“A brooding, Dickensian novel with a touch of fantasy and a glimmer of hope. . . . As mysterious and timeless as a fairy tale.” — Booklist (starred review)
Laura Amy Schlitz’s Newbery Honor–winning Victorian gothic is a rich banquet of dark comedy, scorching magic, and bewitching storytelling. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, invites master puppeteer Grisini to entertain at her birthday party. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion falls upon the puppeteer and his orphaned assistants. The three children — two penniless waifs and one pampered heiress — have been caught in a trap set by Grisini’s ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance she’s determined to shed before it’s too late.
About the Author
What People are Saying About This
Newbery Medalist Schlitz delivers many pleasures—fully dimensional children, period details so ripe one can nearly smell them, and droll humor that leavens a few scenes of true horror. A highly original tale about children caught in a harrowing world of magic and misdeeds.
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.
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.
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
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
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)