Across a Star-Swept Sea
by Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #2
Published: 15 October 2013
Balzer + Bray, Hardcover, 449 pages
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1.
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.
Let me just begin by saying that I probably would’ve given Across a Star-Swept Sea 5 stars had I not been a little distracted while reading it. I really did want to love it as I did For Darkness Shows the Stars, its predecessor, and well, I did love it but my mind was just… elsewhere at some points of the story. So that one missing star caused by my absentmindedness really shouldn’t hinder your impression of this amazing book.
That said, Across the Star-Swept Sea completely impressed me with its glamorous world-building, beautiful characters and action-packed story. The world-building in this novel was insanely better developed than that of For Darkness Shows the Stars despite being set in the same world. New Pacifica, unlike where Elliot had come from, is exactly how many would imagine a futuristic society – technologically and culturally advanced. The people of New Pacifica had also found a cure for Reduction and they mostly seem a lot more modern than the society Elliot grew up in; an absolutely different yet pleasant change of scenery.
The setting was not the only huge difference between Across a Star-Swept Sea and its prior novel. If you had been expecting characters similar to Elliot and Kai, you’ll be in for a surprise because Persis and Justen are as different from the previous protagonists as they can get. That, however, is not a bad thing and I do love all four of the above mentioned characters. Persis was an extrovert where Elliot had been an introvert. Comparing them two would be like comparing the sun and the moon – similar in certain ways yet ultimately, they are opposites.
I have to say Persis Blake was an incredibly lovable character and seeing her acting as Persis Flake (her bimbotic disguise) and the Wild Poppy (her secret spy identity) was wholly intriguing. I loved that the real Persis was a mix between her two alter egos – fun and girly yet intelligent and proactive – because personally, I’m getting a little tired of protagonists who can only either be 100% girly or completely tough.
Persis was not the only interesting character in the book, of course. One that’s really worth mentioning is Vania Aldred. She’s the revolution leader’s daughter, Justen’s cousin and a military captain hence, she’s definitely pretty badass. I felt she was a really complex character what with who had raised her and everything occurring in her life at the time the story was set in. However, I’ve got conflicting feelings about the role Diana Peterfreund decided to give Vania towards the end because she was a character who had so much more potential to be better developed and portrayed.
My favorite aspects of Across a Star-Swept Sea was the technology in it and the romance. All the new inventions and gengineering (genetic engineering) wonders shown in this novel were absolutely stunning! Flutternotes, palmports and hybrid-species pets are just a few of the ubiquitous futuristic innovations in the story. It really made me wish we had their technology in real life! As for the romance, it was actually really subtle and down-played – which I utterly adored. Nothing was too serious and the pace at which Persis and Justen’s relationship progressed was slow yet entirely appropriate and fitting.
In Across a Star-Swept Sea, some characters we know from For Darkness Shows the Stars would also make appearances (specifically Elliot, Kai, Andromeda & Ro). Although it’s already great to see those beloved characters, Diana Peterfreund went the extra mile to include them in the main plot. Hence, it doesn’t seem at all like she gave those characters cameos just for the sake of giving them cameos as they had definitely contributed to the story.
Filled with just the right amount of adventure, spy-action, futuristic glamor and romance, I definitely think Across the Star-Swept Sea is set apart from your run-of-the-mill post-apocalyptic novel. It gives a brighter look on how humans could move on after a catastrophic disaster and is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air among the depressing and devastating futures numerous post-apocalyptic stories are inclined to portray. I’m unsure whether Diana Peterfreund would be writing more books set in this world but I would certainly look forward to them if she does!