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Life, Law & Libros

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund (3 stars)

Let me start by saying I loved the first book in this series, For Darkness Shows the Stars; I thought Peterfreund did an amazing job reworking Jane Austen's Persuasion. Across a Star-Swept Sea is a retelling of Baroness Orczy's French Revolution spy tale, The Scarlet Pimpernel. It takes place in the same world as FDSTS, but on different islands that are more sci-fi than dystopian. This should have been a spy thriller like its source material- British aristocrats infiltrating revolutionary France with a touch of "Mission Impossible"-style missions and "Aeon Flux" technology. Unfortunately, it lacked the danger of the original and replaced dangerous rescue attempts with romance.

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #2
Genres: YA, Sci-fi
Published on October 15, 2013
Published by Balzer + Bray
Final Rating: 3 stars

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.

Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.

In this thrilling adventure inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel, Diana Peterfreund creates an exquisitely rendered world where nothing is as it seems and two teens with very different pasts fight for a future only they dare to imagine.

What I liked:
  • The setting. It's the same planet as the first book, but you wouldn't know it for all the strange technology they use. It was like spending one week with the Amish and then getting dropped in the middle of Tokyo, circa 2100, but with nods to old world traditions and sensibilities. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the technology, the islands and the star cove. Cool stuff.
  • Overall, Persis is a decent main character. She's intelligent, determined and willing to make herself look ridiculous for the greater good.

What I didn't like:
  • Too many thoughts. The POV is third omniscient and it indulges far too much telling over showing, especially when jumping between the thoughts in everyone's heads. If it were limited to Persis' perspective, maybe. But the best part about spy tales is that you see all this stuff playing out and you never know whom to trust or what their motivations might be. Here, you know everyone's motivations and have to listen to them whine about how unsure they are of other people or scared of people finding out XYZ.
  • I wish the author had stuck to the original story (which I only know from the Anthony Andrews/Jane Seymour movie...shame) and spent more time in Galatea/France. This is where we get all the awkward/amusing run-ins with the bad guy. Humor! And danger. The danger is distinctly limited while safe at home in Albion/England.
  • The ending left me hanging. I don't mind semi-open endings, but not a completely open ending. And that's what it felt like in the case of the "strangers" from across the ocean. Also, I wanted more detail on the next steps for Galatea, a potential war, the genetic research, etc.

Final Thoughts:
The more I think about all the things this book did wrong and how bored I was in the middle, the more I question my 3 star rating. But I was happy enough with how it ended when I first finished, and it has a pretty cover, so we'll leave the rating as is. Just keep in mind, Across a Star-Swept Sea is heavy on the romance, light on the danger and intrigue. If you like romance, definitely give it a go.


  1. Aw no. I loved For Darkness Shows the Stars, but I think this one would end up disappointing me. I'm usually impatient when books are boring and I don't like open endings either. Sigh. I think I'll pass on this for a while. Great review!

    1. If you like romance, you may not get as bored as I, you might still be bored. It ends in about the same spot as the movie, but there were enough additional elements at play to make it feel less complete. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  2. You need to read Persuasion!!! I'm sorry this didn't work for you :(. I really enjoyed this, but I agree that the ending was WIDEEEE open. In an odd way. I wish she'd done a third tying the first two stories together, and finishing this one off.

    1. I DO need to read Persuasion, along with most classic literature (and finally finishing the second half of P&P, which I stalled on because I watched the BBC series so often, I knew every line ^^;). I'm glad you liked Across a Star-Swept Sea! But I think you're right; a third book to more fully round out and end the series would be good.

  3. I loved this one! I liked For Darkness Shows the Stars, but I really loved this one. I think there should be more to this companion series though. I love the world that Peterfreund has created!

    Fabulous review, Kel!

    1. Thank you! Yeah, I don't think I was quite the intended audience for Across a Star-Swept Sea. ;) But I'm glad you loved it! Another book set in this world would definitely be welcome.

  4. haha replaced danger with romance that could yeah...sit wrong with me. Who knows though I just bought the first one. Sometimes I can dig romance. Oh and Aeon Flux being mentioned just gives it a leg up even with the 'eh' overall. Just not priority then.

    1. I really liked the first book, FDSTS; I think I gave it 4 stars. I'm glad I read this, for the setting if nothing else, but yeah, probably not high priority. ;)