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VINE VOICEon 24 July 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
We open the book to find an old witch Cassandra dreaming of being burned alive. She wakes remembering a man called Grisini who had told her the opal that gives her her magic would burn her alive. She tries to smash the stone, then...

We shift to London in the autumn of 1860. Clara is a upper class young girl hoping that Grisini the puppeteer will be allowed to come to her birthday party. She lives in material wealth but abject emotional poverty, the only survivor of the cholera that took her 4 siblings including her twin brother. Her mother's grief makes her home a haunted melancholy place, Clara has to be silent and never to be a child.

Lizzie-Rose and Parsefall are orphans, employed and sometimes fed by Grisini. Parsefall is learning to play the puppets, Lizzie-Rose does the fetching and carrying. Dirt poor and unloved they marvel at Clara's house as they bring the puppet stage in. Paresefall has his mind on petty theivery, but Grisini has something much worse in mind and the children find themselves unwittingly caught up in his spell casting and ancient feud with Cassandra.

A lovely well written book, you can really feel the texture of London both from the viewpoint of Parsefall and Lizzie-Rose struggling to stay alive and Clara who has the money to pay road sweepers to clear the roads of horse dung for her should she step down from her carriage. Schiltz conjures the cold, the filth, and the suspense as the narrative hurtles onward. A great read for I would say 9-13 year olds.
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on 17 February 2013
I loved this book - even though I'm probably not in the intended age audience which is probably 10-13! Nevertheless, the book had me in a trance and stayed with me for many days after I had initially read it.

The book begins in London 1860, and Clara Wintermute, a neglected 12-year-old girl, sees a puppet show inadvertently and begs her father, a doctor who secretly wishes that Clara herself had been the twin to die, not her brother who succumbed to cholera like her three other dead siblings, to have them brought to their house to perform for Clara's birthday. But that night, Clara disappears - and the two main suspects are Grisini's - the puppet-show master - helpers, orphans Lizzie Rose and Parsefall, who, like the police and everyone else, are trying to uncover the true, yet sinister reason behind Clara's disappearance. . .

I really enjoyed this book, and it had a great atmospheric feel to it. My only two major gripes are I would like the author to explain more about Cassandra's (the witch) and Grisini's relationship, and a more complex insight into their characters, and don't know why this book was renamed Fire Spell (in the USA it is published under Splendours and Glooms, which is a name I think suits the book better) as it doesn't feature a big spell. But apart from those, this book is a fantastic, enjoyable read.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The setting of `Fire Spell' moves from London to the Lake District in 1860 with evocative descriptions of Dickensian flavour and a cold winter when ice and snow were commonplace. This reality is counter balanced by an atmospheric fantasy story of witchcraft that starts reasonably innocently but rapidly builds up tension as it introduces the main child protagonists plus sinister characters who are in a battle for magic powers and are intent on doing the children harm.

Author Laura Amy Schlitz skilfully blends an intriguing mixture of physical and mental elements where everyone seems to have their inner secrets and to experience some form of sadness. She cleverly ensures explanations of how personae have arrived at their relative positions are only gradually exposed to readers, and she confuses her readers between what is said or imagined and what is real or mystical. `Fire Spell' is built into a dark and menacing supernatural tale, and though the ending may be sudden it is not predictable. In being truly frightening this suggests publicity blurb may have misjudged the impact and targeted age group as a "haunting and magical adventure for 9-11 year olds". Certainly `Fire Spell' has a powerful plot with disturbing undercurrents - and it seems more suited to `young adults' - and their parents.
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on 22 September 2012
I absolutely LOVED this book, I couldn't put it down. I loved how it was written and I truly fell in love with the three characters, Lizzie Rose, Parsefall and Clara. They were all so different and yet so equally endearing in their own way. I also really liked the jacket cover. I enjoyed the ending as well. I also liked that even though it was set in the 1860's it wasn't as bleak as some other books written about the same era or it didn't seem to dwell on it, it was all about the story and the action, I liked that. Some books can spend ages describing every little detail which can get a bit boring. I thought this book had just enough description for me to feel like I was there but not too much that it bored me. I also liked to see the different scenes through different characters eyes like Lizzie Rose and Parsefall's room through Lizzie Roses eyes and then also through Dr Wintermute's eyes.
I found some bits like when Clara was in Grisini's spell and then also real through the witches spell a tad confusing at first but as I read on it made sense.
Over all it was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I was sad to come to the end and I had to say goodbye to the wonderful characters.
I would highly recommend this book for any reader from about nine years plus.
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VINE VOICEon 14 October 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
It isn't often that you can sink into a book that is so nicely written with such a good plot and action. For me, this book isn't quite up there with Cornelia Funke's Inkheart trilogy but it is fairly close. Unlike many tales that involve children, which has children acting like adults and coping with situations that leave me thinking 'yeah, right' you could believe that Lizzie-Rose and Parsefall would be able to cope with the situations that they did.

OK, so a basic plot outline. There is an evil witch, an evil sorcerer, and teenagers Clara, Lizzie-Rose and Parsefall are caught in the middle. Clara is the daughter of a wealthy doctor, but her family suffered the tragic loss of her four siblings. Lizzie-Rose and Parsefall are orphans who were taken in by the evil sorcerer. When Clara gets turned into a living puppet, Lizzie-Rose and Parsefall have to try and find a way to save her (and themselves. It is tense, and there are some some great plot twists. I also like the characters. Nobody is relentlessly evil (well, maybe the sorcerer) and noone is perfectly good.

I'm usually not a fan of historically-based fiction, but I loved the view of Victorian London that the author gave. Can't wait for her next book!
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on 10 February 2013
Very good book, did not want the story to end! The characters were all well described and the storyline wonderfully written.
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VINE VOICEon 22 September 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The story begins in 1860 London. Clara Wintermute is born into a wealthy family, and has everything she wants, but she is lonely and the reason for this loneliness becomes all too clear as the story unfolds. One day Clara sees the puppeteer Grisini in the park. Working with him are two ragged children, a girl called Lizzie Rose and a boy called Parsefall. Clara is enthralled by the way Grisini manipulates his stringed puppets and decides that she would like Grisini to perform at her birthday party. She asks her father, who, reluctantly agrees. Little did she know that this would change her life forever.

Grisini, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall arrive at the Wintermute home, and they are amazed that Clara seems to have everything, adoring parents, warmth and plenty of food to eat, but they didn't know how lonely Clara was. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall. It soon becomes clear that Grisini is no ordinary pupeteer. He is also a sinister magician.
As they seek to find out Clara's whereabouts, Lizzie and Parsefall uncover that Grisini's isn't all he is meant to be. Bullied and mistreated by Grisini, Lizzie-Rose and Parsefall soon become suspicious about the disappearence of Clara. Then Grisini unexpectedly disappears, and their lives change forever. After the discovery of a letter addressed to Grisini, they find themselves taking a journey to the Lake District, to the strange country mansion belonging to the mysterious Cassandra, or `Madama' as she likes to be called. Cassandra's exceptional power comes from a mysterious fire opal. (There is clearly history between Grisini and Cassandra, but the writer doesn't go into much detail about this). Lizzie Rose and Parsefall discover that Grisini longs to steal the jewel for himself and seize its power, but the fire opal is set to destroy them both, as it has many others before them. Can Lizzie Rose and Parsefall outwit Grisini and Madama? - Can they free Clara from the spell that imprisons her.

The plot line in this story is quite complicated with lots of twists and turns. It is a complete story, no sequels to this novel. I thought Fire Spell was ok, but feel there was something missing, maybe more details about the characters, particularly Grissini and Cassandra?

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VINE VOICEon 25 November 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Grand Victorian Horror that takes you to the street of London and the wilds of Windermere. Laura May Schlitz exploits the scariness of puppet theatre and how frightening it might be to be trapped in a marionette's body.

Clara Wintermute is the poor girl, but she's no sloppy heroine and finds that she has some mysterious powers of her own.

Parsefall and Lizzie Rose are the urchins assisting the evil puppet Master, Grisini, and he is a real baddie who steals fingers and lives.

There's also the witch, Cassandra, to deal with. She has the powerful Fire Opal which makes her magic work, but which will also curse her to death by fire unless she can get someone to steal it from her.

Schlitz has created a great adventure for children with plenty of shocks and shudders on the way to an ending which only the main characters' ingenuity can bring about.

Besides being Victorian in feel, there is also something of Enid Blyton about it here and there.
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on 5 December 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Set in the Victorian times in London, this is one young girl's adventure with slightly eerie theme intertwined. Magic, puppets, witches all abound....
Probably aimed at young teens, who enjoy the twists and turns of spooky thrillers and mysticism, this is well written and definitely a page turner.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
My 11 year old daughter thought this was excellent.
Fire Spell is a mystery written a gothic twist .It is a good book because it has got magic in it but it is not babyish fairies instead it's about witches and dark magic.
Clara is a wealthy girl from 1860 .She has lots of money but not so many friends. The closest she ever got was with two puppeters,a young boy and girl.As you read on and reach the end only then do you find out the reason behing the title.
I would recommend this book for 10-12 year olds as the story line is confusing for the younger reader.If you like a mystery ,gothic fantasy or a historical drama this is the book for you.If you like Eva Ibbotson or E. Nesbit you will enjoy Fire Spell.
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