Monday, October 21, 2013

Title: Across a Star-Swept Sea
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars, book #2
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Source: from publisher via Edelweiss
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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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.

I've never read The Scarlet Pimpernel, but already, I think I would prefer this reimagining over the original tale, simply because the principle character is female in this story.  I really love to see a girl in the role of spy, risking life and limb for her fellow man.  What's more, I liked that everyone, and I mean everyone, assumed that the Wild Poppy was a man.  I think that's why I favor this narrative without having ever read the other...the unwillingness of others in the story to believe that a woman could possibly be the culprit behind the rescue attempts is quite comical, especially in the foreign land of Galatea, where women are allowed to hold positions of power.

Persis surprises everyone with her antics, even those closest to her, not because they don't think her capable, but because for the last six months, she has been pretending to be someone she's not.  And it wasn't the Wild Poppy.  She was very clever in making herself over as the ditsy heiress who prefers fashion over politics because who in their right mind could believe that such a girl could ever mastermind -- let alone complete -- the daring rescues that the Wild Poppy is infamous for?

Persis is underestimated at every turn, so is it any wonder that her fauxmantic love interest believes her to be nothing more than a pretty face?  Justen Helo is a scientist, a revolutionary one at that, and though he is very obviously physically attracted to Persis, he feels he could never care for someone who so clearly cares so little for the plight of his own countrymen.  But as their fauxmance continues, Justen gets glimpses of the real Persis, the one the reader already knows.  And yet it still never occurs to him that she might be the Wild Poppy, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary.  But these little glimpses do help Justen to see another side of Persis, one he might actually like.  It's pretty clear to the reader that these two are well-suited for each other, but since Justen is kept in the dark about Persis' secret identity, it takes him a lot longer to see their compatibility; meanwhile, Persis hates that she has to hide her real self from him.

As per usual, Diana Peterfreunds' writing and attention to detail is phenomenal.  Her prose is just as stunning as the beautiful things she's using her words to describe, whether it be Persis' nimble sea mink or the gorgeous gowns and hairstyles of the aristocrats in New Pacifica.  The story is essentially all Persis', but it is told via third person from that of her companions and cohorts from time to time, as well, and though I don't prefer this method normally because it lends itself to predictability, I found it rather enlightening in this instance.

You don't have to have read For Darkness Shows the Stars prior to reading this companion novel, but I highly recommend it.  Each novel had a distinct feel to it, and each was a complete and whole story on its own.  But to truly understand the political intrigue and its foundations in the history of these countries, you'd need a better grasp on the Reduction and its origins, and the first novel in this series does a better job of explaining it.  Also, some old friends from For Darkness Shows the Stars make a surprise appearance in this novel, and it was nice to revisit them and their story, especially since not much time has elapsed since their story concluded in the first book.

Across a Star-Swept Sea is rife with moral dilemmas, gallant rescues, science and technology, and sweet romances.  It's got something for everyone.  It's a very different sort of book from the first in the series, but both books complement each other well.  I believe this is only a duology, but I'm still hoping for more, as I wasn't quite ready for either set of characters' stories to end yet.

About the author:

Diana Peterfreund has been a costume designer, a cover model, and a food critic. Her travels have taken her from the cloud forests of Costa Rica to the underground caverns of New Zealand (and as far as she’s concerned, she’s just getting started). Diana graduated from Yale University in 2001 with dual degrees in Literature and Geology, which her family claimed would only come in handy if she wrote books about rocks. Now, this Florida girl lives with her husband and their puppy in Washington D.C., and writes books that rock.

Her first novel, Secret Society Girl (2006), was described as “witty and endearing” by The New York Observer and was placed on the New York Public LIbrary’s 2007 Books for the Teen Age list. The follow-up, Under the Rose (2007) was deemed “impossible to put down” by Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist called the third book, Rites of Spring (Break) (2008), “an ideal summer read.” The final book in the series, Tap & Gown, will be released in 2009. All titles are available from Bantam Dell.

She also contributed to the non-fiction anthologies, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, edited by Jennifer O’Connell (Pocket Books, 2007), The World of the Golden Compass, edited by Scott Westerfeld (BenBella Books, 2007), and Through the Wardrobe, edited by Herbie Brennan (BenBella Books, 2008).

Her first young adult novel, Rampant, an adventure fantasy about killer unicorns and the virgin descendents of Alexander the Great who hunt them, will be released by Harper Collins in 2009. When she’s not writing, Diana volunteers at the National Zoo, adds movies she has no intention of watching to her Netflix queue, and plays with her puppy, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever named Rio.

Find Diana:

Website | Twitter | FacebookGoodreads | Pinterest


  1. Beautiful writing and attention to detail? And 4 stars? I need to read this soooooon! I love The Scarlet Pimpernel, and seeing all the glowing reviews is making me super antsy about reading it. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  2. I swear I thought she was writing one more book in the same story world. I hope so, because these are great!!!
    Jen @ YA Romantics

  3. I really enjoyed this too, and loved the idea of the Wild Poppy. I also loved seeing old characters make an appearance in this one! I do hope there's another book, but I think this is a duology too :/
    Great review!

    Richa @ City of Books

  4. Sounds like its full of all sorts of good stuff. Looking forward to it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I haven't read this and For Darkness Shows the Stars yet, but I have heard of the author's beautiful prose and that's reason enough for me to try them. Lovely review!

  6. Second resounding-applause review for this book today. I'm thinking there's a pattern...

    Great review. I must pick up my copy, stat!

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