Summary from Amazon:
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 have waxed poetic about my love for The Scarlet Pimpernel, particularly the Anthony Andrews/Ian McKellen movie. I know, a book lover who loves the movie more than the book. But seriously, the book has its issues. But, but, but, the reason I love The Scarlet Pimpernel, is the title character. When I first heard about Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, and that it was a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was both elated and apprehensive. I was so excited for another Pimpernel-inspired novel, but nervous that a futuristic setting with science fiction and post-apocalyptic aspects would make the novel too uncomfortable for me to enjoy. All my doubts were laid to rest in the first few pages of Across a Star-Swept Sea, however, and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
You guys, Peterfreund totally knew what she was doing in creating her Pimpernel character: The Wild Poppy. Of course, Peterfreund made this her own story, though, and in a brilliant way. The Wild Poppy is a woman – well, a sixteen year old girl. That’s right, it’s a girl who’s outwitting the baddies, and saving the day (with the help of her friends The League of the Wild Poppy)! This gender swap (in the original, the Pimpernel is a man) makes so much sense. Even today, women are often overlooked, and Persis Blake (the Wild Poppy (not a spoiler, you know straight up who the Poppy is)) uses that bias to her advantage. When she’s at Court, she acts like she’s only interested in parties and dresses.
I just loved Persis. I loved her so much. She’s incredibly brave, and intelligent. And what a wonderful manipulator and actor she is. But she only ever uses her manipulative skills to save people from neighboring island Galatea, and to keep her secret identity . . . secret. Galatea is in the midst of a revolution, with the regs (think peasants) revolting against the aristocrats. The leaders of this particular part of the revolution use a new drug, called Pinks, to make the nobles and those against the revolution into Reduced people. Persis cannot abide this, especially when innocent people are given the Pinks.
Persis is such a complicated character, much more complicated than the original Pimpernel from Orczy’s novel. She hates acting the flake all the time, even in front of her parents. Besides the constant deception she’s portraying, Persis also has a lot of troubles at home that weigh heavily on her mind. When she meets Justen Hel0 of Galatea, famed grandson of Persistence Helo who created the cure for Reduction, and Princess Isla orders Justen and Persis to pretend-date, she finds it even more difficult to keep up her role.
Justen is a reg from Galatea, and even though Galatea and Albion are neighboring islands, their societies are quite different. A large number of nobility from Galatea have not treated the regs well, which resulted in the revolution. And Justen is in support of more rights for regs. But Justen is against the the way the Revolutionaries (of which his guardian is the leader) are using the Pinks. He has a lot of secrets when he gets to Albion, secrets that eventually Persis learns from other sources. Both Justen and Persis start to develop feelings for each other, but Persis is not sure she can trust Justen, and Justen becomes very frustrated with Persis’s obsession with clothing, and nothing beneficial to society.
Peterfreund has done an amazing job creating this whole society, and culture of New Pacifca (islands Albion & Galatea), however it never gets too complicated to understand. Both societies in Galatea and Albion have positives and negatives. Even Albion, who is not in the throws of a revolution, has issues. Albion grants women little to no rights. Albion’s prejudices help Persis conceal her true identity, but it isn’t something she enjoys about her country.
For fans of The Scarlet Pimpernel, there is so much to enjoy here. While Peterfreund has truly made Across a Star-Swept Sea her own beautiful story, she does include many beloved things from her inspiration. And if you love the poem Sir Percival Blakeney creates about the Pimpernel, you will be delighted with a particular scene in Star-Swept. Even Persis’s yacht is named The Daydream.
Across a Star-Swept Sea is a companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars. Although For Darkness has received marvelous reviews here in the book blogging world, I never could get into it. I was a bit nervous that I would have a difficult time understanding what was going on, but I had nothing to worry about. I believe characters from For Darkness show up part way through this novel, but I had no difficulty understanding what was going on whatsoever.
The only minor issue I had with Across a Star-Swept Sea was the internal dialogue. We’re in both Persis and Justen’s minds many times throughout the story, and I felt some of their thoughts got a bit repetitive. This is such a minor thing, however, and I pretty much think this book is perfection. If you’re not a fan of futuristic settings, you should still give this a try. If you’re a fan of The Scarlet Pimpernel, run to get yourself a copy. And if you just like to read, then read this.