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Across a Star-Swept Sea

Across a Star-Swept Sea is a YA sci-fi, dystopian retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel by Diana Peterfreund.

Though this story stands on its own, it brings back characters from Peterfreund’s wonderful For Darkness Shows the Stars – so I personally would recommend reading that first. You can read my review of For Darkness Shows the Stars here – but there will be no spoilers for it in this review, no worries!

New Pacifica’s two separate islands are all remaining of the world after centuries of war and destruction. Even the prior horror of the Reduction – a brain disorder that caused many of the wars and left much of the population without fully-functioning minds – is a thing of the past.

After all, there is now a cure.

Yet on the island of Galatea, there has been a revolution – a revolution against the aristocracy that has morphed into the ultimate revenge. A drug has been created to cause Reduction – and the revolutionaries are forcing anyone who disagrees with them to take it.

However, the enigmatic spy known as the Wild Poppy is determined to stop this.

On the neighboring island of Albion, their political issues are fiery but they have not slipped into rebellion. Their brightly colored fashions and partying court do their best to blind themselves to the threat Galatea’s revolution poses to their island – and the true terror their invented Reduction drug could bring.

No one would guess that gorgeous, airheaded, party girl Persis Blake is the Wild Poppy – and that’s exactly how she wants it. Sometimes it is difficult to hide her clever mind and deep concerns with a superficial, silly socialite fa├žade – but she knows it is the best way to continue her secretive work to save Galateans.

Meanwhile, Justen Helo has sought refuge in Albion – wanting to distance himself with the work he has done with the revolution in Galatea, and the direct impact he has had. To protect his reasons for leaving his island, he is tasked with pretending to be head-over-heels with Persis – which is difficult due to her ardent idiocy, though she is obviously attractive.

But when their respective secrets clash, they could cause New Pacifica to plunge into another dark age.

Perhaps one they could never recover from…

Diana Peterfreund has a marvelous mind. She has created here an expansive, believable, detailed futuristic world that is vibrant and vivid to the reader. Our characters, both the main characters and supporting, are well-constructed with full-fledged personalities and a grounded sense of realism.

Here we have a spy story, a war story and a story of love. Happily the romance is slow-building, based on knowing someone rather than being simply attracted to them, and is NOT the primary focus of this story.

No, the main plotline here is the suspenseful revolution and Reduction – the results of the drug that cured it and the drug that is returning it. It’s such a terrible, horrifying way to punish people – yet has an unsettling feeling of being all too plausible of the vengeful human race.

This is futuristic sci-fi at some its best with a cohesive, imaginative plot and great characterizations. I, myself, have not read or seen The Scarlet Pimpernel – but I am certainly more intrigued now.

And I will be waiting for more from Diana Peterfreund – who never ceases to amaze me with her absorbing, rewarding writing!

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