Scavenge The Stars by Tara Sim (Scavenge The Stars #1)
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Cover Design: Marci Senders (designer) & Tom Corbett (photographer)
Summary: 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…
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Scavenge The Stars is an intriguing tale of revenge! Amaya and Cayo traverse Moray, a tropical port city with an underbelly of corruption as they both seek vengeance in order to alleviate the pain of their pasts! Lush, immersive world building, a fast-paced plot, an all diverse/Queer cast, and wonderfully developed main characters makes Scavenge The Stars a highly entertaining and captivating read!
For years I’ve known about Tara Sim’s Timekeeper series, but I just have not taken the time to read it yet (hopefully I’ll get to it soon). Then, when I heard her newest series featured an epic revenge plot featuring stabby girls with knives, tropical cities, and much more, I knew I just had to pick up Scavenge!
I’m not sure how else to describe it, but this book was just SO good and lots of fun? And I feel like that’s what I needed right now. Also I will say its a YA Fantasy in the sense that it takes place in a secondary world, but there isn’t any magic!
Told through a dual POV we follow Amaya Chandra whose trapped on a debtors ship with other Water Bugs (children) controlled by the awful Captain Zhao. Then we have Cayo Mercado, son of a wealthy merchant whose recovering from a gambling addiction and trying to get back on his father’s good side (after losing quite a bit of money in the gambling dens of the Vice Sector and Slum King).
Sim layers so much development, incorporating vengeance into both Cayo and Amaya’s storylines, while also bringing a lot of character growth and this underlying hope for freedom that subtly weaves its way throughout the novel.
Amaya is almost through with her sentence aboard the Brackish and ready to see her mother again, after having spent so many years away from not only her family but also her home. But, when she saves a drowning man and risks increasing her stay, she knows there’s only one option…team up with this mysterious man named Boon and reap more wealth than she can possibly imagine, if she’s ready to enact vengeance along the way.
Amaya, now has to go undercover into the neutral city of Moray and take down wealthy merchant, Kamon Mercado.
As Cayo attempts to recover, his former lover/best friend Sebastian gets involved with Moray’s Slum King and he finds himself getting tangled back into its mysterious underbelly. As Ash Fever spreads across the city, he also has to grapple with the fact that his sister Soria has mysteriously caught it too.
Another important storyline of his journey involves his realization that he has to help keep his family afloat financially. So, as he begins to uncover more secrets about Moray and possibly his family, his entire world begins to slowly shatter.
What I feel is at the soul of Scavenge The Stars, among personal journeys of growth and reflecting on vengeance, it’s a book that heavily delves into themes of legacy and identity. Its something that I find, feels like is naturally interwoven into this story that Sim masterfully explores in this almost dual-sided city.
As Cayo and Amaya are so desperate to seek their own identities, they can’t help but be connected with the past deeds of their parents. They each grapple with understanding truths about their families and how they can overcome them despite feeling connected to that unsaid legacy. Alongside that link to a past they were never involved with, there’s another underlying truth that Sim presents and that’s how much the present is influenced by the past. The same can also be said for Romara who’s secretly trying to take over her father’s empire and destroy his legacy (FAMILIAL) in the process. I feel like these quotes from the book sum it up perfectly:
“…children are the victims of their parents’ crimes.” & “They had all been ravaged by the generation that came before them…” (154 / 195).
The world building is fantastic! From its first page, you could feel the cool sea air, navigate the double-sided nature of Moray, its tropical paradise of opulence and corruption. Traveling among the casino sectors and more historical 19th century atmosphere was just wonderfully detailed, rich with mythology, history and lavish estates, etc.
My only issue is that Moray is a neutral city caught between the Sun and Rain Empires. Although that itself is fascinating and leads to a lot of unique politics and intrigue, I still felt the empires (as important as they sounded) weren’t really developed all too much. We get descriptions of what they’d look like, but I never really felt that weight to how they’d impact Moray (unless it was briefly reminded to the reader). I wish there was more description/depth to the warring empires, because I did feel at a distance.
I also wish there was just a bit more description to Cayo and Amaya’s POVs to feel even more immersed in Moray.
Alongside legacy and identity, there’s also deeply explored themes of power, class, and the perils of revenge! These are delved into not only through the great world building, but mainly through Amaya who has to keep up with these various sides to herself (Silverfish, Amaya, and her role as Countess Yamaa) while still understanding who she wants to become now with her new-found freedom. There’s also this uncertainty and mystery as we learn more about her plan for vengeance will bring and what led her to the Brackish in the first place. Amaya begins to see what the price of vengeance truly brings the more she uncovers her past and tries to avenge herself and the other Water Bugs, which leaves her confronting many truths she was not expecting!
The characters are all wonderfully written and I enjoyed them all! Sebastian, Roach (Amaya’s ship mate), Romara, Kamon, etc. they all had their own personal journeys, development, and just came to life!
Also who doesn’t love a diverse cast? Cayo is bi and according to Sim from her twitter Amaya is demi! There’s Queer rep among almost all the side characters and features a non-white cast!
Now onto what lowered my rating. While I absolutely loved Cayo and Amaya as separate characters, I really wondered why there had to be a romance between them (Look I LOVE romance in YA, but this one just didn’t work― it surprised even me). They both stood incredibly well on their own and so when it came to their feelings it seemed like they thought more about each other than they were actually together (especially considering how they have few page moments together and its more reflection). It never felt like it needed a romance because there’s all these other things going on in their lives, I would have loved a bigger focus on their friendship.
Also just from personal expectations, I was hoping for just a bit more action and adventure! It focuses a lot on Cayo and Amaya doing their own investigating in Moray because of that, the intrigue and suspense of revenge is a bigger focus of the novel which does leave the action towards the more intense story moments.
Personal expectations aside, the book’s last couple chapters really leave you hooked and there’s where the action, suspense and reveals all finally come together. Its done SO well and leaves many questions for what’ll happen in the sequel!
I’d really been looking forward to reading Sim’s books and I’m thrilled to have finally picked this one up! Looking forward to seeing where Cayo and Amaya’s adventure is headed next!
Scavenge The Stars is a glimmering, high stakes story of revenge and a great start to a new series! Sim’s gender-bent Monte Critso retelling presents a great cast of characters, an intriguing world, and an immersive tale that will leave you wondering what else there is to explore in the captivating city of Moray! ⚔✨
↠ There was also recently a cover reveal for RAVAGE THE DARK (book 2)…if you loved stabby girls with knives like on this cover, the sequel cover is even more epic! 😍💞🗡