Title: Scavenge the Stars
Author: Tara Sim
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication date: January 7 2020
Hardcover: 336 pages
When Amaya rescues a mysterious stranger from drowning, she fears her rash actions have earned her a longer sentence on the debtor ship where she’s been held captive for years. Instead, the man she saved offers her unimaginable riches and a new identity, setting Amaya on a perilous course through the coastal city-state of Moray, where old-world opulence and desperate gamblers collide.
Amaya wants one thing: revenge against the man who ruined her family and stole the life she once had. But the more entangled she becomes in this game of deception—and as her path intertwines with the son of the man she’s plotting to bring down—the more she uncovers about the truth of her past. And the more she realizes she must trust no one…
Stand alone or series: First in a duology
How did I get this book: Borrowed (Sribd)
Format (e- or p-): Audiobook
Scavenge the Stars is ostensibly a gender swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. I came to the book for Dark!Revenge! and stayed for the slow moving take on personal responsibility instead.
Amaya is a grunt knows as Silverfish on the Brackish, a debtor ship that uses children labour. She is 17 now and after years of being held captive paying off a debt she didn’t even know her parents had, she is about to be free. Her dream is to go back to Moray to meet her mom and finally put these dark days to rest. But just before she work off her last days, she rescues a man from drowning incurring further debt with a longer sentence and the ship’s captain – a man called Zharo – tells her that her mom is dead. With her dreams and hopes quashed, Amaya is more than willing to hear the offer that Boon, the rescued man, has for her: a new identity, riches and the chance to destroy the Mercado family, the ones who were truly responsible for ruining her life. And she will not forget Captain Zharo.
Cayo Mercado is a young man who is trying to put his past behind and turn his life around after his gambling pretty much his family’s fortune away. Now, his sister has caught a dreaded, almost always fatal disease and they don’t have the money to properly treat her. With the guilt and the responsibility weighting on him, Cayo agrees to his father’s demands for him to find a rich wife. Enter the alluring Countess Yamaa, recently arrived in Moray and with more riches than anyone he knows. But things go awry when his dealings with the most notorious underworld king go pear-shaped and he has to marry his daughter instead.
Alternating between Amaya and Cayo, the book offers an exploration of Moray’s complex society from top to bottom – the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy. Both Amaya and Cayo go through transformations. For Amaya there is the thread of revenge that infuses her every moment, leading her down a path that may not have a return. When she finally does kill someone, what does that mean for her?
In the meantime, Cayo’s guilt over his actions and more – over his father’s actions – offers an opportunity for the book to explore the idea of social and personal responsibility. If his father’s actions have impacted the entire city in a negative way, should Cayo tell the authorities? That decision is not an easy one. There is counterfeited money, the plague and more that could all lead back to the Mercado family.
And of course there is the sweet romance that develops between (bi) Cayo and Amaya/Yamaa, a romance that meets hurdles along the way since there are lies between them. I loved though how Cayo was super soft and gentle and Amaya brash and furious. One of the funnest scenes is when Amaya has to fight her way to rescue Cayo after a kidnapping.
Although the worldbuilding could have been a bit more fleshed out especially in terms of the world at large and the other forces at play outside of Moray, this is a duology and the way things were left, I can see those being better developed in the sequel.
I enjoyed for what it is was though: a sweet, gentle tale of revenge and righting wrongs. I cannot wait for the sequel.
Rating: 7 – Very Good