Splendors and Glooms

Splendors and Glooms

Clara slept. Never in her life had she known so dense a sleep without dreaming, without the slightest twitch of finger or eyelid. She was as lifeless as a pressed flower. If she had been awake, she could not have said whether her eyes were open of shut. Her mind was empty, freed from guilt and terror and grief.

Grisini is a master puppeteer with a very dark side. He and his assistant, Parsefall can make the puppets dance as if they were alive. When lonely Clara Wintermute sees them in the park, she insists on having them for her birthday. Little does she know, she is inviting danger into her life. Clara tries to be friendly to Parsefall and Lizzie Rose, his fellow orphaned apprentice. When Clara disappears and Grisini is the lead suspect, things begin to look bad for Parsefall and Lizzie Rose, especially after Grisini falls down the stairs and appears to have died, and they find amongst his belongings a marionette that looks remarkably like Clara Wintermute. Fortune is on their side when they intercept a letter from a “friend” of Grisini’s inviting them to her home in the country where she plans to make them her heirs. Little do they know they may be leaping from the frying pan directly into the fire. The orphans and Clara may yet discover inner strength that can save them all from the deadly curse of Grisin’s rival, a witch named Cassandra. This lively novel combines magic and mystery in Victorian London and leaves readers on the edge of their seats.

ISBN: 9780763653804   400 pages.  Middle Grades 5-8.

Alice Cyphers, Librarian, Pennsylvania USA


A witch is being burned alive by the fire opal she wears around her neck. She knows it is killing her but she can’t escape its curse. Gaspare Grisini is a master puppeteer who travels the streets of London with Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, two orphaned children who help him put on the show. When the very wealthy Dr. Wintermute hires Grisini and his crew to perform for his daughter Clara’s birthday – the only surviving child in a household gripped with grief after losing all of Clara’s siblings to disease – Clara, too, disappears into the night. As Lizzie and Parse try to figure out what happened to Clara they stumble upon Grisini’s criminal past and begin to suspect that he has more to do with it then he’s letting on. When they find the evidence of his crime and flee London, they become caught in a trap set by the burning witch who believes Grisini may be her only hope of survival. At turns suspenseful and gruesome, this story will have you looking at puppets – and puppeteers – in an entirely new way.

Recommended by: Susan Grigsby

, Librarian, Georgia USA

ALSC Tween Recommended Reads http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/Tween13_RecReadsList.pdf

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