I have to confess: I was originally going to post this review a month before Across a Star-Swept Sea's publication date.
But I fell in love with this book so much, I decided to ost the review early so I could help spread the buzz on how fantastic this book is.
Dystopian Monday is our segment where we discuss books with dystopian, post-apocalyptic elements. -J
Hardcover, 464 pages
Expected publication: October 15th 2013 by Balzer + Bray
Formate read: E-arc via Edelweiss
All of this change after reading For Darkness Shows the Stars, and I read anything Austen-inspired.
However, I finished the book with the firm belief that Diana Peterfreund had written one of the best books of 2012, and was a master at paying tribute to Jane Austen, while also creating her own haunting, breathtaking and beautiful world.
So when I heard that she was writing a follow-up book set in the same world and it would be inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, I pre-ordered the book the very second the listing went up on Amazon. When I was granted access to the ARC on Edelweiss... well, there was much screaming to be heard.
Now that I’ve read the book, I can say with all confidence that Across A Star-Swept Seawill be one of my favorite books of 2013. It's absolutely spectacular, with breathtaking plotting and writing that I believe that readers will fall in love with.
On the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the upper classes has resorted to unconventional and deadly means.
The revolutionaries have managed to obtain a drug that can recreate the Reduction in the brains of their targets – damaging their minds in the same way that the original Reduction naturally damaged brains generations ago. The only hope for the upper classes is the Wild Poppy, an enigmatic spy who rescues and spirits off revolutionary targets to the neighboring island of Albion.
While the people of Albion support the Wild Poppy, no one realizes that the Poppy is actually Persis Blake, a famed teenaged aristocrat. She covers up her exploits by fawning over boys, preening over clothes, and acting as frivolous as she possibly can.
However, when brilliant Galatean medic Justen Helo literally stumbles into Persis’s life, she’s forced to embark on a mission unlike any that she’s ever taken on before.
Justen may have the key to correcting a dire situation that is especially close to Persis’s heart, but he may also be the driving force behind a situation which may force the two islands into a confrontation that no one wants.
Things that worked:
Persis is young, beautiful and impetuous, but she’s also smart and capable in a way that’s far beyond her years. She has a strong sense of empathy and noblesse oblige, which clearly comes through in how she views her responsibilities as the Wild Poppy.
While there were a number of things that I loved about Persis, I especially enjoyed the complexities of her relationships with Princess Isla and her parents. Even though Persis and Isla obviously believe in the League, there is also an aspect of their relationship that definitely shows the difficulties that both have experienced in being forced to grow up too soon.
As for the relationship between Persis and her parents, I was heartbroken and moved by their evolving relationship. Even though it clearly pains Persis to witness her mom’s degrading mental state due to DAR, I thought it was remarkable how she could still motivate herself to be the type of daughter that could bring her mother back from the brink.
But at the same time, Persis also willingly makes herself seem less capable in the eyes of her parents – despite knowing that it would likely hurt and confuse them – in order to fulfill her responsibilities as the Wild Poppy. That’s a type of heroism that I think I’ve only seen in one other YA character – Katniss Everdeen.
As for Justen, I loved both his sense of obligation to rectify the mistakes made by both his ancestor and himself, and his genuine interest at relating to the world around him.
He’s willing to admit when he’s wrong, and he’s also willing to recognize that his first impressions may not necessarily be the right ones. I loved watching him come to the recognition that maybe everything he had once believed about the revolution, isn’t necessarily what’s true. Yet, at the same time, he’s not arrogant about his suppositions.
Without being too corny about it, this Helo is definitely a hero. (Har, har).
As Faye (The Social Potato) says in her review, there’s never any doubt that Persis and Justen will get together. But the journey to that final destination is definitely a thrilling one.
Both Persis and Justen start off with a fairly strong lack of trust. They make presumptions about each other, based on preconceived notions about status, rank and appearance. But because they’re smart and capable, they eventually begin to look beyond their original beliefs, to find the true worth of one another.
Without giving away too many spoilers, I spent a lot of time breathlessly anticipating that moment where they would truly realize they were in love for the first time. Peterfreund built up to it beautifully – I don’t think I’ve been that invested in a potential relationship in a very long time.
* The The Scarlet Pimpernel inspiration.
The Scarlet Pimpernel was one of my favorite books in high school, and I thought Peterfreund’s tribute to the book was exceptionally well done.
She did a fantastic job of incorporating all of the smaller details and plot twists that any Orczy fan would recognize from Pimpernel, while also still remaining very true to her own story. I strongly believe that Orczy fans will appreciate Peterfreund’s spin on the tale.
* General world-building/writing/plotting
I already had a strong sense of the world because of For Darkness Shows the Stars, but Peterfreund does an even better job of building onto it and adding necessary details this time around. We get answers to a lot of the smaller questions that we may have had since the first book, including ones that we may not have anticipated.
Across a Star-Swept Sea is written in third person, and jumps back and forth between several different characters.
This could have easily become confusing, but not under Petefreund’s direction. She uses the multiple perspectives to fill in what different characters are seeing, how they’re reacting to certain situations, and how they’re regarded by other characters. This multiple perspective approach did a lot to round out what I was reading, and make the world seem more visual and richer than I thought possible.
The book moves along at a brisk pace, with balance for both some fairly explosive moments, and beautiful character exposition.
Things that didn't work:
I strongly recommend this book for science fiction and dystopian YA fans, but also for fans who want a thrilling, epic romance that will make them wait breathlessly for the moment that the hero and heroine finally realize that they’re seeing each other without their masks for the first time.
Disclaimer: I received an e-arc of Across a Star-Swept Sea from HarperCollins via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!