Splendors and Glooms
Roaming the streets of 19th century London, the puppet master Grisini and his two apprentices spellbind audiences with their life-like marionettes and whimsical stories—including Clara Wintermute, the privileged daughter of a wealthy doctor in Chester Square. Enchanted by their performance and driven by her desire to overcome her loneliness, Clara invites the troupe to her home to present their show at her birthday party. Later, when Clara suddenly goes missing and Grisini soon after, his orphan apprentices, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, are sucked into the tangled web of deceit and deception that Grisini has woven, full of dark secrets and a criminal history. On a quest to find Clara and free themselves from the controlling hand of the master puppeteer, the pair soon find themselves fleeing the city and finding refuge at Grisini’s old adversary‘s manner, Strachan’s Ghyll, where they try to formulate a plan to save Clara from the clutches of the evil that binds her. Little do they know that they may be in danger themselves…
“…this was the real Strachan’s Ghyll, and it was forbidding, not picturesque. It stood in a circle of hollies, and the verdant green of the leaves made the stones look blood red. A round tower leaned over them at a menacing angle, as if daring them to take shelter.”
After reading this novel, I find it easy to believe that it won (and rightly deserved) a Newberry Award. It was wonderful writing; the plot was tight, the prose was smooth, and it had the certain aura of foreboding and eeriness that kept the reader on the edge of their seat. I immediately fell in love with the characters—Lizzie Rose was the sweet and kind Cinderella; Parsefall the loudmouth street urchin that you can’t help but fall in love with, and Clara is the courteous socialite with a guilt-ridden heart. Unlike most books, every single character had depth—they each had a story, and I felt the yin-yang symbol was relevant and prominent in this novel—in every good person lies bad, and in every bad person lies good. The plot was unique and individual, giving you a different twist at every turn. I also lived all the symbolism—it really added a new dimension to the plot and actually made you think a little. All in all, a good read that I would definitely recommend for anyone looking for an original book with a suspense-filled plot.
“Clara slept…..She was as lifeless as a pressed flower. Her mind was empty, free from guilt and terror and grief. Only the night before, she had spoken of her fear of cold and darkness; now darkness and cold claimed her, and she was not afraid.”
I would recommend this book to all ages, though it does have a haunting undertone and some violent themes, so read at your own risk!
Will Lizzie Rose and Parsefall find a way to free themselves and Clara from Grisini’s clutches? Or will they all remain under his domain, Grisini making them dance like his puppets on a string? Read Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz to find out!