Fire Spell by Laura Amy Schlitz
Published: 13 September 2012 (Bloomsbury)
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Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Clara disappears on her birthday. Exceptionally wealthy and exceptionally lonely, she requested that a puppeteer and his two orphan helpers stage a spellbinding show for her in the vast empty house. But then the curtains close and darkness falls ...
Fire Spell was one of those rare things in that it was a book I hadn't heard of before I came across it. The story follows Clara who becomes fascinated by the puppeteer Grisini and the children who help run his shows. Suddenly she becomes more wrapped up in their world in ways she couldn't possibly have imagined.
I quickly fell in love with Fire Spell. It's told in third person and the opening chapters give us a little bit of history about each of the main characters by focusing on each one of them. I adored the characters in this book. We start off with Clara who upon first impressions seems like a spoilt rich kid, but I always felt there was more to her character and I was proved right. She has things pretty tough since losing all of her siblings to illness and her parents don't treat her very nicely at all.
My favourite character, though, was Lizzie Rose - Grisini's assistant. She's so caring and always wants to do the right thing. I really liked the relationship between her and Parsefall who she's come to see as a brother. Grisini himself is completely horrible and I was really curious to see what schemes he was up to!
As well as those main characters, there are also occasional chapters about the witch Cassandra, who has fallen under the curse of an old necklace. This, and a few other elements of the story, add to the magical side of the tale. It reminded me very much of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus with that feeling of there being something bigger going on that you're never quite sure what it is.
The pace is quite gentle, and because there's a lot of time dedicated to getting to know each character it took a while for things to get going. However as soon as there was a bit of a revelation about what happened to Clara I was hooked. There was plenty of mystery and I could feel the story building towards something.
Fire Spell is set in Victorian London and the setting was one of my favourite things about the book. I could completely immerse myself in that atmosphere and see the settings and locations so vividly in my head. The writing was so beautiful and helped me escape into the story. I also loved how Fire Spell addressed things like poverty in London and how it affects Lizzie Rose and Parsefall.
The climax to Fire Spell was full of action but most importantly it places a great focus on the characters. I loved how everything was rounded up. I'll definitely be recommending this one because it was so unique. It had the perfect blend of mystery and magic to keep me intrigued the whole way through, and delivered characters I really grew to care about. A truly unique story.
What to read next: The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
Books like this: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern