Here's the Goodreads synopsis for this book:
Thirteen-year-old Jessamine Grace and her mother make a living as sham spiritualists—until they discover that Jess is a mesmerist and that she really can talk to the dead. Soon she is plunged into the dark world of Victorian London’s supernatural underbelly and learns that the city is under attack by ghouls, monsters, and spirit summoners. Can Jess fight these powerful forces? And will the group of strange children with mysterious powers she befriends be able to help? As shy, proper Jess transforms into a brave warrior, she uncovers terrifying truths about the hidden battle between good and evil, about her family, and about herself.
I like stories set in Victorian England and am a fan of adult mysteries with spiritualists in them. I hoped that this book would tide me over while I wait for a new Lockwood and Co. I had such high hopes for this book.
This lead sucked me right in.
"Being stuffed into a wardrobe with your hands tied is a dreadful way to start your day.
There's hardly any light, but for the yellow glint of a candle flame through a small crack in the door. Dust tickles my nostrils. Spiders are in the corners too.
I hate spiders."
We soon discover that Jessamine and her mother are pretending to be mesmerists who talk to dead relatives and bring back messages for them, but then Jessamine ends up bringing a real message from beyond the grave. The two of them flee to London where they stay with Balthazar, Mrs Grace's mysterious friend. It's here that Jessamine learns that she has special powers and is inducted into an extraordinary team of children who have their own unique powers. Their responsibility is to battle evil necromancers who plan to take over the world. Readers soon discover a lot of different mythical creatures in this book, including Balthazar.
What I liked most about this book was the relationship between the children. There are also some intense action scenes that many readers will enjoy. Smith has done a good job creating the atmosphere of Victorian London. I really liked the spooky images that demarcate the different chapters and sections. How the evil creatures spread hatred is an interesting theme given the encroaching punitive populism of politics today.
What I don't understand was why a certain character was killed off. I could live with this, except that there is a kind of disjointedness to the plot that made it hard for me to follow the story's reasoning. I acknowledge that some of this might be from the interruptions I took to read other books, but that the book didn't compel me to finish it, says a lot. I absolutely hated the ending. Honestly, I thought I was missing pages and something was wrong with my copy.