So I picked up this book because I enjoyed “For Darkness Shows the Stars” by this same author. And because it’s based on "The Scarlet Pimpernel." I’ll admit I’ve never actually read "The Scarlet Pimpernel," but I watched the first episode of the A&E miniseries countless times in high school due to my crush on Richard Grant. So I’m familiar with the basic storyline at least.
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.
I wasn’t sure going in though, how it would intersect with “For Darkness Shows the Stars”—like, I wasn’t sure how much from the first book I needed to remember. Luckily, the answer is not much. While “Across a Star-Swept Sea” takes place in the same world as “For Darkness Shows the Stars” (and a few characters from that book make a guest appearance), in general “Across a Star-Swept Sea” is self-contained and you don’t need to have read the other for it to make sense.
Anyway, I honestly wasn’t that impressed by “Across a Star-Swept Sea.” I mean, it was fine, but nothing about it really stood out to me about it. The characters were likeable enough, but I never truly cared about them. And the plot was a bit slow, I thought. Like, I swear all that happens is Justen sits around feeling guilty about his past and Persis flits around pretending to be a dumb. Persis does go on a couple of rescue missions, but even those aren’t particularly exciting. The world building was kinda fun—a futuristic Pacific island—but it sometimes had me rolling my eyes (the queen of the neighboring country was killed by a pod of genetically engineered mini-orcas, for pete’s sake). Mostly, I think this book just felt longer than it needed to be.
Overall, it was an okay book that had its moments, but I don’t know that I found it particularly memorable. (I do love the title, though.) Still, it was fun to read a "Scarlet Pimpernel" adaptation, though I’ll probably re-watch the A&E miniseries rather than reread this book if I’m ever in the mood for that story.
Rating: 3 / 5