The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith

Received from NetGalley for review.

We are the League of Ravens, and we are seeking evil where it sleeps.

The Mesmerist can pretty much be summed up with that quote. It’s a little cheesy, a little cliché, a little bit fun, but a little bit like everything you’ve read before. I was initially drawn in by the setting of Victorian London and the idea of a young girl being able to communicate with the dead (something both awesome and spooky) despite being something that’s been done A LOT in literature, but the actual story didn’t quite deliver – not for me at least.

The story is based around Jessamine – a thirteen-year-old who helps her mother conduct fake séances until it’s discovered she’s a mesmerist who really can communicate with the dead. So far, so good. Jess and her mother then head to London to see the mysterious Balthazar who will know what’s going on. Now, it was here when everything started getting a bit silly for me. The reveals come thick and fast with Jess’ heritage, her parents past, and the whole messy business of Mephisto and the League of Ravens. It was just too much, too many different plotlines and weird happenings going on for the story to be anything other than ridiculous. I wanted to scream at the book ‘pick a plotline!’ because using Fae, ghouls, spiritualists, the Plague, children with strange abilities, a big bad guy with a pale face and red eyes (sound familiar?), and a super league of super humans, needs serious skill to pull off in 270 pages.

It wasn’t all bad, though. The story itself is quite fun and fast-paced when not taken too seriously; I wanted a lot more depth and development, but for a middle-grade supernatural romp, it really isn’t a bad little story. I enjoyed the setting of Victorian London – always a winner for me – and found it to be incredibly atmospheric, transporting me into Balthazar’s lush mansion and the grimy, poverty ridden streets with ease. Jess was an interesting character as although she started off a proper young lady, concerned with etiquette and appearance, she soon developed into a badass young lady, concerned with doing what was right and not relying on some dashing young man to sweep in and save the day (yay for lack of romance!). Those who were there to assist, however, were wonderful supporting characters and I probably liked Emily and Gabriel more than Jess.

This is definitely a book that doesn’t transcend its middle-grade label. I can imagine many younger readers really enjoying this slightly wild tale, though, and rightly so, but I would advise older and more advanced readers to give this a miss.

February 4th-11th 2017

3/5 stars

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