The good news? The books I did read were amazing.
I adore this series. I definitely plan on reading it again. It's the perfect balance of humor, romance, family, and adventure. And when I say humor, I mean the best humor I've read in any book in forever. The basic story is this-- at the age of sixteen, Gwyneth Sheppard discovers that it is she who inherited the family time-traveling gene (not her cousin Charlotte, as everyone expected). She then spends the next couple of weeks navigating all the secrets and conspiracies that come along with it.
I have to sing Gwyneth's praises as an "ordinary" heroine. Ordinary boy/girl thrown into extraordinary circumstances is a common enough theme, but apart from the inconvenient tendency to randomly jump back in time, Gwyneth has no other secret Chosen One weapons (unless you count exhaustive knowledge of pop culture). She isn't top of her class, she hasn't had the benefit of the same history and culture training that Charlotte has. She's left to flounder in this new life with almost nothing to go on. I really had the sense of, "If this had been me, I would have stubbed my proverbial toe and bumped my proverbial head every bit as much."
And don't even get me started on the supporting characters. Just... go read the series, everyone! (Though you should probably start with Book #1, Ruby Red, which is not pictured here because I didn't read it this month).
Finally, in addition to praising the author, I have to throw in a word of kudos for the English translator, Anthea Bell. The original books are in German, but if the inside cover (and the internet) hadn't told me, I'd never have known. Translating is hard enough for ordinary texts. Trying to translate the magic of a great book into another language is monumentally difficult, and nine times out of ten, when I'm reading a translated book, I always feel the loss on some level. Not so here. So thank you, Ms. Bell, on a stellar job.
Author's website (if you happen to speak German)
Amazon Link for Book #1.
"They seek her here, they seek her there..."
First off, I read this book this past week during the polar vortex and I'm so glad I did because it's set on a colorful, warm tropical island, and it was very therapeutic. I'm calling it Book Therapy.
Actually, it's set on two warm, lush, tropical islands-- Albion and Galatea, the two nations of New Pacifica, all that remains of humanity on Earth after the Reduction decimated the old civilizations centuries ago. On Galatea, the lower classes have overthrown their oppressive aristocracy, but the new regime is proving little better than the old. Anyone who stands against the new military regime-- whether an Aristo or a Reg-- is apprehended and robbed of their mind by a cruel reduction drug.
Across the narrow sea on Albion, Lady Persis Blake does not sit idly by. She secretly assumes the role of the Wild Poppy, a gallant hero who rescues the innocent from Galatea in thrilling escapades that infuriate the despotic Citizen Aldred, now holding Galatea in his grasp. At home, Persis hides herself behind a facade of a glittery, apathetic courtier, the last person anyone suspect of being a cunning spy.
This book is a masterpiece in sensory detail. When I said it helped to warm me up I really wasn't kidding. I'm in serious danger of over-using the word "lush" as a descriptor. The colors, the fragrances, the salty sea air, the fashion, and the political tension all drip right out of the pages and into your head.
Oh, yeah, and the romantic tension. That too. Persis's attraction to the charismatic Justen Helo, idealist, scientist, and revolutionary is convenient in the fact that she's under orders to pretend she's in love with him. But inconvenient since she can't be sure whose side he's really on.
Fans of The Scarlet Pimpernel might recognize the similarities in the premise, and they would not be mistaken. This gender-swapped re-telling of the classic masterpiece pays spectacular homage to its source material. Fans of Diana Peterfreund will also enjoy cameos from the characters of the book's sister-novel 'For Darkness Shows the Stars' - itself an adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion - but Star-Swept is not a sequel and you don't need to read For Darkness first to appreciate. Read them both, but feel free to pick which one you prefer as a starter. No wrong answers.
But really, do yourself a favor during the next polar vortex and add this one to your reading list. Book Therapy!