Aster is a Good Luck Girl, one of many sold by her family to a “welcome house” to earn her keep by having sex with men from the time she turns 16. On her younger sister Clementine’s 16th birthday, Clementine accidentally kills the man who’d purchased her services for the night and turns to Aster for help. Along with their friends Tansy and Mallow, and the welcome house’s best Good Luck Girl Violet, Aster and Clementine go on the run. They are pursued by the family of the man Clementine has killed and by men with powers similar to the dementors from Harry Potter. They are also in pursuit of the Lady Ghost, a figure out of children’s bedtime stories who allegedly has the power to remove the magical tattoos that mark them as Good Luck Girls.
The Good Luck Girls is a fast-paced and thrilling western. I love the focus on the girls’ friendships and I love the fierceness of Aster’s love and protectiveness towards her younger sister. I like that the book talks about the power imbalance between genders (girls are valued for their sexuality and men clearly hold much of the power in the society) and class (it’s mostly girls from poor families who are sold to welcome houses, and the lack of money becomes a major plot point in the girls’ escape). I also like that the book talks a bit about how drug addiction can be used by those in power to maintain their position — the Good Luck Girls are given a dose of a drug called Sweet Thistle every night. I thought Violet’s withdrawal could have been handled more realistically, such that it affected her more throughout the story, but overall, I like that the book tackled it at all, and showed how much it affected Violet to miss her daily dose.
Aster and Violet were the main characters, and I loved how complex their personalities were and how much they complemented each other. Along with Aster and Clementine’s sister bond, I also love Violet’s back story, and how the girl whom Aster had always thought of as spoiled and snobby actually turns out to be a lot more vulnerable and in a lot more pain than Aster realized. I do wish that Tansy and Mallow’s characters were fleshed out a bit more, and I hope we get that chance later in the series.
The story talks about a lot of heavy subjects, but it’s told in a fast-paced western / action-adventure style that’s a lot of fun to read. It was awesome seeing the girls kick ass throughout their journey, and I love that so much of their adventures had to do with overturning the power dynamic. For example, when they needed to steal money, they focused on stealing from the rich men they often saw at the welcome house, and Aster often reflected on how it good it feels to see the welcome house clients tasting the fear that the Good Luck Girls had to deal with every night.
The novel ended on a note that’s both hopeful and empowering, yet with a major plot point still unresolved that could potentially end badly. It’s a great set up for a sequel, and I’d be interested to see where Davis takes this series next.
Thank you to Raincoast Books for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.