Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea

ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA
For Darkness Shows the Stars #2
Diana Peterfreund
Young Adult/Dystopian
464 pages
Balzer + Bray
Available Now
Source: BEA

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.


MY THOUGHTS
Across a Star-Swept Sea is another richly told story from Ms. Peterfreund, full of the subtlety and nuance that was so deeply moving in For Darkness Shows the Stars and topped off with a stunning heroine who fights with every weapon in her impressive arsenal. The class distinctions in this world and the complicated history of New Pacifica can at times be difficult to wade through, particularly with respect to the genetic complexities of the Reduced, the Helo Cure, and the latent side effects of said cure, but the characters shine so brightly from the pages that we can’t help but be drawn to them like crows to a shiny bauble, caught up in their various causes and willing them to succeed with the turn of every page.

As mentioned above, Persis Blake is a striking young woman–both outside and in–with a sharp mind that unfortunately means very little in her corner of the world because it’s a mind regrettably nestled into a head attached to a female body. Women hold little standing in Albion other than as pretty ornamentation to be passed from the hands of father or brother to husband, but Persis is never once hampered by her gender, instead using her lofty but ultimately meaningless aristocratic status to daze and distract those around her from the strong, independent, and infinitely capable person currently dancing circles around everyone with her escapades as the Wild Poppy.

She plays the part of the vapid, fashion-obsessed rich girl convincingly, but it’s almost appalling how easily Justen and the rest of society (aside from her parents and core group of friends) jump to the conclusions she breezily hands them with a flick of her hair and a cock of her pretty head. She shows them lies they’re all too eager to swallow down with little resistance, and we find ourselves outrageously amused despite the seriousness of the revolution with how flawlessly Persis casts her spell of stupidity, dazzling everyone with her bright clothes and empty chatter while hitting the enemy where it hurts. We stand behind her and beside her from page one to four hundred and fifty, continuously impressed by her bravery and her cunning, and wishing again and again we could volunteer ourselves for the League of the Wild Poppy.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is not as emotionally challenging or gut-wrenching as its companion in terms of the romance, Justen and Persis’s relationship not quite on the level of Elliott and Kai’s pain-filled history of love, friendship and betrayal, but the two of them are thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. The tension between them comes not from history but from expectation, or a lack thereof as Justen remains content to take Persis at face value, so very certain she can’t help him right his wrongs and make his amends while we readers get to sit back, shake our heads, and wait breathlessly for the moment he realizes how thoroughly she’s bested him. I don’t know if there are to be more books in this stunning series of retellings, but I’m hoping Ms. Peterfreund isn’t done treating us to this darkly beautiful future.

Rating: 4/5
 

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This book was given to me by the publisher at BEA free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

41 comments:

  1. I so adore figuring out complex social structures! It's my very favorite thing. I haven't given this series much thought, but I see now that I've been wrong. And I think this easier-to-handle romance would work better for me. I am not a fan of angst at all,
    A wonderfully written review, Jenny!
    Also, did you have fun yesterday?

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    1. I just love this series Maja, seriously can't recommend it highly enough! And I wouldn't say Kai and Elliott's romance is angst-ridden per se, it's not the same teenage angst, it's more genuine hurt because they both feel betrayed (in a not-cheating kind of way) by the other.

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    2. And YES, last night was absolutely fantastic:)

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  2. Ahh this cover! It's so pretty and it gets even more prettier every time I see it. I'm so happy that this book is more than just a pretty cover, though. I love complex structures and this one goes straight to my to-read list. Great review Jenny :)

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    1. It's definitely more than a pretty cover, I really, really hope we get more companion books in this series! She writes such great characters:)

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  3. Good for Persis! If you can play the game and win, I say more power to her. Societies like this just frustrate me (granted, they've been in existence forever...which sucks) and I always enjoy when someone like Persis can beat it.

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    1. Right? I loved her! And I was positively gleeful when Justen realized how badly he'd misjudged her. Finger pointing and yelling things like "in your face Justen!" may also have been involved ;-)

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  4. Great review! I loved Elliott and Kai's relationship in book one so I was bummed to find out that this book didn't continue with their story. However, Justen and Persis’s relationship sounds pretty interesting. I definitely plan on checking out this book, so I'm happy that you found it enjoyable!

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    1. I was bummed too, but they are in it briefly so you at least get to see them. And I think you'll love Persis!

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  5. A four out of five is still pretty dang good though! I haven't yet started this series, but I've heard that a bunch of people dropped off after this book. I think that would leave me a little disheartened, you know? Great review though, Jenny! (as usual)

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    1. A bunch of readers dropped off? While I liked book one a bit better, I still loved this one and will definitely read anything Diana decides to write!

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  6. Yay! I'm so glad you enjoyed this, Jenny. I agree that this wasn't as emotional as the first book, but it was still brilliant because like you said the characters in Across a Star-Swept Sea were beautifully written. I adored Persis very much. She was such an entertaining character and I loved watching her fool everyone else in society. It was just very amusing. I also really liked how Persis was more of the wild one while Justen was more bookish and introverted.
    Lovely review, Jenny and yes, I'm with you, Diana Peterfreund should continue writing more of these retellings.

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    1. YES! Her writing is gorgeous and her characters are always amazing:) And I agree, the role reversal between Persis and Justen was fabulous.

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  7. *sobs* I was going to get this book from the library (loved loved loved book 1) and they don't have it yet. I must get my hands on this book eventually.

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    1. YOU NEED TO READ IT AMANDA! *shakes fist at your library*

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  8. Yay, so pleased to see that you enjoyed both! I agree the romance was perfect and the characters were wonderful, too (although Elliott and Kai will forever remain my fave <3) I can't wait to read more from Peterfreund. ^^ Great review!

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    1. Elliott and Kai were really something special I thought, they'll be very hard to beat. I so enjoyed these two though!

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  9. this series sounds lovely, I am glad the romance lit up in this one <3 going to have to pick up book 1 myself.

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    1. I hope you do, it was a favorite read of mine last year!

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  10. I can't wait to dive into this one, Jenny! I love this complex world and trying to figure out its weird social structure. Persis sounds like a character I can definitely stand behind and I love it when they prove people wrong over and over again so deftly and unknowingly.

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    1. Persis was awesome Rummanah! She played her part so well, I just wanted to hug her the whole time:)

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  11. Fab review! I'm anxious to read this one. I do enjoy re-tales. I think this one will be a hit for me.

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    1. I haven't read the original so I have no idea how this book compares to it, I just know I loved this book something fierce:)

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  12. Okay, you convinced me, I need to start this series! Great review Jenny!!

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  13. The world sounds complex and I love that. How wonderful that the characters really shine in this world. I think I would enjoy the author's writing style. I should probably add this series to my wishlist..Lovely review Jenny you really sold me on this.

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    1. I hope you get a chance to pick this series up Kim! Even though this is technically a stand alone companion book, I would recommend reading For Darkness Shows the Stars first just because the world is so complex and you won't be quite as lost if you start on book 1:)

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  14. I was a bit eh, but still good about book 1 so I just do not know

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    1. If you liked book one, I think you'll like this one too:)

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  15. You know it would probably be nice to read one where the romance isn't gut-wrenching but the world building is fantastic. I love when characters shine like huge beacons of light! AWESOME!

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    1. Her characters are always awesome, some of the most memorable for me:)

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  16. Great review! I can't wait to read this one.

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  17. I am most anxious to read this one as The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my all time favorite classics. I am so happy to hear that the romance isn't gutwrenching.

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  18. I have been wanting to read her other series for like... evar! Now I must have this one as well. GAH! I'm not a huge fan of angst but I do like the sound of the romance. The fact that you have loved these 2 books so much makes it at the top of my wishlist. You are bad for my book addiction, Jenny!

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  19. I wasn't a big fan of For Darkness Shows the Stars, so I'm not sure if I'll be picking this up though I'm thrilled you enjoyed it. Great review, Jenny!(:

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  20. Like Keertana I wasn't the biggest fan of the first book, it was just a bit slow for me. But I have been told this one is a faster pace and the romance is better. I'm not feeling a strong urge to read it though. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  21. I remember you recommending the first book to me, still haven't picked that up yet. Though I'm glad to see that the sequel worked out for you. Great review. Jenny! Thanks for sharing :)

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  22. I want to read this just for the name "Wild Poppy"! Love it. Great review, Jenny.

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  23. I really loved this story, though I do agree with you that the romance was a bit more intense in the first book. But oh how I hope we get another book in this series!

    I love this description of Persis: "Persis Blake is a striking young woman–both outside and in–with a sharp mind that unfortunately means very little in her corner of the world because it’s a mind regrettably nestled into a head attached to a female body"

    I really loved her character, and it's such a shame that this statement seems to hold true for many characters, regardless of past setting, or post-apocalyptic future setting like in this book. We'll always be fighting to be heard, it seems. :-) Beautiful review Jenny, I'm so glad you enjoyed this one too!

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  24. I've heard that this is the end of the series? Which doesn't make sense to me, because I thought there was a lot more story to tell in this world. Maybe she will change her mind! I love when you say you were "outrageously amused" by this story. I love that Persis was so vapid in public and that everyone bought it while she was saving the world. Though you're right, it is sad that the society totally bought into that.

    Your comments on the romance are interesting, there isn't the same depth that is in Elliot/Kai's story. But I think this is a bit more accessible. We get some kissing and I loved getting a bit more of the characters from the first book. Great review!

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