I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim
Series: Scavenge the Stars #1
Length: 336 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2020, 2020 New Release Challenge
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…
Packed with high-stakes adventure, romance, and dueling identities, this gender-swapped retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo is the first novel in an epic YA fantasy duology, perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Sabaa Tahir, and Leigh Bardugo.
That was….underwhelming. Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim is the first book in her series of the same name. It is touted as a gender-bent retelling of The Count of Monte Cristo. That alone is why I wanted to read it, but it fell short on so many levels.
The story opens on a debtor’s ship where Silverfish, formerly known as Amaya, spends her days hunting for pearls, waiting til she has enough to buy her way to freedom. When one day, so close to freedom, she helps save a man that is drifting and drowning in the sea, Silverfish finds herself running for her life. Boon, the man she saved, offers her a deal. Let him train her, and she can return to Moray, her home, with his wealth. There’s one catch though: she must help him bring down the man he feels responsible for his own situation, Kamon Mercado.
Amaya is a contradiction of a character. She is ruthless in her pursuit for revenge, not caring who she brings down in the process. Yet she cares about the other kids left on the debtor’s ship. So much so that she bargains with Boon to buy the ship and set them free. They are now under her care where they will stay until her job is finished. Amaya is easy to like. While she operates in a gray area of the law (and morality), she is focused and determined, loyal and caring in her own ways. I immediately rooted for her.
Then there’s Cato, the infamous son of Kamon Mercado, who Amaya is tasked with befriending. I’m not really sure how I feel about him. He used to spend his nights in the Vice Sector of the city gambling, drinking, and having relations (to put it nicely) with anything with two legs. He drug the family name through the mud, and now that they are broke, he is trying his best to live up to his father’s expectations and help rebuild the family name. Cato is hard to like. He wears a mantle of shame around and has very little self-esteem. I felt bad for him, but a lot of what happens to him in this book (and his past) falls squarely on his shoulders. His own actions bring about a lot of the trouble he faces. I really wanted to reach through the book, smack him and tell him to take responsibility for his actions.
While I like the characters and premise of the story, it fell apart for me in its execution. The first portion of the story is action-packed, then when Amaya returns to Moray, the plot and action stop. The back and forth POV between Amaya and Cato is distracting and does not flow well within the plot. While eventually these two separate storylines, converge, until they do, Cato’s story seems to serve one purpose: make the reader empathetic to him. It failed with me, and instead I found myself skimming his chapters to get back to the main story.
Overall, Scavenge the Stars was an okay read for me. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. I would have enjoyed the story more without Cato’s POV. I liked Amaya and her self-made mission. While her morality lived in the gray in-between area, she is laser-focused on her own goals and what she wants from the rest of her life. If you enjoy dystopian fantasy, I believe you may enjoy this one.