Monday, August 25, 2014

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund is a post-apocalyptic retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and companion to For Darkness Shows the Stars.

On the island of Galatea, a revolution rages. The queen has been executed, and now aristocrats are being Reduced (having their mental capacities chemically diminished) by the leaders of the revolution. It's the beginning of a new era, according to the new leaders. Meanwhile, across a narrow stretch of sea, life in Albion goes on much as it ever has, with butterfly-like courtiers flitting through the court of the Princess Regent -- and none is brighter or flightier than Lady Persis Blake, one of the princess's closest friends. Persis plays the role of the airhead socialite, but she is leading a dangerous double life as the Wild Poppy, a daring spy who sneaks Galatean aristocrats and sympathizers across the channel to safety. On one such journey, when something goes wrong with her disguise (a sequence that temporarily alters her appearance) and she is taken ill, she is helped onto her yacht by Justen Helo, darling of the revolution, who was himself secretly looking for a way off Galatea and out of his old life as a revolutionary. The princess offers him refuge in her court. Fearing for his sister, still a devoted revolutionary, Justen needs a cover story, and the princess creates one for him: he will play the role of the smitten love interest to Lady Persis. Not knowing that she is the Wild Poppy, Justen initially despises Persis for being empty-headed and superficial, but as he gets to know her a little better, he finds himself attracted to her in truth. As for Persis, she feels she can't get close to anyone who might endanger her role as the Wild Poppy, and she can't trust Justen -- what if he's not as divorced from the revolution as he claims?

This gender-swapped Scarlet Pimpernel is a lot of fun. It is technically set in a post-apocalyptic society, but one that has moved on to create numerous scientific advances which integrate nicely into the plot. The romance angle isn't quite as high-stakes as the one in the original story, but it still works. Though this is a companion to For Darkness Shows the Stars, it stands well on its own. Readers who enjoy imaginative retellings of classic literature should give this book a try!

(Reviewed from a finished copy, courtesy of the publisher.)

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