So hang on for my quick review of Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz.
Twelve year old Clara is captivated by the marionette performance of the masterful Grisini, but also taken by his two assistants, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall. When she invites them to perform at her birthday party and Grisini gives her a strange gift, Clara is drawn to the strange man. When Clara goes missing, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall find themselves caught up in a web of deceit, magic, and revenge that goes back decades. Can they figure out how to break the spell before their lives or Clara's are lost forever?
What I Liked:
- I really enjoyed the play between Lizzie and Parse. Though they aren't related, there was a brother/sister vibe between them that I enjoyed.
- I liked Lizzie and Parse's perseverance and street smarts. Though neither is formally educated, they each have many skills that they use to work their way through the very strange events they find themselves trapped in.
- SPOILER (kind of): I liked the idea of Clara being trapped into being a marionette and being caught in this power struggle between Grisini and his rival.
- I would have liked it better if it hadn't been quite as dark. I'm sure there are kids who would love the creepiness of this, but I am an adult and I found some of the things to be a bit too gruesome or dark for me. I would really hesitate to give this to many middle grade kids.
- I would have liked less of the adults. Not that I have an issue with adults being major characters in kids' books, but in this, the feud between Grisini and Cassandra felt like something out of an adult novel, while the parts with Lizzie and Parse fit better in a middle grade novel. For me, the two didn't blend together very well.
- For people who like a dark, creepy story, I think they'll enjoy this.
- For me, it just didn't quite work as a whole.
- I did like Schlitz's style. Though it was a bit more formal than many middle grade level books are, it fit with the tone and time period of the story.