Diana Peterfreund, Across a Star-Swept Sea
In this post-apocalyptic retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel (!), Earth’s civilization has been all but destroyed, thanks to the horrific unintended consequence of genetic engineering known as Reduction. Now, the island of Galatea seeks vengeance through revolution: aristocrats are being captured and forcibly Reduced, their minds irreparably damaged. Meanwhile, the neighboring island of Albion seems more interested in flirtation and gossip than in Galatea’s problems — except for the Wild Poppy, who daringly rescues Galatean aristocrats out from under the noses of the rebels. No one suspects that the Wild Poppy is really Persis Blake, a seemingly idle and frivolous courtier of Albion. In order to maintain her cover, Persis must befriend Justen Helo, a Galatean scientist whose family is famous for curing the initial Reduction. Justen seems to disagree with his country’s violent policies, but can Persis trust him? And will she be able to maintain her cover as their relationship deepens?
The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my all-time favorite books, so I was really excited to discover this retelling with a sci-fi twist! I think the novel does a good job of following the original story while not being a scene-for-scene copy. While the original novel is mostly told from Marguerite/Justen’s point of view, this version is largely from the perspective of the Pimpernel character, Persis. In fact, one of the most fun aspects of this book is that the characters are gender-flipped! I did have one large-ish problem with the book, though; most of the larger narrative of How We Got To This Point was totally lost on me. There were some wars, and some people got Reduced, and the people who didn’t became the new aristocrats, I think? To be fair, it’s not that complicated…I’m afraid I just didn’t want to pay that much attention! Still, I picked up enough to get the gist of things, so I guess it doesn’t matter that much. Overall, I didn’t love the book, but it’s still a fun read for Pimpernel fans, especially those who also like YA.