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Daughter of Calamity, by Rosalie M. Lin

Review copy provided by the publisher. Also I know the author a bit because we share an agent.

Jingwen is a cabaret dancer in a 1930s Shanghai quite a bit, but not entirely, like our own. She also goes by Vilma, for a little Western glamour when she’s lighting up the tiles with her fancy footwork and practiced flirtation. She loves her life of dancing, drinking, and beautiful qipaos and shoes. Her grandmother, a doctor with the ability to make people new limbs out of a magical silver substance, is disgusted by Jingwen’s frivolity. She has made her bargains with the seamier side of Shanghai life in the gang of the Blue Dawn, and she expects Jingwen to follow in her footsteps.

When another dancer is attacked in a horrifying and unnatural way, Jingwen can’t be comfortable running the occasional errand for her grandmother and her gang contacts any more. Gradually competing with the other cabaret girls for the richest patron feels less important–and the rich patrons look more dangerous. When her diurnal dance troop is bought out by one of them and its artistic director replaced by a mysterious figure who makes her the lead dancer, she knows she’s playing with fire, but she has to pursue justice for the other dancers–and safety for herself.

There are powers beyond the human in play in Jingwen’s Shanghai. She will have to try to sacrifice to them, embody them, control them, work around them–but she can’t ignore them, or not just her way of life but her life itself–will be in danger. This is not our Shanghai, quite, but it is still a crossroads of the world, keeping its culture and making it new in the face of dozens of outside forces and divided desires from its own people.

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