A decadent populace, a totalitarian state and a plague of vanishing people bring three young people into the heart of an anti-government plot.
Thea just wants to keep her job at the Telephone Club, serving the wealthy glitterati. Her mother’s losing her reason to bound-sickness, weakened by magically enhanced grief from the destruction of her illegal marriage bond to Thea’s missing-in-action father. These days, it’s all Thea can do to keep the two of them alive. Freddy is one of those wealthy Telephone Club patrons. By night, he woos Thea, who fascinates him; by day, he brings corpses back to life at the request of his guardians. Nan was once a Telephone Club waitress herself, but now, she’s awakened—her memory magically damaged—surrounded by gray, unhappy laborers who insist she’s dead. This postwar, Jazz Age–inflected, slightly steampunk magical world is revealed through the eyes of these three teens as they try to save all their world’s victims, even those long since doomed. It’s not clear why this government is so wicked—it feels as though the villains’ dastardly behavior is more a matter of convenience than conviction. Whatever the cause, what can comic-book evil do in the face of three adolescent protagonists? There’s a possibility of sequels in the chaotic, untidy conclusion.
There’s enough original worldbuilding in this comfortably familiar dystopian fantasy to keep readers going despite the gaps. (Fantasy. 12-15)