Rarely have I felt like fist-pumping a book while I was reading it. But then, I had never read Diana Peterfreund before.
I fell in love with For Darkness Shows the Stars and then realized that there was a companion novel. I was so excited. Across a Star-Swept Sea is not a direct sequel, but it involves the same world and even has a few cross-over characters (I won’t say anymore–it would spoil the surprise).
This time, Peterfreund draws from the Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. I don’t know about you, but I greatly enjoyed the novel when I was in college, and I *especially* love the 1980s film adaptation with Anthony Anderson, Jane Seymour, and the delicious Sir Ian McKellan. I mean, how can anyone resist its charms?
Just as the Reduction wiped out people in For Darkness Shows the Stars, people who are not aristocrats (known here in New Pacifica as regs or regulars) face the dangers of Reduction and its damaging effects on the brain. The islands of Galatea and Albion find themselves in conflict, especially since Galatea is undergoing civil war and Albion is being governed by a princess placeholding the throne until her brother comes of age. The only hope of saving people from torture, Reduction, and certain death is the Wild Poppy, a wild, flamboyant, and highly elusive hero masquerading as a soppish and silly aristocrat.
And the Wild Poppy is a young woman.
My feminist heart grew three sizes today.
Persis Blake is 17 and living a double life as the Wild Poppy and a silly socialite. She and her best friends, Princess Isla and Andrine, have formed the League of the Poppy in order to save Galateans from Reduction. In the midst of a rescue, she meets budding scientist Justen Helo, a descendant of Persistance Helo (a woman who had formed a medical cure for Reduction). They agree to pretend to be in a relationship for a variety of political reasons, but then they become acquainted. And then secrets begin to surface that can jeopardize not only a potential relationship, but the entire world they know.
This is not just a love story. It’s the story of a woman brave enough to risk her life to save others who have been abused by figures of authority. It’s the story of finding your purpose in life. And it’s the story of not judging someone based on her appearance.
This is the line that made me pump my fists in sheer joy:
Yet even when she was acting her flakiest, she still managed to make more sense than his revolutionary friends back in Galatea. He’d known it, even if he hadn’t wanted to believe it. How odd that an array of gorgeous dresses and a few well-placed dumb comments were all it took to disguise her true self. Was it because she was a woman? Was it because Justen was actually far shallower than Persis had ever appeared to be?
That sound you hear is Diana Peterfreund dropping the mic.
Farewell, vapid heroines. So long, silly young adult novel stereotypes. This is an awesome book about awesome ladies. The romance is secondary to the action, science, and adventure deftly integrated into this novel. The female friends are not fighting about boys–they are fighting to save the world from evil.
Across a Star-Swept Sea is easily one of my favorite CBR picks this year. I think I might even like it better than For Darkness Shows the Stars. It’s an exciting, affirming novel about what a young woman can do and be if she only believes in herself.