Identities shift and glittering surfaces reveal decay at the root in Scavenge the Stars, a ferocious fantasy from Timekeeper trilogy author Tara Sim.
A girl known as Silverfish is working amid grim conditions to buy back her freedom on the debtor ship Brackish when, disobeying orders, she throws a net to a drowning man. Her altruism extends her sentence on the ship, but the man she saves promises her wealth beyond measure if she will follow his lead. Once they find themselves back on land in Moray, he aids her in assuming a new identity (while she also tries to reclaim her birth name, Amaya), and she quickly wields authority to rival that of a queen. Or has she become a pawn in someone else’s game? As Amaya seeks to exact her revenge against the wealthy family who owns the Brackish, she also tries to discover the answer to a question that haunts her: How could her own mother sell her into servitude?
The world of Moray is full of striking contrasts. Many of its denizens lead lives of luxury, yet its gambling districts teem with night-crawlers and their addictions, and a contagious illness that costs a fortune to treat keeps some quarantined and, critically, unable to marry. Each chapter opens with an epigram cited from books that exist in the story’s universe, a touch that adds depth without weighing down the fast-moving narrative.
Scavenge the Stars is harsh, violent, sensual and chockablock with vice and corruption, but the good news doesn’t stop there. This twisted take on Alexandre Dumas’ classic swashbuckler The Count of Monte Cristo is the first book in a duology, which means readers who love this walk—and swim—on the wild side can look forward to further adventures to come in the sequel.