Across a Star-Swept Sea, by Diana Peterfreund

ImageLady Persis Blake appears to be nothing more than a beautiful, air-headed socialite who only cares for clothes and hairstyles. Her friend, the Princess Isla, has recently become the regent of Albion when her parents died in an accident and her brother is still a baby. Persis throws Isla’s parties and gives her fashion advice. In the neighboring kingdom of Galatea, a revolution is taking place in which the “regs” (working people of the middle class) are capturing the aristocrats and dosing them with a drug to destroy their mental faculties in revenge for the years that the aristos kept the workers “reduced” so that they could only perform manual labor.

Handsome and brilliant Justen Helo, a descendant of the revered scientist, Persistence Helo, who discovered the cure for the Reduction, runs away from his guardian in Galatea and makes his way to Albion, where he hopes to work against the terrors of the revolution. The princess concocts a public story that Justen and Persis are romantically involved, although the proud scientist Justen could never be interested in a shallow flirt like Persis. Little does he know that Persis is the true identity of the famous Wild Poppy, a spy who has been rescuing the aristocrats of Galatea and bringing them to safety in Albion. Persis does not trust Justen and has reason to believe that he is a spy, as well.

Diana Peterfreund continues her sci-fi reinterpretations of classic literature in this post-apocalyptic version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Last year, she released the spectacular For Darkness Shows the Stars, a seemingly impossible sci-fi rendition of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. This second volume is not a sequel, but it makes much more sense if the two are read in order. Some of the same characters appear, and the world-building is much clearer in the first book. I may have read Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel at some point, but I know it best from the movie starring Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour. If you haven’t seen it, you should go put it in your Netflix queue right now. I’ll wait.

Back? OK.

I’m not sure that this is a Printz type of book, but who cares? The most amazing thing about both of these stories is that they work. What a risk, to try to rewrite beloved classics with wild technology and futuristic societal mores! There’s a bit of hard thinking, a bit of romance, and a lot of fun.

Highly recommended for teens and adults.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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