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Across a Star-Swept Sea - Diana Peterfreund An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.

Goodness gracious me. What an amazing, meaningful, thrilling book. Honestly, I expected a lot from Peterfreund, given I really enjoy her writing and storytelling skillz, as well as loved For Darkness Shows the Stars, but oh potatoes! Across a Star-Swept Sea was leagues and leagues better than the first instalment in terms of characters, prose, dialogue, plot, and development! I'm really at a loss for words here, ladies and gentlemen. What a seriously beautiful book.

Let's lay out some facts first:
* Is this a sequel to For Darkness Shows the Stars? Yes.
* I haven't read the first one yet! Can this stand alone? Yes.
* Is it really good? Hell to the YES.

Despite the fact that Peterfreund based this on an already established and famous work entitled The Scarlet Pimpernel, she was still able to give the book a voice and a life that stand on their own, with characters so distinct, dynamic and colourful; with a world so ravaged by an apocalypse long gone yet still lingers on; with a society so dysfunctional, broken, and distant; and with a plot so well-structured, thought out, and written. There is no bias here, folks, it's just good 'ole writing and storytelling.

Here are what I loved:

The characters: The main characters here are just amazing. Here we have Persis Blake, a famous socialite whose Alter Ego is the Wild Poppy, New Pacifica's infamous spy for rescuing aristos being held hostage and tortured by Galateans, and Justen Helo, the grandson of the famous Persistence Helo who found a way to cure the Reduced. We see the story unfold in both their perspectives, while also getting some from the one of the bad guys and from his sister, Remy. Honestly, the changes in POVs really worked because first and foremost, the individuals were all very distinct from one another, and the overall tone transformed each time to match their personalities. There was never a dull moment, and it was a delight to analyze the events from various perspectives. How was this certain instance perceived by Persis? What did Justen feel? How did Vania react? They're all so different that each POV change gave something new to the reader. Even the side characters, too, had unique personalities of their own! Despite having only little exposure, they were a pleasure to read, and I looked forward to scenes that involved them.

The story: The story is fantastic. It's thrilling, there's a sense of purpose and urgency, it's not dragging at all despite the humongous amount of pages. As you all know, I love stories that feature dysfunctional governments, uprisings, dictatorial regimes and tyrant rulers. I'm not sure why, but there's something about standing up to a force greater than you and succeeding not just because of your own strength, but also with the strength of everyone else, that greatly fascinate me. Of course, I already read enough about that from my political science classes, but reading it in fiction is just so much better as we get to immerse ourselves in the lives of the oppressed. That's what happened to me here. The writing was just so genuine and convincing, the escalation and development of events nicely built up that it was so hard to detach myself from the story. There is no joke when I tell you I truly felt for the characters and for the situation, bleak and hopeless it initially looked. If you're looking forward to a good read, get ready for this one, as it will take you to a rocky but fantastic ride!

The romance: The romance here is meaningful and well-developed. Of course, we all know both the hero and the heroine will end up with each other. That's not rocket science. What matters, however, are the trials and tribulations they go through together that give leeway for a relationship to grow, the development, the gradual realization of each other's worth. In this instalment, the lovers had a rocky start, and by the middle, it was still in neutral, gray grounds, but it was during this time that I felt giddy for both of them and for the confusion they felt for each other. Couple this with the political problem/background and the things they had to go through = win.

I seriously can't find a flaw in this book. None. I enjoyed every second and every page. I rarely go to sleep at 5 AM with the roosters in the neighbourhood tok-to-doodle-doo-ing and the first light showing in the sky, but I did with this gem. And guess what? I don't regret it. Peterfreund is a delightful writer and an even more spectacular storyteller, that the lack of sleep was just worth it in the end. If you're looking for a retelling of a classic with a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic feel, then you wouldn't want to miss this one come October.

Final Verdict: 100% 5/5 stars.