My rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
Many years ago, the world was destroyed by a sudden catastrophe caused by people making too many genetic enhancements on themselves. This catastrophe, called the Reduction, left most of the world’s population mute and with very low brain functioning. What followed was a colonial society where people who chose not to modify themselves became aristocrats and caretakers, while the Reduced became less-than-human workers/slaves for the aristocrats. This history was relayed to us in For Darkness Shows the Stars, the first book of this series, but in Across a Star-Swept Sea, we see how a different society has lived with and changed things because of the Reduction.
Persis, our heroine, lives in New Pacifica, a group of islands that are seen as a paradise because the Reduction is over there. The Helo Cure saved millions of lives in Albion and Galatea, the two main islands, and now everyone lives in tropical paradise. Except that lately, there’s been a massive revolution in Galatea against the aristocrats, and it’s gotten out of hand, with revenge being more of a motivation than social change. Things have gotten so bad that the regs, or regular people have a drug that simulates being Reduced, and they’re now feeding it to as many aristos as possible.
Persis is a rich, beautiful aristocrat who has every convenience available to her. She’s a flighty and stupid lady-in-waiting to Princess Isla in the royal courts of Albion. Secretly, though, since the revolution, Persis has been playing this role in order to disguise her true nature as the Wild Poppy, a masked hero who is trying to help both regs and aristos escape from the Galatean revolution that has turned sour.
Persis is already doing some pretty dangerous things to save people in Galatea, but add into the mix a famed medic and Galatean named Justen Helo (of the Helo Cure) who has some serious ties to the revolution and no love for Persis, and you’ve got a pretty awesome setup and some steamy romance on your hands.
Ok. Be prepared, guys. I’m basically going to fangirl all over this book.
You all know my love for Diana Peterfreund – I’ve read pretty much everything she’s written, and she’s totally an auto-buy author for me.
With Across a Star-Swept Sea, Diana has completely surpassed herself. This is the best YA book she’s written. If you loved For Darkness Shows the Stars, you will ABSOLUTELY love Star-Swept (not least because there MAY be a little cameo by some of your favourite characters). If you enjoyed Rampant and Ascendant, you HAVE to read this book, because there are some themes that are similar that I feel are explored more interestingly in this book (I know, don’t kill me, but I really think it’s true). And if you love Secret Society Girl, think Amy’s sass and secrets turned up to eleven.
The best part of this book is how brilliantly the world-building, plot, and character development come together. The world is SO detailed, so vibrant, and so logical. You really believe and understand why Albion, the more indulgent of the two islands of New Pacifica, would end up as the more gengineering-obsessed place, and you understand that, as a result, people in Albion are a lot more interested in fashion and appearance. In contrast, Galatea, the other island, is much more suspicious of gengineering using bodies, and thus, their appearance and their clothes are much more natural and practical. It’s no wonder that the citizens of Galatea revolted against their excessive queen.
The details of the world, and the fact that, in Ally Carter‘s words, “no one is more underestimated than a teenage girl” make Persis and her story so believable and so enveloping. I sunk into Persis’ story and her world so deeply that by the end of the book, I wanted Diana to write a comprehensive history of New Pacifica. This is Harry Potter levels of detail, guys.
Because of the world building, the story is complex (as you can see by my four paragraph synopsis) – it’s not just about the Wild Poppy and the revolution, there’s also another major plot about finding a cure for a disease, and of course, there’s the romance. Diana brilliantly weaves together the strands of this plot, allowing us to see not just Persis’ viewpoint, but that of Justen, her love interest, and a few of the other characters as well.
But let’s get back to the romance. Persis and Justen are…SO cute. This is one you guys will ship – it’s full of push and pull, sass and flirting. It’s really a meeting of two minds…with a lot of fun, double-meaning dialogue, because Justen struggles with the idea of liking a girl as frivolous as Persis pretends to be, even though he keeps getting glimpses that she’s not a silly aristo, while Persis is struggling with how to be her fake self with a guy as awesome as Justen, and whether she can trust Justen at all.
It’s a great love story, and there are moments that I swooned over like crazy. Persis and Justen are so well-drawn as characters, and so obviously perfect for one another that I really was turning pages like crazy just to see how things would end.
If I have one gripe – and man, is this a small gripe in this book – it would be that the ending seemed to wrap up a little quickly. Don’t get me wrong, the ends are all tied up and I was mostly satisfied..but I felt like I needed an epilogue, or one more scene with all of the characters just to tie things all together. Because this story is SO detailed, I just wanted to know so much more at the end of the novel, not just with the main character, but with everyone who showed up in the novel. Even though I could guess at what would happen next…I think my shipper’s heart just wanted a little more canon romance and lots of what would happen in the future.
That said, I can’t say that I would have changed the ending – only added to it – because seriously, this book is the BEST.
|Yes, that is my BFF and me. =p|
Your BFF Protagonist: Persis is the BFF of your dreams, guys. I want her to be real so I can pretty much be her. In fact, I love Persis so much that I kind of wondered if she was a little too perfect – I mean, she’s gorgeous, she’s super smart, she’s a good friend, she’s got great taste in fashion…and she’s basically a superhero to boot. But what I realized is that her flaws are a lot like those of Veronica Mars (who I also think is pretty much perfect) – she’s inherently suspicious, she doesn’t trust people that easily, and she’s sort of afraid to follow her heart when it comes to romance. And like VM, this makes for a great believable character.
Amazing Secondary Characters: Everyone in this book is amazing. Princess Isla is a badass. The people who help her in her quest to be the Wild Poppy? Also fully developed, rounded characters. There’s no one in this book you won’t love (except the evil people, of course – and even then, you’ll understand why they do what they do).
Superhero Sass: Persis is like Batman or Arrow or Veronica Mars, where there’s a lot of bad-ass solving problems and saving people – she doesn’t have special powers, but she does have access to a lot of awesome resources that make her adventures pretty cool.
Heart-squeezing Romance: Guys, I can’t even explain it. Here, have a quote: “He moved his mouth over hers, hot and hard and hungry for understanding or absolution or something else entirely unexpected.” This romance is SEXY.
Frockaliciousness: For a fashion addict like me, this book is couture heaven. At one point, there are, like, five pages of description of what everyone is wearing. Sound excessive? It’s not. In a world where fashion helps to disguise and create Persis’ persona, fashion is a really big deal. And trust me, the frocks are nothing to scoff at. The image above is one from Diana’s Pinterest page, pinned for Persis.
Idealism: There’s a line that one older character says to Persis at one point, and, it kind of sums up the book for me, “At twelve years old, I was young and idealistic and lucky that I happened to be right. So that’s why I know it’s foolish to tell you how dangerous this whole Wild Poppy business is and utterly pointless to say you’re too young to pull it off. Because I know from experience that sometimes it’s only the young ones who are crazy enough to change the world.”
The Final Word
Across A Star-Swept Sea is, to me, the perfect convergence of all of the things that Diana does best: sassy main characters, flirty banter from really awesome couples, amazing world-building, a belief in making the world around you better, and a complex plot with story elements and ideas that have really never been done or thought of. If you like complex, smart YA fiction, you need to read this book. This is, by far, the best, most under-hyped spec fic romance I’ve ever read. Go read it NOW.