Saturday, October 19, 2013

Book Review: Across a Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Book: Across a Star Swept Sea
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Published: October 15, 2013
Source: Review copy from publisher via Edelweiss

Everyone on the tiny island of Albion knows silly, fashion-obsessed Persis Blake. The princess’s best friend wouldn’t think of going anywhere without her custom-genetically-engineered sea mink or in an outfit that didn’t match her bright yellow (not blond, yellow) hair. What nobody knows is that she’s the daring Wild Poppy, personally responsible for rescuing aristos from the bloody Revolution in the neighboring country of Galatea. And she likes it that way.

When she gets in a jam, it's one of the Revolution's shining stars, Justen Helo, who comes to her rescue. But can she trust him? Until she has her answer, Persis will have to work overtime to keep her secret, or more than her own life might be forfeit.

Although this book takes place in a radically climate-changed future Earth, I kept wanting to call it “The Scarlet Pimpernel . . . IIIIINNNN SPAAAAACE.” The Scarlet Pimpernel influence is obvious, and the IIIINNNN SPAAAACE part? Well, it’s that kind of sweeping sci-fi adventure. Like her earlier book in this world (For Darkness Shows the Stars, otherwise known as "Persuasion . . . IIIIIINNNN SPAAAAACE") Peterfreund uses a future society and technological advances to evoke and examine a much older time and more rigid class system than what we're used to.

I did spend awhile wanting to smack Justen, who’s so busy being self-righteous and trying to atone for his own sins that he almost misses what’s right in front of his eyes - namely that there’s quite a bit more to Persis than she lets on. But given that she’s working so hard to fool everyone, I can give him a pass on this.

Persis herself - what can I say about her? She’s smart enough to get away with everything from genetically-engineered disguises to making an entire society think she’s a dingbat. She’s tough and loyal and turns on a dime, and yet she’s got great yawning vulnerabilities, chief among them her mother, who is succumbing to an Alzheimers’-like condition brought on by flawed genetic engineering. In some ways, though, she’s having a little too much fun, being a little too clever, which is when she puts herself and her mission in the most danger. While the stakes are deadly serious, it’s still a game, which is one of the appeals of the Scarlet Pimpernel character.

The ending didn’t completely satisfy me. Though I loved them dearly, the inexplicable appearance of Kai and Elliot from the earlier book threw me off. Unless there’s a wrap-up third book coming our way, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But the rest of the book was such a rush that I can forgive it.

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