This spring I read For Darkness Shows the Stars. I’ll admit, I was hesitant because of my great love for Jane Austen’s Persuasion. How do you retell that story with a sci-fi, dystopian spin and not make me want to die inside? Well, Diana Peterfreund did it, and she did it so well that it has been firmly placed on my favorites shelf forever. So, when I received an ARC for her second story in this series, Across a Star Swept Sea, I was a little more than excited. fangirl squealing> And a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel? Sink meh! 😉
First of all, let me just tell you about this world building. Diana makes you want dive into this world. It’s the same world that For Darkness Shows the Stars takes place in but yet so very different. You’ll see what I mean when you read the book (because you are so going to want to put this in your TBR pile…trust me!). The clothes and the hair and disguises are so vivid, you just want to actually see them and touch them…and wear them! And the complexity, yet simple delivery of these details is exquisite. To summarize, there are two neighboring islands, Albion and Galatea. Galatea is in the midst of revolution which, like the French revolution it is based on, started off with noble intentions and ended up persecuting a lot of people who did nothing wrong. The Wild Poppy takes it upon herself to right as many of these wrongs as possible.
Persis, a.k.a. The Wild Poppy, is so amazing. She’s conflicted in so many ways and is supremely clever. As in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Persis has to feign being a ditz and a self-absorbed aristocrat in an effort to deflect suspicion on her spying/rescuing habits. While inside she is clever, spunky, driven and resourceful, outside she is dimwitted, flighty, and selfish. By night, she rescues the unjustly persecute victims of a violent Galatean revolution gone wrong; by day, she parties with Princess Isla, the Princess Reagent of Albion and Persis’ best friend, and works on being the most prominent fashionista in the country. Unable to rule on her own because she is female, Isla “rules” in place of her little brother until he is of age and must answer to a council of political lackeys who don’t respect her. She and Persis work together brilliantly to both undermine the council and achieve their goals. Then there is Justin Helo, the Marguerite St. Just character, who is thrown into the mix as a love interest for Persis. But let’s not assume things will be simple for them. Drama must ensue, and boy does it!
The tie in with For Darkness Shows the Stars was perfect. I can’t go into that much because I don’t want to be spoilery, but let’s just say everything is very fulfilling and wonderful! Diana also doesn’t shy away from some pretty serious issues. I loved the theme of female empowerment. In Albion, it’s very difficult to be respected as a woman and Diana takes her characters through a pretty interesting journey of discovery. Persis and her colleagues quickly discover that politics and philosophies are rarely black and white and therefore are extremely difficult to navigate. Even issues of aging/ill parents was dealt with quite effectively.
Bottom line, Diana Peterfreund, you are a genius. Across a Star Swept Sea is an absolutely enthralling read filled with intrigue, romance, and a healthy dose of snarky humor. Beautifully told and wonderfully written down to the very last word.