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Reviewed by:
  • The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith
  • Kate Quealy-Gainer, Assistant Editor
Smith, Ronald L. The Mesmerist. Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017 [272p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-544-44528-4 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-544-44536-9 $16.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 4-6

With Britain in the thralls of Spiritualism, thirteen-year-old Jessamine and her mother make bank by delivering messages from beyond to wealthy families looking to contact their dead loved ones. It’s all smoke and mirrors until she and her mother actually do receive a ghostly message, and suddenly Jess is swept off to London, where she meets a former colleague of her deceased father who informs her that she has inherited her father’s mesmerist powers and that the evil that he gave his life to defeat is back. Now it’s Jess’ turn to fight the ghouls that are stoking hatred and bringing death throughout London. Jess joins Emily, who has powers of her own, and Gabriel, an angel, in searching out a powerful necromancer and preventing him from continuing to spread a deadly illness. Too many elements clash here, muddying the plot and the setting: the original message Jess receives is the nursery rhyme “Ring around the Rosy” and the evil manifests in an spreading illness that looks much like the bubonic plague, but there’s no evidence that book or characters has ever heard of the historic plague, and the nursery rhyme is awkwardly employed. Fairies and a werewolf also make appearances to help Jess save the day, but the ending is unsatisfying—the villain is disposed of, but there’s no indication that the plague has stopped, leaving a pretty significant part of the plot unresolved. Still, Smith (author of Hoodoo, BCCB 10/15) has a knack for creating memorable bad guys, and the demonic necromancer and his minion ghouls may be creepy enough to spur readers forward. [End Page 237]



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