For Darkness Shows the Stars #2
Balzer + Bray
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.
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.
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.