by Diana Peterfreund
YA Science Fiction
Amazon / Goodreads
Plot Summary:Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.
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.
Review:I did not read the first book in this series - For Darkness Shows the Stars - because I was so excited by the prospect of a Scarlet Pimpernel retelling that I couldn't wait. Consequently I am a bit confused by the drug/brain disease/reduction aspect of the story. It didn't really make sense to me, and for the most part all the scientific explanations for it was a muddle. Which is unfortunate because it's such a big part of the story.
The fact that this is inspired by The Scarlet Pimpernel is also unfortunate to me because I love that book so much. And it created some expectations in me about this story that is probably not fair to the book. On it's own I think the story was entertaining, but I wanted to really believe in Persis as this great, daring and clever spy. She was pretty daring and intelligent, but it seemed like she relied too much on changing her looks and on her contacts to get her through. When something goes wrong, she can't overcome it without help, which is almost never the case in the Pimpernel stories. One thing I really enjoy about the Pimpernel is how he almost always has a plan to get himself out of a scrape. If you are coming to this book with the mindset that this will be just like a Pimpernel adventure but with teens, like I did, you will probably be a little disappointed.
The story was not as much of an adventure tale as I thought it would be either because it relied more on the character drama and politics of New Pacifica and Galatea. I would have liked to see more of the missions, but instead there was more shown of Persis in her alter ego as a dimwitted socialite. With the romance, I did think it was sweet and nicely done, but I was not as taken with it as I wished. Partly because it's hard to understand why Justen felt so attached to Persis after only glimpses of her true self. And it did get repetitive at times with how much Persis was doubting Justen's motivations and yet wanting to believe in him.
My review so far makes it seem like I didn't enjoy this book, when I really did actually. I did try not to compare it so much to The Scarlet Pimpernel, and on it's own, this is a very engaging story with great characters. There's enough danger and self-sacrificing heroism to make me happy with it's comparison to the Pimpernel, and the conclusion was in every way satisfying. This wasn't a perfect read for me, but ultimately I was entertained by the plot twists and the character relationships.