Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After several dozens of pages into Splendors and Glooms, I found myself hoping that the villain Grisini, a Victorian puppet master, would use his magic to kidnap children by turning them into marionettes. I even thought, if he does not, what a great idea for a story...
And then he did it.
I can't decide if I was able to anticipate this series of events based on what Schlitz revealed, or if he author meant to make it more of a surprise for the reader. Was the story predictable? Or was I just lucky with my guess?
Being predictable isn't horrible...after all, I know the story of Romeo and Juliet (as do many) and would still watch the play. Most know what happened to the Titanic and yet we watch the film.
As a reader, I did feel that I knew the story as the story unravelled. Little came as a surprise...but I can't determine if that is a good thing or a bad thing, because I liked the story.
I also can't determine several things:
I can't decide whose story this is. Who is the main character?
I can't decide if I "buy" that a magic stone could be destroyed by a child packing it in a snowball. This is a magic stone, minde you, which protected itself from being crushed by a heavy iron pan by sensing this and redirecting the pan down upon the hand of the person trying to rid the world of its black charms. This is a stone so powerful it burns to the touch, can break spells, can summon people from miles away to drop what they are doing and walk zombie-like to it. This is a stone that can only bring the owner relief if it is stolen from the owner--and the bulk of the novel is the plotting of the witch to get one of the children to steal this magic stone from her dying clutches. All of that said...a snowball destroys it.
I don't know...
I can't ascertain how old the children are. We're told they are teenagers, but they do not act, speak, or read like teenagers in my opinion. I think their age dissipated in the setting of the story in Victorian London. In an effort to ensure accurate dialect, the feel that these are authentic teenagers is lost. With the onslaught of referring to such things as "coppers" me-finks I imagined the younger characters as more in the image J.M. Barrie's Darling children than any of John Green's Katherines, Alaskas, or Margos.
That said. I liked it.
Purportedly dark and Dickensian, Splendors and Glooms reminded me of the kind of story I liked when I was twelve. Thinking of it like "Oliver Twist light," or "PG-13 Pinocchio" it fits somewhere in the Middle Grade to younger Young Adult category and is a worthwhile book to keep on your classroom library shelf. For all of my uncertainty, I feel confident that my students will like the novel.
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