In an alternate universe, where superpowers -- Passives who can not control it, and Actives who can -- began magically appearing in the 19th century, and many things were changed by that -- the Great War had some particular nightmares -- and while the Nazis were stifled, there is Fascism, and worse, the Imperium.
The tale opens with a Portuguese farmer in California going to drive off some Okies before they stole -- and buying their daughter Faye when he realized she was a Traveler; a man buying the horrible death by disease of another, in return for an unspecific favor; and a man, Jake, in prison breaking rocks with his powers before he's offered a deal.
It winds on through Faey's learning her power and a brutal attack on her new grandfather, and Jake's being brought in by Hoover to take down an Active murderer and finding he was lied to. Her grandfather's dying commission and his investigation of what the truth was bring them in touch with the Grimnoir, a secret organization, and it plunges into the depths of what the Grimnoir are protecting, and what is going against them.
It involves Jake's World War I experience, a talking squirrel, a Torch (fire active) who makes origami, a pirate, airships and airplanes, three brothers, the working of magic, several cameos by names you will know, and much more. And a great threat.