Review Blog

Dec 21 2012

Fire spell by Laura Amy Schlitz

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Bloomsbury, 2012. ISBN 9781408826218.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Set in Victorian London, the story begins with Clara Wintermute, a lonely child whose four siblings have died from eating watercress contaminated with cholera, leaving her parents locked in grief. She befriends two ragged orphans, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, when they perform a puppet show for her on her twelfth birthday. The orphans work for Grisini, a Fagin-like character who kidnaps children and then demands ransom. He is able to hide the children by trapping their body and minds in a marionette until the ransom is paid. Grissini is in thrall to the witch Cassandra who is now dying and seeking to rid herself of the opal fire stone which has the power to restore life but also create evil. When Clara is kidnapped Parsefall discovers what has happened to her and he and Lizzie Rose become involved in a power struggle with Grisini and Cassandra.
These are touches here of E. Nesbit characters, Neil Gaiman's Coraline and The Graveyard Book as well as Cornelia Funke's Inkheart Trilogy. Targeted at the 9-12 age group, at almost 400 pages, it's a challenging read, suitable for confident readers as the story is revealed through different characters' perspectives. There is plenty of action and suspense, although the plot is at times rambling, contrived and anticlimatic. However, the characters are real and the settings memorable and atmospheric. Life for the rich and poor of those times is well researched and this award winning author has given great attention to detail. Those who persist with this novel will be well rewarded.
Kevyna Gardner

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