Barbara's Reviews > Splendors and Glooms
Splendors and Glooms
by Laura Amy Schlitz
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Aug 19, 12
Read in August, 2012
I enjoyed reading this suspense-filled tale of magic and mystery set in 1860 London and Strachan's Ghyll in 1861. While it takes awhile for all the connections among the characters to be revealed, I appreciated being given the time to figure out what each one's secret was. This is one of those books in which it's hard to decide which person is most evil: Cassandra the witch or her archnemesis, the puppet master. Clearly, the author has more sympathy for Cassandra since she reveals aspects of the young Cassandra and the elderly, dying Cassandra that make readers feel pity for her whereas the puppet master seems relentlessly intent on getting his way with little care for others. The storyline revolves around Lizzie Rose and Parsefall who are orphans who fall under the care of Gaspare Grisini, a talented puppeteer who has several other ways of making a living, including having Parsefall steal from the members of his audience, and kidnapping. After they perform at Clara Wintermute's twelfth birthday party, she disappears. Eventually, it becomes clear that Grisini has taken her away, put her under a spell so that she remains a puppet, unable to speak or move except when strings are attached to her limbs. After Grisini seems to have disappeared, the children head to the north of the country, following the instructions in a letter from Cassandra who promises to leave her estate to them. Of course, she can't be trusted either, and she has plans to use the children to get rid of a pendant that has brought her great power but never any happiness. The writing kept me moving quickly the story, and the characters were drawn so realistically that I felt that I knew all of them or someone just like them. I could feel the grinding hunger and exhaustion that Lizzie Rose and Parsefall experienced and the delight with which they filled their bellies. I'll be interested to hear the opinions of middle grade readers on this one.
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