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Splendors and Glooms Paperback – January 7, 2014
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From School Library Journal
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A brooding Dickensian novel with a touch of fantasy and a glimmer of hope. . . Vividly portrayed and complex, the characters are well defined individuals whose separate strands of story are colorful and compelling. Schlitz weaves them into an intricate tapestry that is as mysterious and timeless as a fairy tale.
—Booklist (starred review)
Two orphans, a witch and a girl who laughs at death: Each shares the lens of protagonist in Newbery-winner Schlitz’s fully satisfying gothic novel...Schlitz’s prose is perfect in every stitch, and readers will savor each word.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Victorian London could be a magical place: horse-drawn carriages, puppet shows, elaborate upper-class houses. Of course it could also be miserable: fog, filthy streets, shabby hovels where too many people live in too few rooms. Schlitz conjures both the magic and the mundane here. . . .Schlitz uses such evocative language that readers will practically smell dirty London and then be relieved by the crisp, cold air in the countryside around the witch’s crumbling mansion. The characters are recognizable tropes: the witch is rotting from the inside out; the orphans may be dirty and ill-bred, but they have spirit and pluck; the little rich girl is actually sad and lonely; the skinny puppeteer and the overly dramatic landlady are recognizably Dickensian. Yet, they are so well drawn that they are never caricatures, but people whom readers will cheer for, be terrified of, or grow to like. The plot is rich with supernatural and incredibly suspenseful elements. Fans of mystery, magic, and historical fiction will all relish this novel.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Few books can be called both delightful and eerie - this novel is one. Utterly transporting.
—Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal Winner
Settle down; prepare for mesmerism: Laura Amy Schlitz is behind the curtain, ready to show us a story that has real magic lacing through it.
—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy
Thrilling and masterful. The characters are real humans, trapped upon the page as if by magic. The plotting is relentless . . . and then resolves into a perfect crystal. The book is beautiful. You will bark with laughter and you will cry. I did.
—Adam Gidwitz, author of A Tale Dark and Grimm
A wonderfully twisty, creepy melodrama with three heroes to love, two villains to hate, and then at the end — but I won't tell, except to say it's totally satisfying.
—Nancy Werlin, National Book Award finalist and Edgar Award winner
The book builds slowly and ends stunningly.
[A] superb gothic novel…Vivid and strange, this latest work by Ms. Schlitz—a Newbery Medal-winner—is, like a marionette show that the orphans see one night, a spectacle "sharp-edged, exquisite, and eerily alive."
—Wall Street Journal
This thrilling Dickensian novel weaves a tale of sorcery and magic that will mesmerize with its intricate plot and wicked but endearing characters.
As the author unravels the mystery, she explores the many levels on which the characters themselves serve as puppets. Schlitz proves herself a master storyteller as she skillfully maneuvers the strings of this gothic tale right up to the astonishing climax.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers
Middle-schoolers not quite ready for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus can revel in this lusciously atmospheric title of rival magicians and the children caught in their crossfire.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Besides the rich language, setting and plot, SPLENDORS AND GLOOMS features an utterly delicious story that weaves its spell through the fortunes of innocent and not-so-innocent children, the cadaverous puppet master, a dying witch eager for revenge and dramatic action in a castle tower that will have readers as entranced as Grisini’s audiences.
t is exceedingly rare to find an author who hits it out of the park, so to speak, every single time she writes. Ms. Schlitz has written six published works for children and not one has been anything but remarkable. As adept at fairy stories as fairytales, at straight biographies or melodramatic ghost stories, at long last we see what she can do with a Dickensian setting. Result: She does wonders. Wonders and splendors with just a hint of gloom. The sole downside is sitting and waiting for her next book. If it’s half as good as this one, it’ll be worth the wait.
—Fuse #8 Production (SLJ blog)
Top Customer Reviews
Here's what I like: The author is a proven talent as evidenced in 'Good Masters, Sweet Ladies,' which DID take the Newbery a few years back. Laura Amy Schlitz can recreate the mood and imagery of a time period like few authors can. I found her descriptions of the harsh living conditions in Victorian England fascinating. Her main characters, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are assistants to sinister puppeteer Gaspare Grisini. When the trio is invited to perform at the wealthy Clara Wintermere's birthday party, Grisini embarks on a plan to kidnap the young girl, turn her into a puppet, and extract a hefty ransom from her parents. What ensues is a journey into magic and mysticism that keeps the reader guessing.
My complaints: A cluttered storyline that includes the longest death scene (by Grisini's witchy rival) I've ever read. I would have been quite content with exploring more the relationships between Clara, who is consumed by grief and guilt over the deaths of her siblings from cholera and stifling in her wealthy house of mourning, and the plucky orphans who come to her aid. Without the magic, witchcraft, mysterious stone, etc. it would have been a much more cohesive story. At about 300 pages the book relies too much on developing characters (the witch, for instance) that were extraneous. Waaay too much thrown into the mix and the really interesting characters (Clara's mourning parents and the hilarious landlady) were given too little to do.Read more ›
The witch is dying. The girl is lonely. The children are hungry. Four people unconnected until the puppet master Grisini brings them, in a sense, together. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are orphans who have lived with the man for years, doing his puppet work with him, received almost nothing in return. When they perform for Clara Wintermute, a rich little girl who requests a performance for her birthday, they are unprepared when the next day policeman come around asking questions. Clara has disappeared and Grisini is under suspicion. When Grisini himself disappears, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall find something that makes Clara's fate seem out of the ordinary.Read more ›
Now, look at the blurbs. I'm never very impressed by blurbs, but I have to admit that if Rebecca Stead, Gregory Maguire and Adam Gidwitz are all on board, then I'm intrigued.
Now further, try to forget all of the descriptions of this book as "Dickensian". Most of the time that means the author is leaning heavily on worn out orphan cliches, excessively quirky characters with cutesy names, ridiculous coincidences, fog, and horse drawn carriages.
This book doesn't need that kind of crutch. It is written with elegance and yet restraint. It is atmospheric, but not hobbled by obscure or over-researched historical footnotes. It has magical elements, but is not a fantasy or a wand-waver.
And it has really wonderfully realized characters, each an individual and engaging personality. The villains are villainous to just the right degree. Our heroes are worthy. Secondary characters add depth and support.
Actually, it seems that Laura Schlitz does something that her blurbers, especially Rebecca Stead, do; she adds the telling detail, or the sharp little observation, or the simple descriptive touch, just where it does the most good. Nothing here is overheated or purple. Nothing drifts into tedium.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Though this book is very thick, I think that it is full of surprises throughout the whole book. With every bit of magic that occurs comes with a great reaction that everyone will... Read morePublished 6 days ago by Tae Kim
One reviewer of another popular book, The Night Gardener, seemed almost to disdain that book and named Splendors and Glooms as a more superior book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Kindle Customer
Not really a young children's book, but a great story for teen to adult readers.Published 4 months ago by C Bullard
Splendors and Glooms has the most charming elements of the classic fairy tales. Two orphans in 1860's London struggle with dire poverty in the clutches of an evil magician. Read morePublished 6 months ago by North Shorrior
In Splendors and Glooms, Laura Amy Schlitz serves up a true Dickensian romp complete with tenements shrouded in London fog and oppressed orphans. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Ginger B.
This was a lovely story, beautifully written. It was a little short for my liking, as it only took me about a day and a half to read, but it was very good. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Amazon Customer