Category Archives: Literary BFFs

New BFF: Persis Blake from Across A Star-Swept Sea

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. 

New BFF: Jack Burden from All The King’s Men

Today I finished listening to All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren on audio book and I LOVED it. In fact, I knew even before I reached the end that it was going to go on my Favorites shelf. It was just that good. The writing is poetic, the characters are memorable, and book is chock full of interesting themes and contrasting ideas. Most of all, though, I love  Jack Burden.

This is the story of Willie Stark, an idealistic politician who slowly become becomes the very thing he fought against to get elected as he strives to amass power and make a difference. However, this is even more the story of his right hand man and the narrator of this book, Jack Burden. Jack comes across as a devil-may-care cynic, but deep inside he is an idealist. He is thoughtful, emotional, and struggles to find purpose for his actions. His character change in this book is remarkable and multilayered. He is truly an intriguing, relatable character. There wasn’t a single part where I genuinely got angry at him or didn’t understand where he was coming from. The author may take him dramatically in one direction…but never too far. He is never irredeemable. He is too self-aware for that. 

Anyway, Jack Burden has officially become one of my favorite literary characters and my new BFF. I really liked this book and there are many reasons, but I will wait to expound more on them in my end of the year 5 star book review post. For now, I’ll just say that this is one of my new favorites, but I hesitate to recommend it because there is language and some graphic scenes. Tread with care. If you do decide to take the plunge, enjoy this multilayered book with its stories within stories. It may be long but it is worth it.