Across a Star-Swept Sea
Two generations ago, the Helo Cure ended the Reduction in New Pacifica, ensuring that no one else in the two island nations would be born with the genetic-engineering-induced brain damage that caused the wars that nearly destroyed humanity. Now, though, a terrifying revolution against the upper-class aristos in the southern island of Galatea threatens to bring the Reduction back for anyone who stands it its way --- upper- and lower-class citizens alike. Their best hope is the Wild Poppy, a daredevil aristo vigilante from Albion, the northern island, who rescues the enemies of the revolution from the horrors of Reduction.
"ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA is a standalone post-apocalyptic political romance with a tightly crafted plot, nuanced characters, complex conflict and a detailed, believable futuristic world."
Lady Persis Blake is a model Albian courtier: gorgeous, fashionable, well-connected --- and very, very stupid. No one would connect her with the devious, brilliant Wild Poppy --- which is why Persis's plan to subvert the revolution works as well as it does. As long as everyone believes the Poppy is the most intelligent spy in New Pacifica (and is, more importantly, male) Persis can play the princess's empty-headed lady-in-waiting by day and rescue Galatean refugees by night.
Justen Helo is a Galatean medical prodigy, the grandson of the woman who invented the Helo cure --- and is on the run from the very revolution his research helped catalyze. After secretly sabotaging the Reduction drug he inadvertently invented, he is only safe in Albion, and only if the Galateans don't realize that he left because of his grave doubts about the path the revolution has taken. To protect himself, his sister and his subversive medical research from the increasingly unhinged revolutionary Vania Aldred, he must fake a romance with the shallow Persis Blake.
With this fabricated relationship, Persis's dangerous deception is thrown into disarray as she attempts to keep Justen from seeing behind the flighty mask she has constructed for herself. She can hardly trust the revolution's darling with the secrets of her true identity, and Justen can hardly trust Albion's biggest gossip with the secrets of his medical research --- which is all rather inconvenient, as they are both in very great danger of actually falling in love.
ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA is a standalone post-apocalyptic political romance with a tightly crafted plot, nuanced characters, complex conflict and a detailed, believable futuristic world. Its alternating third-person point of view adds layers of secrecy and high-stakes suspense. Peterfreund does not skimp on lush descriptions of the tropical landscape and the colorful Albian court --- especially Persis's lavish wardrobe. Fans of the companion novel, FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, will especially appreciate the expansion of the world and the brief reappearance of favorite characters.
Though ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA is set in the same world at approximately the same time as FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS, its characters and plot are all new. Readers who plan to read FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS should probably choose it first to avoid spoilers, but readers need not be familiar with it or with Baroness Emma Orczy's original to enjoy this science fiction, gender-flipped retelling of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL.
Reviewed by Quinn Colter on May 29, 2013