I've typed and erased and typed and erased and I just can't express how good this book was besides that it was soooooooo GOOOOOOOOOOOD. And since it's a debut, I'm doubly surprised and in love! Also, that cover - fierce Aster!
There's so much to unpack with the nature of trauma, reactions to it, and the differences between the two girls who actually experienced being prostitutes and the three who were about to but escaped before it happened. Aster shrinks back from men, and Clementine is drawn immediately to one. Violet is cold and closed-off because she feels that's what she needs to be to survive. Take care of yourself first, is her motto. I really enjoyed watching her character progression as she got further away from the Welcome House. I wish we could have seen a little more into her head too.
A couple characters fell flat (I felt like by the end Clementine was just kind of shrinking back into a tropey maiden in distress, and Tansy and Mallow seemed, admittedly, a bit superfluous after a while), and the ending happened to quickly after everything we've been through. So those were the downsides for me. But everything else was really really good. Like, the raveners are the only ones who can use magic, and it's all evil and used to torture people (or track people). They are mortals who eventually lose their souls because the work is so evil. And then there are the different types of "ghosts," some that are harmless and others that will rip you to shreds. And the setting itself - we're talking Wild Wild West saloon stuff, and even the cover gives off that vibe. I got very entrenched in the environment, hearing the voices in my head, seeing what was happening. The whole thing was very visual for me, very cinematic. I wasn't just reading it, I was experiencing a lot of it with the characters.
I wish we had gotten a little closure on one of the characters, but since I see that it's book #1 of a series, I guess book #2 is going on my TBR list.
Thank you to Bookish First and the publisher for a free ARC for review purposes. My opinions are my own.