Splendors & Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz: characters, atmosphere, setting, style . . . but be ready for a book that does not rush, that you sink into and enjoy slowly.
Clara is a daughter of privilege, the only living child of her wealthy and doting parents. Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are ragged urchins, apprentices to Grisini, a street performer. Grisini has an almost magical skill with puppets, and a dark past that hints of real black magic. When Grisini is hired to perform a puppet show at Clara's birthday party, little do the three children know that their lives are about to become inexplicably intertwined.
I very much enjoyed this book, with its Dickensian setting and characters, the subtle touches of magic, the hints of pathos behind each child's story. It's an oddly compelling and somewhat demanding story, and from the reviews I've read, it's a love-it-or-hate-it kind of book. I loved it.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my public library system.)