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Book Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Across A Star-Swept Sea, the second For Darkness Shows the Stars book, is just like the first: beautifully written with lovable characters.

Book Review: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

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across a star swept sea by diana peterfreund book review

Title & Author: Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy- Science Fiction, Retelling

Release Date: October 15, 2013

Series: For Darkness Shows the Stars #2

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

How I Got the Book: Bought


“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.”

Well-Developed Worldbuilding

Across A Star-Swept Sea is the second book in the “For Darkness Shows the Stars” series, although it can definitely be read as as standalone if you haven’t the first book.

This is also my second encounter with Diana Peterfreund’s writing. And, she is masterful.

Peterfreund reinvented the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel for the future. I didn’t realize that in the first book, the world she created around the retelling of Persuasion would be the same world continued in Across A Star-Swept Sea.

This concept is quite unique, and I love how the original story being told is completely re-imagined. The author created a completely standalone world that doesn’t need the retelling aspect but is enriched by it. I think that’s extremely important in a retelling.

There’s a difference in using an idea as inspiration and rehashing the same exact story. Peterfreund excels at the former.

I must say, though, that the world is a very complex one. I had to mentally rehearse the history of New Pacificia, as things can get a bit confusing.

I’ll summarize it for you: In a futuristic world, people have meddled with genetics to improve humanity. As is the case with any gene tampering, it backfired. The wealthy who could afford gene modification became reduced, a term that signifies a mental handicap where the people affected cannot speak and have reduced brain function.

Those who didn’t undergo genetic modifications are called Regs (regulars). This history is true in both stories.

However, in Across A Star-Swept Sea, we learn that a woman named Persistence Helo created a cure for for the reduced and inoculated the entire generation affected by the Reduction, thus reversing the effects of being reduced.

The twist is that the children of the Reduced have DAR – dementia of acquired regularity – when they age. So there are regs, working class types and Aristos, the ruling class in New Pacifica.

With such a complex history there comes interest but also confusion. I hope my description doesn’t put you off. Across A Star-Swept Sea has a fascinating back story and one that serves the plot very well.

Characters I <3

If you can mentally parse out those details (which you can skim the basics of while reading), you are good to go.

Because the characters offer up the rest of the complexity. Persis is my literary hero. She’s smart and beautiful and a planning mastermind. She believes strongly in what she’s doing – aiding helpless aristos from being harmed by unstable revolutionaries.

And when she meets Justen Helo (the grandson of Persistence), she’s in danger. Not only of having her true identity revealed (she secrets around as the infamous Wild Poppy) but of having her heart broken (sorry, I couldn’t help add that dramatic flair).

Not that Justen would even know. All he sees is the vain and airheadded Persis Blake. The alternating POVs also help round out character development and reasoning behind particular opinions.

I actually enjoyed how political this book was…and how certain characters from the previous book make an appearance.


Some may be put off by the complex background of the story, but if they push through they’ll see the stunning writing and inspiring characters. The changing POV was perfect for this story, and I love how well defined and real Persis and Justen were. Across A Star-Swept Sea is a beautiful story, and I’ll officially read anything Peterfreund decides to write!

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.