Genres: Post-Apocalyptic Romance, Young Adult Romance
Published by Balzer + Bray
Released on October 14, 2014
After being left in awe of the worldbuilding and plot of For Darkness Shows the Stars and reading the short intro novella that came between the first book and this one, I was ready to drop back in the author’s post-apocalyptic world for this exciting retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
I suppose since this is more companion novel than sequel that Across a Star-Swept Sea could be read standalone or out of order, but I think some of the late crossover elements as well as background make more sense when they are read in order.
The author weaves an elaborate history and backdrop for the events and setting of her story. I like how she does this while still delivering an exciting and well-paced story. The characters are colorful and larger than life. They have their flaws and vulnerabilities, but their strengths, too. The stakes are much higher in this one with death seeming easier than the punishment of a pill that takes away intelligence and reduces people to little more than docile animals if they are ‘tried and found guilty’ by the revolution.
Like the earlier book, this one retells a classic or, rather, is influenced by an old classic, Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernell. The elements of drastic and bloody revolution, some revolutionaries only wanting to go as far as change and others have a thirst for horrific deeds and power with another nation just across the sea who have a stable government. This calls for the need of a hero who can stand up to the atrocity until peace and sound thinking can be restored.
I found it fascinating that everyone is forced to consider what a class-based society, equality of humanity, equality of gender, repression vs. freedom of choice, and constant revenge vs forgiveness are the elements involved at the heart of the story. Relevant one might suggest.
Persis is the main narrator of the story with her male counterpart, Justen, as the one who most shares the narration. They are seeming opposites and wary partners throughout. Persis is an aristocrat and Justen a commoner. She is also the heroic Wild Poppy who steps into the dangerous role of rescuing those most affected by the terror of the southern island’s bloody revolution. Justen is a scientist from Galatea, the south island and he’s a revolutionary and is disgusted by aristos particularly the Albinians like Persis of the northern island. He doesn’t take reform as far as others and is horrified by what is happening. They work at cross purposes and together in turn because of their hidden identities and agendas. They have a derision for each other’s respective ways of life until, in close proximity, they realize they might have ignorantly misunderstood. Persis has to concede that Justen may have a point about many aristos and he learns that not all aristos are the same in their attitude toward commoners. There’s a great tension there because they both have their secrets. Persis and Justen have a love interest, but it is way in the back seat. Rightly so, since they are both fighting to save people and break the power of the extreme revolutionaries not to mention they have reasons not to trust or respect each other- or so they think.
My only real niggle is the ending. It came like rain on a campfire- rushed and abrupt and disappointing. It leads the reader in the right direction in a hazy ‘this is how it will likely happen in the future’ way, but I wanted a bit more than just speculation and I definitely wanted something more for Persis and Justen after all they had been through. A follow-up novella like what was done with the first book would have been great. And that brings a second niggle to mind, actually- the crossover characters. It felt more like a distraction even including them in this story since they, too, were part of that hazy, rushed ending. I was left with a few ‘what abouts’ and I hate being left curious.
But, all in all, I loved the story and will miss this world that the author created. I would snap up in a flash any new installments to the series if the author chose to write one. Probably one of my favorite YA Post-Apocalyptic series ever and I heartily recommend it.
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