Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea

Across a Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars, #2)Across a Star-Swept Sea
(For Darkness Shows the Stars #2)
by Diana Peterfreund
YA Dystopian
October 15th 2013 by Balzer + Bray

Goodreads summary:
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.


What I thought:

I loved For Darkness Shows the Stars! It was one of my favorite books that I read last year! I love how the author takes a classic and uses it as inspiration. In Across a Star-Swept Sea, she uses The Scarlet Pimpernel, but you don't need to have read that story to understand this one. I think one of the best things about these books is that even though the author might use a classic work as inspiration, each story is completely her own and done so marvelously well. 

I also would like to note that these stories are vastly different because the plot and the protagonists are vastly different. Elliot from FDSTS is somewhat reserved, but has a core of steel. She isn't showy in any way. This is vastly different from Persis from this book who is a very flashy public figure who appears shallow, spoiled, and rather dull if not partying and socializing to her heart's content, but who actually hides an amazing mind, a caring heart, and a strong will. She isn't reserved in any way and seeing these two next to each other was quite interesting. We don't get reacquainted with the characters from the first book until close to the end of this one, but you definitely could see the contrasts culturally and among the characters quite easily and they are quite strong.

My undergrad is in Political Science so I found the political intrigue and turmoil really interesting in this plot. I liked seeing how the two islands of New Pacifica worked so differently and how their beliefs influenced their thoughts and actions. You have two very different governments and neither one is perfect, but one is definitely better than the other during the time this story takes place.

I was really curious to see how the author worked in pieces from The Scarlet Pimpernel. I really loved the twists. Not only is the notorious spy a woman instead of a man, she is also quite young (16 years-old), and then there is the very different setting that she is working in with all the technological advances. You also get more information on the history of this dystopian world and how the earth came to be as it is, even though no one seems to really know the whole story.

What I really loved about this book was two things. First are these amazing characters! I loved Persis and Justen and the other supporting characters that had key roles to play. Persis is just such a fabulous character. She is very intelligent, but has to hide that in order to help her friend, the ruling regent, to do something to help the people of the neighboring nation across the sea when officially she cannot. She is also the perfect person to pull it off as no one would suspect her, a partying and popular aristo who only cares about clothes and image. I loved that even though she thinks she knows what is best, that her views are still changeable. After Justen shares some of his views and challenges her on some things, she sees that maybe she has been prejudiced in some ways too. Really, they both have been being raised as they were in their different cultures. Justen is also great! He made a terrible mistake when he wasn't even aware of what it was at the time and now wants to do all in his power to make things right. He doesn't like Persis, but she has challenged him as well and he begins to see that she isn't completely as she appears to be. I also really loved Isla. She is in a tough spot having to rule the country with basically no power because she's a girl and the real ruler is her infant brother. She still has a great love for her country and for her friends and is trying to wade through the situation as best she can.

The second thing I loved was the plot. I loved seeing how Persis sneaked people to her country, how things didn't always go smoothly, that there were other characters with their own plots and seeing how these plots fit together. I really wasn't sure how the story was going to go or work out in the end. I just hoped that it would, but it was a surprise how things played out.

I also have to say that I thought the title fit this story so well. Not only does it pertain to the two nations across the sea from each other, but also the characters from the first book who travel quite some distance to find these islands in the sea. The cover is also gorgeous and definitely fit the story and reminds me of the starry dress that Persis wears at one point representing her starry cove.

Here are two parts I liked:
     ...It reminded him of the looks he'd seen Persis's parents giving each other, the love Persis had claimed in the star cove was an impossible standard to meet.     At the time, Justen had agreed. Who even wanted a love like that? Wouldn't it distract from everything else you wanted to do with your life? But looking at Kai and Elliot, Justen wondered if, instead, love was what made it possible. Torin and Heloise had defied the customs of their nation and helped bring about great social change in Albion. Kai and Elliot had sailed to a whole new world. He didn't know much about the intimate aspects of his grandparents' relationship, but he did know that Darwin Helo had worked tirelessly to help his wife bring the cure to all the people of New Pacifica. If Justen ever found someone like that, would he change his mind? 
     One night, not long ago, Justen had floated in a starlit cove with a girl who told him, There is only on way to recover from the evil humanity does to itself: overcome it. We can only be held responsible for what we ourselves do. Bad things happen in this world, and we are judged on how we respond. Do we take part in evil, or do we fight against it with all we have?
I can't wait to see what Peterfreund tackles next. I don't know if she'll use another classic for a basis or not, but I have loved both of these books so far. I highly recommend Across a Star-Swept Sea to YA readers in general, and those who love spies, star-crossed lovers, and dystopians. It is definitely worth a read!

Content: Some mild violence, but I would consider this clean.
Source: Won in a giveaway. (Thank you, Jen, from YA Romantics!)

Have you read For Darkness Shows the Stars and/or are you planning to read Across a Star-Swept Sea?

UPDATE: I also wanted to share that you can read the first six chapter of Across a Star-Swept Sea here and here you can listen to its playlist.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase of any type using these links, I receive a small kickback.

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