THE MESMERIST by Ronald L. Smith, Clarion Books, Feb. 7, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 10 and up)
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started Ronald L. Smith’s The Mesmerist, but it certainly wasn’t what I ended up reading.
The Mesmerist stars 13-year-old Jessamine Grace. Jess and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists, pretending to connect the living with the dead. That changes, however, when they discover Jess is a real mesmerist. Not only can she commune with the dead, but she can hear the thoughts of the living, too.
The gift of mesmerism is both a blessing and a curse, and Jess soon finds herself and those she loves in great danger. There’s a great threat hanging over London, and it’s up to Jess and a few new friends to enter the dark world of the city’s supernatural underbelly. There they will meet ghouls, monsters, and spirit summoners.
The Mesmerist is dark. The setting already has a very gothic feel to it, and then supernatural elements make it even darker. Beyond the overall setting, there’s not a lot of happiness or joy found throughout the book. While this was a bit off-putting for me, I found Smith’s prose to be strong and driving. In the end, I wanted to finish The Mesmerist because it was well written.
That said, however, too often, I found myself thinking I was reading YA instead of middle grade. With the exception of the character’s ages and the cover, the content just felt older to me. I wouldn’t recommend this book for anyone younger than 10, and even then, only a mature 10.
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