Wow! 'The Vanishing Trick' by Jenni Sprangler is an utterly superb middle-grade gothic-fantasy. Atmospheric, creepy, gripping and with a plot that keeps you guessing throughout, this is a book to give you gooseflesh, in all the right ways!

As an orphan, Leander struggles to find food to eat, living life on the edge. When a carriage arrives and the mysterious Madame Pinchbeck offers Leander a job, food and shelter in exchange for his mother's locket, he takes the opportunity. But Madame Pinchbeck is not what she seems and traps Leander in the locket with a strange kind of magic. Soon he discovers that two other children, Felix and Charlotte, have been trapped too - serving Pinchbeck in her schemes to become a famous medium. Can Leander and his new friends vanquish Pinchbeck's spell and free themselves from her grip?


What I loved most about this fantastic story was this particular eerie feeling it gave me, this sense of delving into a dusty, dirty Dickensian Britain thick with folklore and menace, as if I could smell it in the turn of the pages. Spangler does this with such skill and showmanship that it is astonishing that this is her debut. It takes a special author to conjure such magic and leave a reader caught in its spell - the trick was that I vanished so easily into the book. itself 


The characters, so well-drawn by Chris Mould, are truly memorable, each unique with their own arcs. Spangler brilliantly shifts the point-of-view between Leander, Felix and Charlotte adding complexity and deeper emotion to the story, without it ever feeling confused. Madame Pinchbeck is brilliant; sinister, disturbing and ruthless. Not many books are memorable for its antagonist but this one manages to do that. Everything builds to a riveting climax and finally a satisfying conclusion.


I cannot recommend 'The Vanishing Trick' enough. Be trapped in its eerie spell and enjoy the magical ride!

© 2021 by Chris Soul