Tuesday 21 August 2012

'Fire Spell' by Laura Amy Schlitz: Book Review

'Fire Spell’

By Laura Amy Schlitz
Published by Bloomsbury, 13th September 2012
RRP £6.99 (paperback)
ISBN 9781408826218
Reviewed by Lynsey Evans

Set in the 1860s, this charming tale of magic, tragedy and unlikely friendships, is a fantastic story that will enthral and delight.

Grisini is a conman, puppet-master and magician, though he uses his magic for wrong-doing. He’s a cruel and greedy master. He ‘adopts’ Parsefall, an orphaned boy he ‘rescued’ from the workshouse and Lizzie-Rose, the orphaned daughter of an actor and actress. They live in squalor in a London boarding house, where the kind but drunk Mrs Pinchbeck looks out for the children. Grisini has taught Parsefall how to steal, pick locks and to work the puppets. Parsefall is uneducated and fearful of his master. Lizzie-Rose is a young lady, well bought up and educated but fallen on hard times with the death of both her parents. She plays the music for their travelling puppet show and keeps an eye on Parsefall, who she cares for like a brother.

When Clara Wintermute asks her parents for the puppet show to be bought into their house for her brirthday, they finally reluctantly agree. They have lost 4 children to Cholera, with Clara the only surviving child, and their house has been in mourning ever since. Little do they know that Grisini will kidnap their child, turn her into a puppet and steal her away.

If that’s not enough to be going on with, there is then Cassandra or ‘Madama’, a powerful witch, whose power comes from the fire opal – yet this power is set to destroy her, as it has those before her who owned the wishing stone. All destroyed by fire. The only way to free herself from its curse is to have someone steal her stone. Madama knew Grisini along time ago and as she is more powerful than him, she calls Grisini to her as he always wanted the fire opal for himself and his own dark ways. Grisini is too smart to steal it himself, so suggests she invited the children to come and stay at her huge home in Windermere. They’ll steal it he assures her, thinking he’ll have the power of the stone without the curse.

The children have discovered Clara’s puppet in their master’s absence, and still reeling from the shock that he hit them and then fell down the stairs, to what they thought was his death. They wonder about Grisini, how bad he actually is and when a letter from Madama arises inviting them to her home as she’s dying and looking to leave her worldly goods to them, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall make the journey to Windermere, not realising how much this will change their life, and Clara’s …

This is a spell-binding tale, wrought with tragedy and triumph. It’s refreshing to have such an exciting story told in one novel – no sequels, no waiting to find out what happens next!

Fantastic and highly recommended for readers aged 10+

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