Scavenger Girl: Season of Atchem by Jennifer Arntson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
**Rating more akin to 3.5 stars**
I am very particular in my fantasy novels, and usually gravitate towards works ala writers such as Neil Gaiman, or Margaret Atwood. Literary fantasy. It is rare that anything otherwise will grab my attention. But Scavenger girl, by Jennifer Arntson, is not a book to toss away.
The novel starts slow, but this is not a knock. Contrarily, I found this helped me establish a connection with Una’s family. Scenes of their lives as Reclaimers - pariahs who have no rights – are well placed, with effective character and world building. Tension builds with the approach to Talium. And this is where we begin to see the emergence of another aspect of this coming of age drama; a love triangle. I felt that this was given plenty of time to breathe, and came across believable. Blue is a balanced rival, with both annoying, and redeeming qualities. In short, he was pretty realistic. Finally, the ending leads well into what I assume is to be the continuation.
Anything reclaimed though, might have a few rough edges. Long, somewhat overdone explanations bog down the narrative at times (Hanaberries, takes up at least a page), and can distract from the budding drama. Also after the initial confrontation with the Authority I felt that the tension just wasn’t there, floating away like an Atchem dress. Arntson attempts to replace this with the infusion of the romance angle, and some dark imagery, but it doesn’t feel fully successful. Rape, torture, and sacrificial scenes – though the ceremonies were interesting and helped establish Blue’s traits more – were at times a little much. Despite these issues there was enough here to keep me reading on.
Strong writing that avoids repetition, and a solid understanding of world building anchors this novel. Scavenger girl isn’t perfect, but an effective beginning to what should be an interesting series. So, my suggestion: pick this book up, or if you see it laying around somewhere, reclaim it.
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