That’s Before Diana Peterfreund (January – June), and After Diana Peterfreund (July- today).
Back in July, while shopping for books to bring on vacation, my favorite book-seller recommended For Darkness Shows the Stars to me. She promised I would like it, and I was helping support a local author, so I picked it up AND IT WAS AWESOME. A futuristic, dystopian re-telling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, I ate it up and told everyone I knew about it. And somehow, I missed the fact that there was a companion book (a sequel, of sorts), this one set in the same world, and a re-telling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. Because I hadn’t ever read The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was a bit worried that I might not like this book as much as the first. And so I picked this one up, slightly nervous that I would be disappointed.
Happy to report, I’m not. At all. This book kicked some serious Cannonball ass.
If you’ve read bonnie and Malin‘s wonderful reviews, you know that while the world in this book is the same as its predecessor, but with a new cast of characters, and a new setting. I don’t really want to get into the details of the plot — yes, the world has been decimated by the Reduction, the same genetic “war” that was described in For Darkness Shows the Stars. But in this book, Reduction has been cured. The citizens of New Pacifica (two neighboring islands, Albion and Galatea), haven’t seen a natural-born reduced in generations.
But a new evil has been created — a “reduction” pill to use as punishment against those who speak out against the leaders of Galatea, who are in the midst of a revolution. The wealthy “aristos” are warring against the “regs”, and these pink reduction pills are being used on anyone who dares to commit treason.
Meanwhile, on neighboring Albion, the current princess is simply a placeholder until her toddler brother comes of age. She’s gets little respect from her advisors and is insulted to her face constantly about her inability to rule. Over on Albion, only men have power. Women can busy themselves with fashion and gossip, but would never be taken seriously as a leader.
Aristos and Regs on both islands are worried about revolution and reduction, as well as a potential war between the islands. Out of this confusion and conflict, The Wild Poppy is born. The Wild Poppy is an Albian spy who travels in secret to Galatea, to rescue aristos who have been captured and reduced and bring them to Albion for asylum, as well as for medical treatment. The identity of The Wild Poppy is a secret that very few know — but most assume that the spy is a brave, strong man.
Enter Persis Blake, a beautiful, rich, teenager from Albion. Best friend to the princess, she also just happens to be The Wild Poppy. When she isn’t dressing up in outlandish outfits to entertain at court, she’s breaking into Galatean prisons, risking her life to save others. Her secret double life was fascinating. Having to act like a ditzy teenage girl, while secretly plotting to rescue families in peril, and risking her life in secret can really take its toll.
Then we get some adventure, lots of action, and a little bit of romance, too.
Famous Galatean Justen Helo (his grandmother invented the cure to Reduction) decides to ask for asylum in Albion. He’s also a scientist (and has a few secrets, himself), and he discovers that while an aristo who is given a pink reduction pill will be able to recover, a reg who is given the same pill will never be the same. This discovery sends The Wild Poppy into a frenzy — her goal is to save as many Galateans as possible before anything tragic can happen.
Yes, there is a love story here. Of course there is. But it really took a back seat to the rest of the plot. First and foremost, Persis was a selfless hero, not a lovestruck girlfriend. I liked that. This was a book that I plan to set aside for my own daughter to read when she is old enough, so that she can see a book about a strong group of young women (and yes, young men) that isn’t all about some stupid love triangle, about changing for a boy you barely know, or about girls being mean to each other. The girls in this book supported and cared about each other, they were brave, they were intelligent. They were impressive all around.
Now I’m off to read the original Scarlet Pimpernel…I enjoyed this way too much to not know more about the original source material.