In an alternate Wild West, five girls are on the run.
On the night of her sister’s debut into the world of prostitution, Aster tells Clementine to think of a song to distract herself. They are Good Luck Girls, indentured sex workers from poor, sharecropping families of a social underclass known as dustbloods. There is no outward difference between a dustblood and a fairblood, but generations ago, dustbloods had their shadows torn away, and since then their children have been born without them. When Clementine accidentally murders her first “brag,” or customer, Aster knows they must run for it. In seeking help, she unwittingly recruits three other girls itching to escape, and the five head north, where fairblood Violet insists a woman named Lady Ghost can help by removing their favors, mystical tattoos applied to the throats of Good Luck Girls that cannot be disguised. And thus begins their adventure, which also involves robbing men who deserve it and having to avoid vicious ghosts called vengeants and soulless, evil club bouncers/bounty hunters called raveners. Inventive language and outlaw girls are nothing new in Westerns, but debut author Davis’ richly imagined setting goes deeper than that, questioning the difference between ethics and law, exploring the complexity of socio-economic advantage and disadvantage, and exposing the lengths men will go to control and constrain women. Characters have varying shades of skin, from light to dark, and hair of different colors and textures.
This one is a winner. (Speculative adventure. 14-adult)