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A Reader of Fictions: Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #33: Across a Star-Swept Sea

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #33: Across a Star-Swept Sea

Across a Star-Swept Sea
For Darkness Shows the Stars, Book 2

Author: Diana Peterfreund
Pages: 464
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: October 15, 2013
Read: September 2-5, 2013
Source: Gifted ARC - thanks, Lenore!
Recommended by: Christina of Christina Reads YA

Description 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.

Previous Book in Series:
1: For Darkness Shows the Stars

First Sentence: "If the Wild Poppy dared return to Galatea, Citizen Cutler was ready."

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.

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.

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.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote:
"'You think they like you because you're soft on them. But all you're teaching them is that you're soft.'
     Now Isla did turn, and fixed Councilman Shift with her most royal glare. 'And if I let your insult pass unpunished, sir? What am I teaching you?'"
Don't Take My Word for It:
The Social Potato's word: "Is it really good? Hell to the YES." - 5 stars
Good Books and Good Wine's word: "this novel was a pure delight" - 5 stars
The Biased Bookie's word: "not a book you should read drowsy" - 4.5 stars

Up Next:
The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. This one was recommended by two separate people convinced I will love it, so *crosses fingers*

Want to tell me what to read? Fill out the following form with a suggestion! For more details, check this post.

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Blogger Amy said...

Ohh I'm glad that you really liked this. I have the first one, but I haven't read it yet. I am hoping to get to it sometime soon. I love when a sequel is really great, so I am looking forward to starting this series. Great review hon!!

September 15, 2013 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Alessandra said...

Me terribly wants.

September 15, 2013 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Brandy said...

I didn't mind the lack of couple time as much as you did, but can see how it would be annoying. Like I said on Twitter, I like the parallel to the end of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

September 15, 2013 at 10:13 PM  
Blogger Brandy said...

Err...sorry about that. Hit publish too soon. I would have liked a little more though for sure.

September 15, 2013 at 10:14 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

You will definitely love this one, Amy, and probably FDSTS too!

September 16, 2013 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

You should gets.

September 16, 2013 at 10:57 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ha, no worries. Maybe I would feel differently were I familiar with the Scarlet Pimpernel, but HOW CAN SHE LEAVE ME HANGING LIKE THAT? It just cuts off right before the smoochies. SIGH.

September 16, 2013 at 11:02 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

'there is great strength in humility
N knowing your place under God:
beyond eternity shall be your reward'
-blessed holy socks

October 4, 2017 at 11:44 AM  

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