A Delicious Victorian Gothic Thriller

Hi, sweeteas,

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m on a quest for new and extraordinary juvenile, middle grade, and young adult books. Books that break the mold, that don’t follow a formula, and that are interesting and exciting to read. In other words, books that are unique and memorable.

Last month I wrote about Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce. This month I’m recommending Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz. *****

Splendors and Glooms is a delicious Victorian gothic thriller that brings together five unlikely characters: three very different pre-adolescent children trying to survive in the dark and dangerous world of Victorian England and two rival magical adults bent on using them for their own selfish and nefarious purposes. Here’s a brief description of the characters:

1- Cassandra Sagredo is an old, ailing witch possessing a deadly magical amulet that she needs to get rid off before it destroys her.

2- Gaspare Grisini is a master puppeteer, an evil warlock, and a criminal who enjoys manipulating and controlling people the way he does puppets. He is also Cassandra’s old lover and rival.

3- Lizzie Rose is a pretty, well-mannered orphan “rescued” by Grisini to assist him with his puppet act. Lizzie is an intelligent and genuinely good girl.

4- Parsefall is also an orphan “rescued” by Grisini. He is the classical crude and grimy street urchin. Grisini has taught him to steal, manipulate the puppets, and fear him.

5- Clara Wintermute is the only surviving child of a wealthy doctor. Her life is darkened by grief and guilt and the belief that her parents don’t love her.

I like how the author places the reader in each of the characters’ minds, and I loved the rich and complex plot and the wonderful descriptions. The novel is replete with suspense and dark humor and the writing is superb.

Here’s an excerpt:

“In the past weeks, Clara had come to look forward to the puppet show even more than Parsefall did. When he lifted the perch and pulled her strings, her bloodless body seemed to tingle, and she felt as if something quickened inside her. She could almost imagine that her limbs stretched and swayed by their own free will. It was not true, of course. But she wondered if one day it might be true — if somehow Parsefall might help her cross the border between paralysis and life. With every touch, the bond between them grew stronger. When he played upon her strings, Clara glimpsed the splendors and glooms that haunted his mind. She shared his appetite for prodigies and wonders, for a world where spangles were stars and skeletons frolicked until their bones fell apart.” (from Chapter 25 – “A Member of the Audience”)

I can’t wait to discover the next extraordinary book!

Happy reading!

We had a kettle; we let it leak:
Our not repairing it made it worse.
We haven’t had any tea for a week…
The bottom is out of the Universe.
~Rudyard Kipling

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