London, 1860: Clara Wintermute lives a lonely life, protected from the world by her anxious parents who still mourn the untimely deaths of her four brothers and sisters from an outbreak of cholera. For a rare birthday treat, she begs for a special privilege - a drawing-room performance from the magical pupeteer Grisini, whose marionettes have enchanted her at his shows in the park. But even more than the puppet show itself, Clara longs to meet the two children who work with the pupeteer - orphans Parsefall and Lizzie-Rose - and is thrilled when she is given permission to invite them to tea in the nursery before the show. But unfortunately for Clara, Grisini is no ordinary pupeteer. He is also a sinister magician and trickster who uses his magical powers to imprison her in the form of a marionette to add to his theatre.
Bullied and mistreated by their cruel employer, Lizzie-Rose and Parsefall soon become suspicious about the disappearence of their new-found friend - but then Grisini unexpectedly disappears, and their miserable life changes forever. Soon, the pair find themselves embarking on a journey to the strange country mansion of a dying witch, the mysterious Madama, whose power comes from a mysterious fire opal. 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 the children outwit Grisini and Madama - and free Clara from the spell that imprisons her?
This wonderfully creepy and atmospheric novel has a brilliantly complex plot, full of exciting twists and turns that will keep children on the very edge of their edge of their seats. With three compelling - and very different - young heroes in Clara, Lizzie-Rose and Parsefall, and a deeply sinister villain in Grisini, this is a hugely entertaining melodrama in high Victorian style, complete with plenty of dark, gothic touches. A spell-binding, spine-tingling fantasy adventure that is certain to capture readers' imaginations.