“How can you tell who to hurt and who to spare?”
“I think you know who to hurt when the hurt they’ve given you makes nothin’ else they do matter,” he said slowly, slurring his words.” When you can’t see them as a person, but just a vessel for your hatred, your pain. Then you know.”
Mmm.. Yeah. Being hurt by someone. Being shattered by someone. That isn’t the same as wanting revenge on someone. You can still separate the difference between when someone has hurt you, no matter how much, because that is just how it went down versus malicious lack of care for human life. And while, yes, revenge is most definitely one of the main themes of Tara Sim’s Scavenge the Stars? Let’s just say that, that one word made me request the ARC. It is the last thing that kept me entranced by it.
Of course, having said that, let me put up the familiar disclaimer that I have put up in many retellings I have reviewed this year.
I have not read the Count of Monte Cristo. Nor did I go back and research it before reading Scavenge the Stars (because if I requested it out of the summary of the story without knowledge of it, then I’m going in blind) and so, once again…
I can’t do the comparison for you, sorry. This isn’t that review.
Also, say what you will but I found this plot, as it came together to be more Shakespearean in nature than anything. And while I might have not read the Count of Monte Cristo. I know well enough to know William Shakespeare didn’t write it. Take that for what it is worth. It will be a bit difficult to explain too much of why I felt that way because of spoilers. However, it will be interesting to see if anyone else feels the same way.
Hype Machine Worthy For None Of The Reasons Given
Much like Nocturna, Fate of the Fallen, There Will Come a Darkness, and Eight Will Fall (among others), the summaries don’t give you any clue what you are walking into. And maybe I shouldn’t name titles because if you don’t like the above books, you might think that you won’t like Scavenge the Stars. That isn’t at all the point. The point is either marketing is way off in left field lately, or I’m just not reading summaries correctly. Although, for me, for the most part? I have been pleasantly surprised. However, I have also wondered what I’ve missed. If these books have been so badly summarized that I was lucky enough to stumble into fantastic novels, then what might I have missed?
Also, I know many readers who, if they pick up a glass of water and drink wine? You can’t appreciate vintage wine if you are expecting a refreshing glass of water. That isn’t fair to the book, the author or their craft. I don’t really have an answer for any of this, but I don’t think it is *just me.* I did see this come around a lot when Nocturna was released, as well as Eight Will Fall.
I didn’t see many reviews for Fate of the Fallen, so I’m not too sure. The couple I did see, didn’t mention it. The main thing with There Will Come a Darkness and Eight Will Fall was that so many people expected Six of Crows. I knew that marketing machine had lost the plot long ago, so I just ignored the comparisons altogether. For different reasons, I fear Scavenge the Stars might run some similar issues with readers, so I’m giving you a heads up. I’m going to tell you a secret. Ready?
IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER. THIS BOOK? TARA SIM?
IT WILL ROB YOU OF YOU OF REASON, LOGIC, FEELINGS AND ANY BELIEF THAT YOU CAN DEDUCE BETTER THAN A TODDLER.
IT WILL PSYCHOLOGICALLY SUCK YOU UP AND SPIT YOU OUT LIKE GROUND BEEF, AND THEN EAT YOU RAW.
Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice…
to do anything, really.
So. Here’s the thing. Because I just am kind of at a loss of how to do this without giving anything away but I’m gonna try really hard. There was a book I reviewed over the summer. Actually, it was an adult psychological thriller called Dear Wife. And that book was hell to review for the same reasons this one was hard to review. The thing is I’m a sucker for the unreliable narrator. And I kept wanting to fall back on that to help review the book. Except, here’s the problem. That wasn’t exactly the style of Dear Wife. Not exactly. And so, I wracked my brain until it hit me (not literally, thankfully). It wasn’t that the narrator was unreliable but that the author, Kimberly Belle made us the unreliable reader.
Thank you to Disney-Hyperion and Edelweiss for an ARC of Scavenge the Stars in exchange for an honest review.
You can’t trust yourself to really gain footing in anything happening in the book because once you think you have a clue? No. You don’t. The reader can’t trust themselves and it is an astonishing way to read a novel. I had never really read anything like it before and let me tell you something. It flat out messes with you as a reader in the most amazing ways. Did I ever think I would see that in the Young Adult category of publishing. Yeah. No. But here’s the more astonishing part.
Sim manages to crush the two together. You have unreliable narrators, characters and then you are the unreliable reader because truly and honestly? NO ONE HAS ANY CLUE WHAT IS HAPPENING.
You Think Train Wreck? I Say Oh Nay-Nay
This could very easily become a train wreck but somehow Sim pulls it off in some kind of writing wizardry that is beyond anything I knew existed.
- She lulls you in during the first, I don’t 15% of the book. You are all cool reader thinking yeah, I saw that coming and ok there was a little twist there but for the most part I saw that coming too.
- BUT THEN KABOOM. She blindsides you.
- Bust still you think ok. After that, you have a grip on the characters, motivations and basically where pieces fall into place.
Until the Shakespeare kicks in. And with it, this dreaded sense of doom. This recoiling of your guts, bile in your throat and tingling up your spine, and you know, that you know absolutely nothing.
And worse? The characters. Man. They know nothing. And maybe. Just maybe? You know a smidgen more than they do, but just a smidgen. And even that smidgen is on really shaky ground- but you won’t know that till later, even – see SO THE UNRELIABLE READER, combined with two main points of view (Amaya and Cayo who are completely unreliable because they are so clueless you just can’t even for them). Except for the puppet masters (good luck figuring that out because I’m done and I’m still not sure I know all of them) even secondary characters don’t have a clue. So, who can trust anything they even say or do because they are going on unreliable information, too.
And so that basically leaves you, the main characters and all the other characters together looking at each other like in absurdity.
Except. And here’s the key. IT ABSOLUTELY AND COMPLETELY WORKS.
Neither confusing nor all over the place. It is a straight arrow shot that Sim never, ever loses track of. Truthfully, she is the one and only puppet master. She knows exactly where this chess match is going, and she is laughing at the rest of us.
Pacing and Action
This structure of Scavenge the Stars isn’t unlike something you would see in a psychological thriller or horror. I would compare it to (in structure not content- at all) to Wilder Girls, Girl with All the Gifts and Tenth Girl. To me, I’m a sucker for that kind of mind destruction. It unfolds the way it wants, when it wants and will utterly break your senses. I also know this isn’t everyone’s band of vodka. Will this make Scavenge the Stars a divisive book? Possibly. Something else I will be looking out for in other reviews.
I thought the pacing was perfect and there was a lot of action, just not your typical action. Possibly not action you are expecting. There were a couple of knife fights and the such here and there. Most of the action that takes place, however, is psychological and emotional torment. It really is like watching the most stomach-churning part of a Shakespeare play unfold- but that is how the entire book feels.
It doesn’t have to rely on blood, guts and sword/knife action (not that there is anything wrong with that- I love that too, just making a point). Instead it digs deeper into the interweaving of lives, and how as one characters says, knowledge has its own price to pay (I’m completely paraphrasing that one). However, I thought later- ignorance, in this story leads to a whole domino effect of consequences that is a much greater price.
Because if a whole load of characters had connected just a few more dots just a bit earlier…? But alas that isn’t how it works and now…
Themes, Characters and Setting
Let me not forget that in the middle of this incredibly insane story Sim deftly discusses child slavery, what happens when children are ripped from their families, addiction (gambling and alcohol), how people often prey on the weaknesses of others and what happens when we stop listening to our instincts because we are so scared that others know more and can get us further than we can, on our own.
I haven’t said a lot about the characters because I don’t want to! I can’t. Any little thing and KABOOM. Spoilers abound. Representation is there in spades. They are all flushed out brilliantly. Not just the main characters but even the “secondary characters.” I have that in quotes because they become so intricate to the story that I don’t even know that you can call them secondary.
As for world building, *most* of the book is spent in Moray. All its nooks and crannies are carved out to match their purpose brilliantly. I believe things will expand in the next installment and that will be very interesting, indeed.
If you have been paying any attention at all? Your guess is as good as mine even if you haven’t read the book. There are still a mess of questions around the characters that received a ton of backstory. There are characters that you know are coming back and then there are those that you still just know you don’t even know. But I’m all in for the next installment because whatever happens? I know one thing. Tara Sim will make it worth being ground up and spit out.