March 20th, 2013 by Nancy
When I first started reading Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, I was a little worried — the book cover looked awfully spooky and the title is downright depressing sounding. But then I started reading it… and yup, the book is awfully spooky and downright depressing. But in a good way! Depressing in a good way, I swear! You will not regret reading it.
At first, I thought there were two main characters. Then I kept reading and decided there were three main characters. Then I kept reading some more and decided, nope, there’s five main characters. But then there’s this other character that’s kind of a big deal too, so… let me just break it down for you:
Parsefall is a young orphan boy who doesn’t know how old he is — or how he lost his pinky finger on his left hand. He’s exceptionally gifted at fantoccini (puppeteering) and pickpocketing. The hunger in his malnourished body is only matched by his hunger to be the best puppeteer ever.
Fourteen-year-old Lizzie Rose lost her parents and now lives with Parsefall under the care of Gaspare Grisini — an abusive guardian who barely feeds them. Lizzie Rose is hard-working, smart, and kind, but hasn’t had the best life since her parents died.
Twelve-year-old Clara Wintermore lives with her mourning parents and the suffocatingly sad memory of her four dead siblings. She meets Parsefall, Lizzie Rose, and Grisini, and she’s transfixed by their puppet show — but mysteriously vanishes after they put on a show for her birthday at her home.
Gaspare Grisini is a greedy illusionist and puppeteer — and has quite a few real magic tricks up his sleeve. He also has a mysterious past with Cassandra, an aging witching living outside of London.
So how are they all connected? Well, without giving too much away… all of the following things happen or appear in the book: mausoleums, kidnapping, telepathic dolls, magic spells, runaways, mysterious inheritances, an evil inanimate monkey, smelly yapping dogs, poisoned watercress, enchanted servants, unrequited love, a magical stone… and so much more!
Splendors and Glooms totally sucked me into its world, and even if just a single item above has intrigued you, I think you’d like it too! It’s no wonder that this book earned a Newbery Honor Award. My only complaint: I would have liked to know more about the history between Cassandra and Grisini, but perhaps Laura Amy Schlitz could be convinced into writing a prequel…
Don’t let Nancy around stringed puppets. It’d be a tangled disaster of Christmas light proportions.