Book Review: Splendors and Glooms (Fire Spell) by Laura Amy Schlitz

1 Aug

ImageClara Wintermute is the only surviving child of Dr. and Mrs. Wintermute after cholera swept through the house. As such, she’s led a rather sheltered life without many friends or much excitement. On a walk through the park she sees a puppet show put on by two children and their master, a man named Grisini. Fascinated, Clara MUST have them at her birthday party. She talks to Lizzie Rose and Parsefall before the show and quite likes them, even if she finds Grisini a bit frightening. Except the next day, Clara disappears. And it turns out there have been other mysterious disappearances associated with Grisini, too. That, coupled with a mysterious letter from a rich woman inviting Lizzie Rose and Parsefall to live with her is enough to make anyone suspicious. But what they find at the house is a little more than an old woman and puppets…

There are several things you should know about me as a reader. a) If you put Big Ben on the cover of a book, I am likely to pick it up. b) If you’ve set your book in the Victorian period, I’m likely already reading it. c) If you’ve done the above and also have Venice as a secondary setting, I’m probably in love. d) Throw in some magic spells? Might as well just give it five stars already.

Okay, so it isn’t as easy as all that, but this book ticked all the usual boxes as well: well-written, brilliant, likable characters, well-described setting (complete with Parsefall’s fantastic dialogue and Grisini muttering in Italian all the time). This was just one of those books that I loved from page one. It’s a library book and I’m putting it on my “to-buy” list so that I can have it around for re-reading purposes.

I will admit that in the back of my mind I was a bit nervous. The prologue was in Cassandra’s perspective (that mysterious old woman), the first few chapters are in Clara’s perspective, and from there it switched up between Clara, Parsefall, Lizzie Rose, Grisini, and Cassandra. That sort of thing can be messed up really easily–I know I’m not brave enough to try it. However, I thought this was done seamlessly. What helped was that I was interested in all the characters, so I was never disappointed when one chapter ended and another began with another character. Also, the chapters seemed to flow into one another–the timing was always right.

Of all the characters, my favorite was probably Parsefall. He was a young boy who had been in Grisini’s care (if you could call it that) the longest. A pickpocket who refuses to wash, has a thorny exterior and a long, painful history but is actually quite sweet on the inside, and has a passion for the puppet business–he was just kind of adorable. Especially with that accent of his. Warning: he might take some deciphering at times, but the author’s good about explaining words he says through the other characters if their meaning isn’t intuitive. Like “stumpy.”

As for the plot, here lies my only complaint, and a minor one at that. I felt like there were two competing problems: first, Clara’s disappearance. Second, Cassandra needed a magical stone–the fire opal–to be stolen before it consumed her. These two plots intertwined wonderfully, but I felt like the conclusion to the latter could have been drawn out a bit more. It seemed to happen quite fast. I would have liked the characters to have a bit more time with the stone before what happened, well, happened. I won’t go into detail for the sake of spoilers, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know what I’m on about.

At any rate, if you’re into young adult fantasy set in Victorian London (or any one of those aspects) go check it out! I rushed off to see if the author had any other books, and I was pleased with what I found. Also, it’s a Newbery Honor book. So it has that seal of approval. =D Loved it.

**Note: My copy of the book is called “Fire Spell” but “Splendors and Glooms” is what pops up on Goodreads. Depending on where you’re living it could be either of these titles!

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2 Responses to “Book Review: Splendors and Glooms (Fire Spell) by Laura Amy Schlitz”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 2013: A Year of Reading in Review | More Than One Page - December 26, 2013

    […] Splendors and Glooms (Fire Spell) by Laura Amy Schlitz […]

  2. Book Review: A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz | More Than One Page - June 11, 2014

    […] couldn’t put this book down. I knew I’d probably like it, having liked another of the author’s books and reading a review of this book by my friend at Nine Pages. This was the sort of book whose story […]

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