Let me begin by saying, I love The Scarlet Pimpernel. I love the book. I love the 1982 movie starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen. I love Sir Percy Blakeney, aka The Scarlet Pimpernel. I love the story, the series, the characters, everything.
So you better believe that when someone recommended a young adult, science fiction, gender-bender retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was understandably wary. I’ve seen The Scarlet Pimpernel retold before, and it isn’t always pretty. Thankfully, Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund turned out to be an amazing exception to the rule. This book was creative, well-written, fun, and actually quite believable. A great part of this was due to the main character: Lady Persis Blake. Aka, my new literary best friend.
I liked Persis initially simply because she reminded me of Sir Percy Blakeney. I came to love her, however, because she takes all those attributes I liked in Sir Percy and makes them uniquely her own. Persis is a smart, strong, and likable heroine. Her transitions from empty-headed court lady to fearless leader to nerdy and dutiful daughter were believable and fun. She is a heroine but she isn’t a revolutionary. At some level, she accepts and takes for granted the limits placed on women in her society and I was pleasantly surprised by that. She wasn’t angsty.
In fact, for a young adult novel, this book does a good job avoiding angst, even with the romance! No insta-love or mooning allowed.
Persis Blake combines all the attributes I like about The Scarlet Pimpernel with her own charm and context and I think that alone makes this book worth reading.