A quest for vengeance unravels further than ever thought possible in Scavenge the Stars, the first book in Tara Sim’s fantasy duology based on The Count of Monte Cristo. Journey to the city-state of Moray, where everyone has a secret and no one can be trusted.
Our two protagonists in Scavenge the Stars are Amaya, a young girl who was sold to a debtors’ ship after her father died, and Cayo, the son of a wealthy merchant whose predilection for gambling has thrown his family into turmoil. They both come together for different but similar reasons – Amaya is out for revenge for her sponsor, a man named Boon, and Cayo needs to restore his family’s wealth to save his sister from a devastating illness. All roads lead to the same man – Cayo’s father.
I’m only vaguely familiar with The Count of Monte Cristo, so I must admit I wouldn’t have made the connection if not for the mention on the back of the book. But I think that Sim has kept the essence of the story rather than worrying about doing an adaptation. At the heart of the book is Boon’s vengeance scheme, which involves Amaya posing as a countess.
From there, the story devolves into a girl’s desire to learn the truth about her family, a mysterious illness that may or may not have been weaponized by Moray’s enemies, and a counterfeiting ring that has ties to both the Slum King and Cayo’s own father. Both Amaya and Cayo come at these issues from different spots, and it’s quite interesting seeing them trying to figure out what’s going on.
I was even surprised by where the story went. I kept trying to predict the twists and was constantly wrong; it might have made a difference if I’d read The Count of Monte Cristo, but I actually liked not being able to guess what was happening. It made for a more entertaining reading experience.
I won’t lie; it’s a lot. There is a lot going on, and eventually, the plot comes out kind of muddled. Once everything comes together and you realize what’s going on, you can understand why there seemed to be eighteen different tangents. But while you’re reading, it’s a bit of a mess. Hopefully, the second book will be more streamlined, now that all the dots have been connected.
One thing that is really well done in Scavenge the Stars is sexuality and gender identity. I’ve read some books where it feels like the author is playing diversity bingo, where everything is crammed in and introduced in a manner that seems forced. Sim deftly reveals characters’ sexualities and gender identities in a way that seems a natural part of the text. This character has blue eyes, this character has scars, this character prefers to use ‘they/them’ pronouns.
One thing that is not that well done is the world-building. Moray, a city-state caught between two warring empires, seems to be based on Singapore, but it’s vaguely defined. Places have names, but that’s about it. There was no sense of geography, architecture, culture, or history. Everything was just kind of there.
On the whole, though, I really enjoyed the book. I liked the plot, relationships, and diversity. I don’t much care that there was almost too much going on, or that the “bad” guys were cartoonishly evil. It was entertaining – I read it in a couple of days.
Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim is published by Disney Hyperion and is currently available wherever books are sold.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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