Ravage the Dark by Tara Sim gives us a satisfying sequel to Scavenge the Stars, a fun and inventive retelling. Slipping back into this series felt warm and comfortable, even if the world is anything but that, because I enjoy the characters so much.
After barely escaping Moray, the band of characters (mostly made up of outlaws) lands on the shores of their sworn enemy, the Rain Empire. Cayo Mercado has fallen from the dashing heir of a commerce empire to a pauper fleeing his father, who he thinks had a hand in spreading the deadly ash fever that plagues their land. Now his only concern is his sister, currently dying from that same fever. He takes her to a hospital, but the treatment is not a proven cure and it’s expensive. For the first time in his life, he has to do something he’s never done before… work for a living.
While Cayo works at the docks, Amaya and the rest of their friends hunt for ways to end this plague once and for all. They start investigating several alchemists and their patrons, all of whom claim to only be searching for the cure. However, the gang suspects they have more devious and selfish ambitions beneath the surface. While dealing with this, Amaya still struggles to accept Boon’s betrayal, at the same time coming to terms with her own family history as more and more damning details come to light.
Despite working hard every day, Cayo still can’t make the money his sister needs. He finds himself being sucked back into the dark world of gambling halls and excessive drinking. Amaya goes with him, determined to keep him firmly on the side of sanity. As he continues to win, however, she worries that she might not be able to stop him before he destroys himself.
As with the first book, I loved this for the characters, especially Cayo and Amaya, and their relationship with each other. At the end of the last book, Cayo learned that Amaya was deceiving him and broke things off. Amaya also feels hurt by him after learning of his father’s nefarious activities. Throughout this novel, these two grapple with their feelings. Clearly, they are still attracted to each other. As Cayo sees more and more corruption and greed among the wealthy, he starts to see Amaya’s side and wonders if he should forgive her, although he still feels very hurt. Amaya reasons that the ash fever is not Cayo’s fault, but his father’s, and yet she still aches as well.
On the whole, what makes their relationship—and the two of them as characters—so powerful is that it is realistic. Realism is a rare find in YA fantasy and historical fiction. I read contemporary for the realism and other genres for the drama, the heightened emotions, the wild scenarios. However, when I read this book, I found myself really appreciating how real and intense and shattering their emotions are. I almost teared up at a few scenes.
The plot itself is always secondary to me, but in this book, I loved all the adventures these characters experienced. It was full of twists, twists that genuinely surprised me, and yet I was still pleasantly surprised to see justice served in the end. The main plot of this novel also involved a deadly pandemic not unlike our own, which hits a little too close, but it’s also fascinating to see how corruption leads to the collapse of cities and lives, and how money always plays a role in disease.
For those who devoured Scavenge the Stars, the sequel will not disappoint!