a tangle of knots

Monday, March 4, 2013 |
One person I trust (and you should, too!) for middle grade recommendations is Charlotte of Charlotte’s Library.  When she reviewed Lisa Graff’s A Tangle of Knots and mentioned fantasy and baking in the same breath, I knew this would be a book for me.  And so it is – the charming story and tasty recipes included at chapter’s end are light, lovely reading.

a tangle of knots by lisa graff book cover
Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady's past and how she became an orphan. If she's lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent. 

Lisa Graff adds a pinch of magic to a sharply crafted plot to create a novel that will have readers wondering about fate and the way we're all connected.

A Tangle of Knots is a gem of a story: short, sweet, magical, and full of unexpected characters and connections. It centers on Cady, a diminutive orphan with a Talent for baking.   She lives in a world where most people have Talents that allow them to do one thing superhumanly well.  Often Talents are simple things, like spitting, or whistling, but some are extremely useful, such as Miss Mallory’s (the proprietor of Cady’s orphanage) Talent for matching orphans with the perfect family. 

The trouble is that Cady has been living at the orphanage for ten whole years – which is a record, because usually Miss Mallory matches girls within days, and sometimes in an hour!  The story doesn’t encompass only these two, though.  It is told from many viewpoints, and their threads of story woven together to paint a bigger picture of choices and fate, caring for others, and following your heart.  It’s sweet without verging on stifling, and magical without losing immediacy or a contemporary setting.

The only thing that took a little getting used to was that ever-changing narrative voice.  The story jumps from character to character not only by chapter but within chapters as well, and this is a little jarring to start.  Soon, though, you become lost in everyone’s unique stories.  Part of the fun is wondering how they all fit together, and speculating about who the gentleman with the hot air balloon is, and what he wants. 

This is a gentle fantasy with a beating heart.  It explores themes of family, finding what is important to you (be it a Talent, belonging or adventure), self-worth, and righting the wrongs of the past.  It also features several generations of characters, and that element is done particularly well.  It’s all-ages reading, and lest we forget those delectable recipes… all-ages baking too.

Recommended for: fans of Lauren Oliver’s Liesl & Po, those who enjoy light fantasy, anyone with an interest in well-woven middle grade stories, and all those who love adventures and cake.

Interested in more middle grade books?  Check out Middle Grade March!


Tales of Whimsy said...

What a beautiful review C!
I loooove this line: "This is a gentle fantasy with a beating heart."

Liviania said...

I think we had the exact same complaint - the changing narrators, an effect that eventually falls into the background.

Book twins, seriously.

Steph Su said...

I only recently stumbled across this book--am enthralled by that gorgeously vivid cover--and I'm glad to see that the contents stand up to the cover. The synopsis reminds me a bit of Ordinary Magic, one of my favorite MG fantasies of last year, so I'm curious to give this a go!

Anonymous said...

This is the second review for this book I've seen this week, and it sounds wonderful. I was on the fence, but your review pushed me into the "will need to read" side - even with the changing narrators =)

Randi M said...

I love the sounds of this book; any food-related storylines in books draw me in. I'm always on the lookout for great middle grade fiction and this sounds like it may just fit the bill. Great review!

Dana said...

That sounds like such a lovely read. Adding it to my Goodreads TBR. And thanks for the chance to win. So sweet!

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