- Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
Half of New Pacifica, the terraformed island chain that is the only remaining habitable place after war “cracked open the Earth,” is now in the throes of a violent revolution. The citizens of Galatea overthrew the ruling “aristos,” using a drug to artificially reduce their mental capacities, and then imprisoned and tortured them. Persis Blake, a socialite and best friend to the queen in the neighboring island of Albion, has been conducting secret missions as the Wild Poppy, rescuing Galatean aristos while figuring out a way to keep the revolution from her kingdom’s shores. Her mission—and her heart—is compromised when Justen Helo, a handsome revolutionary and the inventor of the Galatean reduction drug, seeks asylum in the royal court. Complex in both plotting and themes, this science fiction revision of The Scarlet Pimpernel offers political intrigue, narrow escapes, and forbidden romance but ultimately suffers from an uneven pace and a confused message. A repetitive emphasis on Persis’ and Justen’s internal conflicts only ends up making their concerns seem tedious, while paragraphs of exposition explain the world but fail to establish atmosphere. Matters of class and gender are used more for window [End Page 231] dressing than careful examination, and the book seems unaware of the disability issues that arise with both the Reduced and the characters’ attitudes toward Reduction. The friendship between Persis and the queen, however, shines in its authenticity as the two girls reshape a relationship forged in childhood under the pressures of the adult world, so readers might still appreciate this addition to the action-heroine canon.