In this debut novel, specially trained operatives called Sweepers are the only thing standing in the way of creatures that devour magic—and humans.
Twenty-year-old Laura Kramer is the frequently exasperated apprentice (of only a few months) to the perennially cranky Clae Sinclair, one of the few Sweepers left on the island city of Amicae in the Orien Territories. Their job is to eradicate the infestations of monsters that result from broken magic amulets, which are used for many things, including electricity among the city’s elite, and require regular upkeep. The city’s propaganda campaign has convinced its populace that infestations are (mostly) a thing of the past, but Clae and Laura know better, and it’s up to them to keep people safe from the slimy creatures that propagate from broken magic, because once an infestation grows out of control, it’s a nasty business indeed. Laura, Clae, and a newly added apprentice, Okane, a shy Magi they liberate as “payment” from a wealthy and haughty businessman and his wife, must not only wrangle with monsters of the supernatural kind, but also mobsters and rival Sweepers. The magic system is fascinating, but the worldbuilding can be confusing: a mix of seemingly late-19th or early-20th-century industrialization with a fashion sense right out of the late 1800s ("bloomer dresses" for women are all the rage, and " 'lady trousers' weren't extremely popular"), while there are cable cars and vehicles suited to the 1930s. But, luckily, a lengthy history lesson at the midpoint will answer many readers' questions. Citizens are divided into Quarters based on social class, and it’s pretty faithfully adhered to, although Laura, who lives with her aunt Morgan and Morgan’s young daughter, Cheryl, takes great pride in bucking the system in not only how she dresses, but also in her delightful refusal to present herself as purely marriageable property. Bolender has plenty of opportunity to put a romantic interest in Laura’s path but resists this and instead lets the inquisitive Laura find her own way; Laura and Clae provide plenty of chemistry of the nonromantic kind, and there's even humor, such as Laura’s fruitless efforts to suss out Clae’s true age.
Overlong and rough around the edges but still promising.