Full disclosure – I was provided a copy of this book by the author however have voluntarily chosen to write a review. All opinions are my own.
Meet Una of Ashlund
Una is a Scavenger. Among the lowest caste in her society, sometimes referred to as “scabs” or Reclaimers, Una and all others like her must survive without the luxury of the comforts of being a Citizen or the protection of the Authority. As a Scavenger, Una and her people are not permitted to have money or jobs outside of what they can do to work their lands and can never accept gifts from the Citizens. Her people survive by reclaiming still useful items discarded by the Citizenry as no longer needed. Una is fortunate however, as her family seems to have found a curious favor with a local farmer who secretly provides her family with many needed items.
As the season of Atchem draws to a close and the yearly festival nears to usher in the dark months of Talium, Una faces a coming of age for which she is not prepared. For Citizens, the transition to Womanhood is a momentous occasion but for Scabs, it just means being sold to the highest bidder as a wife, a surrogate, or worse. Una fears this above all else as this would mean never seeing her family again. But after catching the eye and affections of Blue, the grandson of a local farmer, Una wonders if this could be the thing that rescues her and her family from the inevitable. She is taken by this gentle boy and finds herself drawn to him, but cannot understand her brother Calish’s seeming vehemence to the young Citizen whom he hardly even knows. The further she explores a possible arrangement with Blue that could very well change her and her family’s situation, the more is revealed about family secrets that leaves her reeling and wondering if she even knows who she is. With Atchem ending and the darkness of Talium looming, Una is faced with some tough choices that she never thought she would have to consider.
To say that Scavenger Girl is a captivating dystopian world full of danger, intrigue and romance really does not do this story justice. As a matter of fact, the synopsis above barely scratches the surface of this amazing place that Jennifer Arntson has created. Ashlund is a distant world, with beautiful landscapes, multiple moons, cruel gods and an even more cruel government. The further Arntson drew me into the Scablands, the more I found myself not wanting to stop reading. In fact, it has been many years since a story has captured my attention to the point that Scavenger Girl did. Had the remaining books in the series been available at the time of my reading, I am certain I would have already purchased them for a binge fest of epic proportions! As of now, I am finding myself experiencing a major “book hangover” as I await the release of Book 2.
Written primarily from Una’s point of view, the observations are the raw thoughts of a girl on the verge of Womanhood and the discovery of a world much bigger than what she has experienced thus far. Many classic dystopian elements are present, but what really caught me off guard was the romantic aspect of the entire story. Watching Una and Blue interact at times reminded me of Pygmalion, as Blue escorts Una around the town teaching her the ways of the Citizens. For me, Scavenger Girl was a much welcome and refreshing twist on two previously formulaic and sometimes predictable genres. I would highly recommend this for anyone who likes Science Fiction, Fantasy or Romance. Or, in my case, as a person who is not too fond of romances as a rule Scavenger Girl just may well be my exception.