The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Mesmerist is a middle grade novel written by Ronald L. Smith. It contains elements of several of my favorite things, so I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book.

Thirteen-year-old Jess lives with her mother. They earn their living from conducting séances, using trickery to put on a good show for their wealthy clients. However, that all changes when they receive an actual supernatural message. It turns out that Jess’ mother has been keeping secrets, and Jess learns more about her parents’ past on a trip to London.

Jess is introduced to the enigmatic Balthazar, as well as a couple of other children with similar mysterious abilities. All signs point to a Great Evil returning, and it is up to Jess and her new friends to work together and defeat the evil forces plaguing the city.

This was an interesting book that I read over the course of a snowy afternoon. Smith has a talent for creating scenes that are infused with creepy details; everything is ominous and foreboding. This book is scary, but not too scary. That said, sensitive children who are easily scared are probably going to want to pick another book. I normally read the middle grade novels I receive with my three girls (4th grade and two 2nd graders), but decided to go solo on this one because they don’t always like scary stories.

I would recommend The Mesmerist to older middle grade readers. This book reminded me of other kid-lit scary stories like Splendors and Glooms and The Night Gardener. Smith presents an interesting portrait of Victorian London. The plot is fairly predictable, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. I’m looking forward to reading more of Smith’s books in the future.

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