Jenni Spangler’s debut is a deliciously dark and spooky Victorian adventure that gives you all the spine-tingles.
Desperate for a better life, orphan Leander thinks he has found the answer to all of his problems when he meets the mysterious Madame Pinchbeck. In exchange for a small token she promises such riches as food, warmth, a bed and a job. But Pinchbeck hides a dark secret. Making a deal with her will cost a piece of your soul and Leander finds himself bewitched by some powerful magic and trapped in his dead mother’s locket.
He is not the only one that has fallen victim to Pinchbeck's charm, Charlotte and Felix are trapped in their own Cabinets and Leander soon finds himself taking part in fake seances where he is required to appear and disappear…the vanishing trick. Trapped by dark magic, the three children must work together to put an end to Pinchbeck’s terrible spell or one of them may vanish forever…
The Vanishing Trick is a fabulous gothic adventure full of mystery and suspense. It fizzes with dark magic, strange goings-on, folklore and trickery. Eerie and creepy from the get go, Spangler places the reader in that uncomfortable place where an eagerness to read ahead is complimented perfectly by the constant goosebumps on the skin, tingles down the spine and a quickening of the heart. The tension is ramped up throughout and as a desperate race against time develops, I found myself racing through the pages and was met with the most dramatic of climaxes.
The story, told through the eyes of the three captive children, works brilliantly as each character reveals their past, their fears and their hopes. Each child has placed great trust in Pinchbeck and you feel for their struggle as they are torn between trying to leave - which for most of the read seems an impossibility - and a desperation to remain as they cling to the small hope that Pinchbeck might be able to help them. All they have is each other and frosty beginnings and animosity give way to acceptance and ultimately friendship. A friendship that will face the ultimate test and each child will need to be brave, courageous and play their part if Pinchbeck is to be defeated and everyone is to survive.
It is unusual for a truly awful villain to steal the show but Madame Pinchbeck does. Flitting between kind and caring to outright terrifying, she preys on desperate children to use in her fake seances in her role as a medium. Supposedly offering comfort to those bereaving lost children, everything she does is for her own good and her desperation to receive fame and recognition as the ultimate medium. Every appearance of Pinchbeck filled me with dread and you constantly feared for the children whom she could ‘vanish’ at any moment.
Thoroughly captivating from start to finish. A word of caution, not for the faint-hearted or those that scare easily.
Recommended for 9+.