars. The citizens of Albion and Galatea believe they alone survived the Reduction, but the two islands have very different ideas of how to move forward afterward, and each character in the story believes their way is the right one.

There are two main points of view, Justen and Persis, but several secondary characters get a bit of time in the POV spotlight as well, giving us every side of the conflict. The book plunges headlong into the science and politics that propel the revolution in New Pacifica, and the rebellion led by the Wild Poppy. The plot is smart and doesn't coddle -- there's a lot of world-building and political set-up in the opening chapters, and that complex wider conflict sets the stage for the more intimate, personal conflict of the characters.

Though Justen and Persis team up almost right off the bat, Justen has no idea who she is -- not as a spy, and not as a person -- and spends the vast majority of the book believing she's as vapid and shallow as she appears. Meanwhile, Persis has more than a few misconceptions about Justen as well. The false impressions carry us most of the way through the story, which normally I would find galling, but when you are reading a book based on The Scarlet Pimpernel, it's kind of what you signed up for.

I enjoyed the characters in this story, maybe Justen a bit more than Persis simply because her Persis Flake act started to grate after a while. It was the point (and Persis was sick of it, too), but gave Justen a slight edge. As for the supporting cast, I enjoyed most of them, and was glad that we got to see perspectives of people on both sides of the conflict and from all the different social classes. It gave the story a good bit of variety and texture. I have to admit, though, I became the most invested when some familiar faces from For Darkness Shows the Stars showed up midway through the book. It was nice to revisit the characters I'd grown attached to in the first book and see how they interacted with the new characters in this unfamiliar setting.

Across a Star-Swept Sea isn't as heavy on the romance as For Darkness Shows the Stars, though it certainly has its moments. Its plot relies more on intrigue and scheming, and so I found myself invested more in the fate of the people of New Pacifica, and Persis' secret identity as the Wild Poppy, than the will-they-or-won't-they between Justen and Persis. And really, that was enough, because that plot was interesting enough on its own. And I thought that was fitting, because it put my priorities in line with the characters, most of whom put the Revolution ahead of themselves. So the romance became a sweet dollop of icing on an already tasty cake.

If you're a fan of both sci-fi and the classics, or if you read For Darkness Shows the Stars and want to revisit the post-Reduction world Diana Peterfreund created, or if you simply enjoy a smart futuristic tale populated with a variety of colorful characters, I'd recommend you pick up Across a Star Swept Sea.
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Lighter and More Romantic Than FDSTS
Overall rating 
 
3.7
Plot 
 
3.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
What I Liked:
There's a life lesson in this series for me. Much as I think I'm going to love the books that retell favorites, I'm probably actually going to prefer the ones that retell books I didn't like or that I haven't read. The latter is the case with The Scarlet Pimpernel, though I do have it on my shelves, along with a fifth of the other books I hope to read someday but haven't. Initially, I was a bit skeptical to a sequel to For Darkness Shows the Stars, but Peterfreund weaves Across a Star-Swept Sea into that world brilliantly, creating a read I found much more emotionally resonant.

Not being particularly familiar with The Scarlet Pimpernel, I cannot tell you with any degree of accuracy how well the retelling has been done, but I suspect quite well, as Peterfreund did a fantastic job with Persuasion. Even better, Peterfreund has done a gender swap and made The Wild Poppy. Persis Blake pretends to be an air-headed socialite so that no one suspect that she is in fact the most notorious spy in the kingdom.

Peterfreund really digs into gender roles and the absurdity thereof. In Across a Star-Swept Sea, three different cultures mingle, all with different gender roles for women. Even in Galatea, where women have been able to hold rank and rule for ages, everyone automatically assumes that The Wild Poppy is a man. Of course, this feeling that women cannot be so clever or powerful does make it easier for Persis to totally mess with their minds. I liked how, even though she makes use of the resources available to her, even if that means the assumption of her weakness or stupidity. Persis is a truly remarkable girl, intelligent, focused, resourceful, and a skilled actress.

The reason The Wild Poppy exists is to save Galatean nobles. In that country, the regs revolted and overthrew their leaders. However, they're not happy with equality; they want payback, and are punishing their leaders with Reduction. The world building is a bit complex and won't make much sense if you haven't first read For Darkness Shows the Stars, so I would really start there, even though this is marketed as a companion novel. Anyway, the pink pills simulate actual Reduction and remove a person's mental faculties, so that the regs can force the aristos to labor for them for a change. Medic Justen Helo, a symbol of the revolution because his grandmother Persistence Helo developed the cure to Reduction, fears that the new government has gone too far and seeks to escape to Albion. All of the medical stuff surrounding Reduction, both the sort that happened organically because we tampered to much with genes, and the created sort are entirely horrifying. Society, can we please not do this?

The plot runs largely more to intrigue than to daring rescues. In fact, she only goes on a couple of Poppy missions throughout the course of the novel, stuck instead at feigning a romance in her home country of Albion for most of the book. Romance is pretty central to the plot, not that I think the world building is neglected or anything, but it's key. Justen and Persis have this great hate to love thing going, and have the added complication of having to pretend to be a couple to explain why he's in Albion, since the Galateans don't know he no longer supports the actions of the Revolution. Basically, I ship this QUITE a bit. They have excellent banter, and it's fun to watch their feelings slowly change. Justen, of course, is in the difficult position of thinking Persis is an idiot, as she very much pretends to be.

However, much as I loved Persis and Justen, a couple of the secondary cast were wonderful too. Isla, the young leader of Albion is clever like Persis, and she has the cutest little romance going that she's not meant to. Watching her stop deferring to the old men in her council was super gratifying in patriarchal Albion. Tero and Andrine, the reg siblings, are fabulous. The show stealer, though, is Slipstream, aka Slippy, Persis' seamink. I picture him looking mostly like an otter. He's basically the cutest and also very useful. I would like a sea mink, though I doubt my cat would approve.

What Left Me Wanting More:
Across a Star-Swept Sea was pretty close to perfection for me, except for one thing: the hackneyed way that the novel resolved. Now, with a large aspect of Across a Star-Swept Sea being the romance, certain aspects of the ending are pretty much definite. Essentially, I was left feeling unsatisfied, because the romance aspects were left hanging. The book ends in what feels like the middle of the scene. No doubt this was done intentionally, but, as a reader, I am really tired of spending hundreds of pages getting emotionally attached to a particular couple but never getting that emotional payoff in the end.

On top of that, a very large plot point was left wholly unresolved. Without going into too much detail, there's a crossover with the plot from For Darkness Shows the Stars. We get to see those characters briefly, but they essentially don't serve any plot purpose that couldn't have been done more neatly with other characters. Yes, it's nice to show how the book's fit together, but that doesn't mean the characters can show up and have their plot entirely dropped.

The Final Verdict:
Diana Peterfreund's follow-up to For Darkness Shows the Stars truly is best read as a sequel, and not a standalone, at least if you like to have all of the knowledge, like I do. Across a Star-Swept Sea is more light-hearted and romantic than its predecessor, with the same excellent writing and intriguing world building. Long as it is though, it did feel a bit abbreviated, though I still recommend it quite highly.
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Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0  (1)
Characters 
 
5.0  (1)
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5.0  (1)
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great!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot 
 
5.0
Characters 
 
5.0
Writing Style 
 
5.0
"Across a Star-Swept Sea" is an incredible sequel that introduces a new world and cast of characters, making it also possible to work as a stand alone. Although common in the world that resulted in Reduced (individuals who are mentally disabled due to genetic engineering), New Pacifica is different than what we've viewed before in this series. Here, technology has continued to advance and when gene experiments and uses have grown. As such, the Reduced have been cured- although some, for an unknown reason, develop a severe dementia later in life. New Pacifica is divided into two kingdoms, one which is mostly stable and thriving-Albion- and the other which has undergone revolution- Galatea.

In Galatea, the revolutionaries have begun punishing all aristos and their families- and soon anyone who displeases them- with an artificial reduction caused by medication. In response, the Wild Poppy has arisen. Persis, a teenaged girl, has adopted this persona to rescue the individuals artificially reduced and attempt to bring some justice into the world. She hides her identity by pretending to be a vapid aristo. On one of her missions, she suffers from the "genetemps" sickness and is luckily found by a young medic, Justen, who quickly barters his way into the ship and with them without learning who Persis really is (the Poppy). Justen is the descendent of the woman who found the cure for reduction, and he doesn't agree with the way Galatea has been progressing. To avert suspicion of his deflection, the princess Isla proposes that Persis and Justen fake a romance to keep him safely with them.

The book is absolutely fascinating and hard to stop reading. The world which has been built here is unlike any I have ever read about- the descriptions are incredible and it's really amazing to imagine. Persis is a strong character and I loved getting her perspective and learning more about her and her family. Justen was a harder character for me to like- he had his head stuck in the sand and was stubborn and obstinate. The tension of their budding relationship with the lack of their knowledge about who the other is and their roles got to be a bit overplayed, but I understand why. I remember thinking so many times, just tell him/her already!! But in the end, I was pretty happy with the way it all worked out. I could definitely see their relationship grow.

I really loved this book and think it is even better than the first! I can't wait to continue with this series!
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