Review: Scavenge the Stars By Tara Sim

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Speculative Fiction/Retellings

QUILTBAG Main Character: Yes

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

POC Main Character: Yes

Bechdel Test: Pass

Summary: Amaya’s life was turned upside down when her father was killed over debt and she was sold to a debtor’s ship. When she rescues a man adrift at sea, he offers her a way back home and her long awaited revenge. Meanwhile, Cayo is the only son of one of the wealthiest men in the city. While trying to earn his father’s respect, he stumbles upon a secret that could upend not only his life, but the city itself.

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

There are a handful of authors whose new release sends a shot of pure endorphins into my brain. All I hear is “that new N.K. Jemisin book,” and I’m already clicking pre-order. You tell me that Leigh Bardugo has a new one planned, and I’m checking her Twitter daily for updates. Tara Sim is one of those authors for me. I devoured the Timekeeper trilogy and then thrust it at every one of my friends (what’s the point of great books if you can’t yell about them with the people you love?). You can imagine the joy that washes over my to hear that she was not only coming out with a new series but that it was a retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo. 

Retellings are hard. You want to stay true to the source material because you love it. Why else would you be writing it? But you want to keep the readers on edge, too. You need to surprise them because a retelling without a twist isn’t a retelling, it’s a telling. I’ve seen them done very well (I will fight and die for the Lunar Chronicles) and I’ve seen them done poorly (I won’t name names, you can hit me up if you want details). 

Sim crafts a unique world that rings true to fans of the original story while also being completely unique. She does this by filling her world with a vibrant cast of characters. I talk a lot about the characters in my reviews because to me they make or break a story. The plot can be fantastic but if the characters don’t grab me, I do not care. Sim, always a master at characters, really blows the readers away with this one. 

The two leads (Amaya and Cayo) have depth and details that make you feel as if you are stepping into their very souls. Even minor characters blow you away. She drops characters in and they fit page by page until you are rooting for them, yelling at them to make better choices, or wishing ill on the antagonists. 

In fact, I was so distracted by the characters that I didn’t see a number of important plot points until they struck me in the face. Which is understandable because the characters don’t see these plots until they strike them in the face as well! You are so enamored with the characters that their false steps become your false steps. Their red herrings are yours. This is difficult to accomplish. It requires that the readers truly empathize and understand the characters.

Sim also takes risks with characters’ names. Amaya has a total of three names in this novel. A good many of the minor characters have two names. It’s a lot to hold onto, or it would be if the names weren’t such a vital part of the characters. As the characters don and shed names, the reader peels back layers of who they are. By the time the book ends, each and every name stays with the reader.

The minor characters are just as interesting as Amaya and Cayo. I could read a whole book about Romara, the Slum King’s daughter. Avi, a trans male character, isn’t in the story as much as I’d like but even so I would die for him. Roach, Fera, and Leisl are all engaging enough on their own to warrant spinoff series. Sometimes when minor characters are so interesting that make the leads seem weak. This isn’t a problem for Scavenge the Stars which has room enough in its heart for everyone. 

In a story that wrapped around revenge, there is so much hope and love. The characters bring that to life. In the arms of a lesser writer, this book wouldn’t have worked. How lucky for all of us, then, that it is in the embrace of Tara Sim.

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love Scavenge the Stars? Leave a comment telling me you favorite retelling. You can also find me on Twitter @gwasserst! Special thanks to Yasi (@yasaminnb) for editing my posts.

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