- Published in 2019 by Tor Teen
- Format: Paperback – Published in 2019 by Hot Key Books
- Reading Time: 11 action-packed days
- Time to go back to a slightly heavier book and back to the Popsugar Reading Challenge. This one is for the ‘book set mostly or entirely outdoors’ prompt as this is mostly set in the forest and wilderness of Arketta, a country where girls from poor families are sold to ‘welcome houses’ as children and trained to become Good Luck Girls when they reach adulthood. They are named Good Luck Girls because, from the outside, they seem to live in luxury. All at the price of selling their bodies to the rich men (or brags) who can afford it. Such would have been Clementine’s fate if her first client hadn’t turned violent, leading her to accidentally kill him in self defence. Now, her sister, her friends and a former enemy have to join forces and stay one step ahead of everything Arketta can throw at them, chasing the possibility of freedom.
- Has a great main character. Though the prologue is told from Clementine’s point of view, the rest of the story is told by her older sister, Aster, a fellow Good Luck Girl who will protect Clementine at any cost. That protectiveness has a habit of turning into paranoia, however. Though she never explicitly described what she went through in the welcome house, we get enough hints to know that she’s deeply traumatised. She can’t stand crowded spaces, is scared of her anger issues and has trouble trusting anyone, especially men. That sometimes brings her into conflict with Clementine (who has yet to have all her illusions ripped away from her), Violet (who was the favourite of the welcome house’s management before they escaped) and Zee (the rangeman who has agreed to help them). Because of her paranoia, she’s prone to jumping to the wrong conclusions and, though it’s frustrating at times, it’s quite understandable.
- Remarkable that Davis managed to give all five of the characters some good development. There was always the risk of one character or two characters being neglected. I was worried that Tansy and Mallow would be sidelined but, no, they both got their own backstories and their romance is very touching. Violet also gets some good character development as her haughty exterior is slowly broken down and she and Aster grow closer. The enemies-to-friends trope is very well done in this one.
- Infused with action and suspense in every chapter. No plan ever goes completely smoothly and your heart will be in your mouth every time they execute a new scheme to get what they need to buy their passage to freedom. More than once, I felt like shouting ‘don’t do it’ at the characters whenever they decided to take a big risk. It’s a credit to Davis that she managed to create such a terrifying environment and make their mission for freedom seem almost impossible.
- Lots of good world building throughout the book. This is a world straight out of a Western mixed with fantasy and horror elements where distinguishing between the haves (the fairbloods) and the have-nots (the dustbloods) is as easy as checking to see if they have a shadow. Poverty is rampant among the dustbloods and it’s little wonder that families will jump at a chance to have one less mouth to feed in return for the promise that their girl will be ‘well cared for’. It’s not just poverty that people fear either. The dead are rife and going beyond a deadwall or trying to flee the law through the forest puts you at risk of a wendigo-like vengeant ripping you to pieces if you don’t have a rare and very expensive deterrent to hand. The best things are the attention to little details and the little turns of phrase that make it into every conversation such as ‘ripping’ in place of swearwords and ‘the dead’ used in place of ‘God’. I love it when a book pays that much attention to detail that even throwaway phrases add to the world building.
- Loaded with a lot of Western tropes such as a lone ranger with a complicated relationship with the law, mentions (but only mentions) of native tribes being edged out by ‘modern society’, mining communities, wild chases on horseback and, of course, brothels. Putting five women in the centre of it rather than a posse of men puts a good spin on all of the tropes, as does including magic and raveners (law enforcers that can turn an outlaw’s own mind against him). Make no mistake, these raveners are genuinely terrifying villains from the beginning. It won’t be hard for readers to share in the girls’ terror of them.
- It can get a little heavy-handed at times when talking about justice in this society, how the fairbloods turn the dustbloods against each other to maintain power and where the blame should be laid. That’s really my only complaint though. The hatred shown to Good Luck Girls seems a bit silly at first but, unlike some other stories where the characters’ status is hated just for the sake of it, some explanation is offered later.
- Never gets repetitive. It never feels like a cycle of ‘characters on the road, characters get in trouble, characters barely escape, characters get back on the road again’. That kind of cyclical storytelling is one of the reasons I don’t much like ‘roadtrip’ stories but this one does it rather well. Every encounter feels important, either to get the funds they need for freedom or to escape the encroaching raveners. I promise you, you’ll never be bored reading it.
- Got to say that I expected the end of the road to be very different than what the characters anticipated but what we got was still a nice surprise. It felt like a rewarding end after all they had been through, even though one scene was a major gut-punch, and a good lead into the next book in the series. I’m mightly glad I read this and I’m sure looking forward to the next book in the series!
Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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