I was lucky enough to win an early copy of this amazing book via Readers First, so thank you to them and Hot Key Books for making it available. However, my reviews, as always, are still my honest opinion.
Trigger warnings: rape, sexual abuse, PTSD, substance abuse, sexual abuse, sex trafficking, murder and graphic violence
Aster. Violet. Tansy. Mallow. Clementine.
Sold as children. Branded by cursed markings. Trapped in a life they never would have chosen.
When Aster’s sister Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge – in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by the land’s most vicious and powerful forces – both living and dead – their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.
It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.
On Readers First, I got to read the first two chapters in order to give my first impression of the book and boy, was I hooked. It was instantly addictive, tantalising and suspenseful, which kept me reading well into the night.
This is such an intriguing book in terms of genre, with a mix of historical fiction, dystopias western, adventure, action, romance and fantasy, which makes it sound like a melting pot about to boil over, but it somehow works. For me, this is down to the fact that it reads like no other YA fantasy. The brutality of the world matches the western feel of the whole plot, whereas the touches of romance add a bit of a light touch in an otherwise dark story.
Davis’ world-building was really good for me, as it never felt like she was overpowering the reader with information, just drip-feeding it as and when it was needed for the plot. However, I loved the hints and subtle building of this brutal but brilliant world that I hope to explore more in the sequel.
Clementine and Aster have such vivid voices that instantly made me connect with them and rage against their awful situation. I loved Aster as a protagonist who was fiercely protective over her sister, linking perfectly to the strong theme of sisterhood and Her rage was so justified and relatable, making a really refreshing change from some meek and mild protagonists of other books. Aster is from such an awful situation that her rage never felt overzealous and provided meaningful motive to some of her more morally grey actions.
The feminist message of finding strength in sisterhood was something that I particularly loved about this book. Here, the girls fight for and help each other because of genuine care and respect, showing the importance of found family and the brilliance of women uplifting other women. Far too often, women are portrayed as being ‘better’ because they ‘aren’t like the other girls’, something which this book rips to shreds, showing how we never fully know everyone’s inner struggles.
Thank you again to Readers First and Hot Key Books for running such a lovely competition and I’m honoured to have been able to read this incredible book early.