his debut novel, which reads like a fairy tale with a Victorian setting, features a fascinating villain, Madame Pinchbeck, who has supernatural powers to imprison stolen children and is a charlatan who holds seances to trick people about their departed loved ones. Sustaining these two traits in one character — spell casting and fake spirituality — requires skill. It should not work that the baddie is both a fraud and an actual magician, yet Spangler makes us believe. She conjures up an eventful gothic adventure full of secrets and surprises, based on the relationship between three lost children whom Pinchbeck has captured and their perilous struggle to escape.
Fantasy fans should snap up Jenni Spangler’s superlative debut, The Vanishing Trick (Simon & Schuster). The orphaned Leander leads a precarious existence as a pickpocket until he crosses paths with the unscrupulous Madame Pinchbeck. Bound to her service, Leander, Charlotte and Felix must act as the stars of Pinchbeck’s seances, trapped by objects that hold part of their souls, and into which they vanish when commanded. Will they ever be free of their fearsome mistress, or be reunited with their loved ones?