Book Review: A Tangle of Magicks by Stephanie Burgis
A Tangle of Magicks, I’m happy to say, is even more enjoyable than, Kat, Incorrigible, the first book in this refreshing children’s series by Stephanie Burgis (my review of which, can be read here).
‘After her antics in A Most Improper Magick, Kat Stephenson is back to cause more chaos! Stepmama drags the family to Bath to find Kat’s sister a new suitor. But, unknown to most of its gossipy visitors, Bath is full of wild magic. When Kat uncovers a plot to harness this magic in the Roman Baths, she finds her brother Charles is unwittingly involved. Kat must risk her newfound magical powers as she defies the Order of the Guardians to foil the plot and clear her brother’s name.’
I was swept up in Kat’s latest adventure from beginning to end — in fact I finished it in one sitting. Best of all, the characters I grew to love from the first book are all back; we finally get to know a little more about Charles, Kat’s older brother; and see Kat and her father set out to rescue him when he gets in a spot of magical trouble of his own!
A Tangle of Magicks feels slightly more grown up than its predecessor (much as I enjoyed it) and those who loved Burgis’s first book will be more than delighted with book two! Whereas Kat, Incorrigible stuck to a simple, but fun, plot-line; A Tangle of Magicks has several story arcs going on, secretive new characters and a mystery to unravel.
The story starts with Elissa’s marriage to Mr Collingwood, but this being the Stephenson family, things almost immediately start to go awry and it’s not long before Kat is expelled from the Order for her own hot-headedness before she’s even begun her training! Cue a family trip to Bath in the hunt for a rich husband, flirtations with scandalous rakes, midnight sacrifices, fake elopements, and a determined Kat let loose in a new city, on a mission to set things right.
As always, Burgis seems to just channel everything I love about Jane Austen, and, fittingly, this time round, Kat’s (mis)adventures take place in Bath. This change of scenery, while being wonderfully apt, also helps prevent A Tangle of Magicks from being in any way similar to the first book. The famous Roman Baths form a very important part of the story, and I enjoyed the tidbits of real information that were worked in, adding a sense of realism that Kat, Incorrigble, at times, lacked.
Magic and spell-work featured a lot more in this book, and I was glad to see Kat beginning to explore and understand her own powers better. She really comes into her own in this book, and I can’t wait to see more of her and Mr Gregson working together in any future books. I loved his dry humour and world-weary exasperation over Kat’s antics and it was great to see him start to trust her more, and to see Kat learn to occasionally ask for help when she needed it. We also learn much more concerning the Guardians and the Order, and several important members make an appearance. I have a strange feeling the Order’s not going to know what hits them if Kat ever manages to become a Guardian and I can’t wait to watch her shake up this centuries old society, dragging them into the er… 18th Century!
Kat is just as willful, stubborn and interfering as ever, but she is also incredibly brave, loyal, funny and spirited. The girl just gets into one scrape after another and in A Tangle of Magicks predictably finds herself in several embarrassing situations (being trapped at night in the Roman Baths with a horde of young men whose bathing suits leave little to the imagination was one such situation that had me chuckling — especially given Kat’s reaction to Lucy’s admiration for her older brother at the time). Angeline is still my favourite, I have to admit — and there are some rather delicious moments with Mr Carlyle and her scenes with Fredrick just sizzle on the page. I adore these two and very much enjoyed their own storyline that Burgis gives them in A Tangle of Magicks. I only wish I could tempt her to write a spin-off told from Angeline’s point of view so we can experience some of their flirting first hand! We are also introduced to several new characters, in particular a Miss Lucy, who I can’t help but think may be causing even more havoc than Kat in the future. Here’s hoping these two get together to cause more mischief in the next installment!
This series just makes me smile. Stephanie is a strong children’s writer, and has created some lovely characters I never want to leave behind. As much as I enjoy Kat’s exploits and a Regency era where magic is common-place, more than that I love the Stephensons. This eccentric, bickering family (reminiscent of the famous Bennets) are fiercely loyal to one another. There are several great moments in A Tangle of Magicks where we see the Stephenson family band together, but the best and totally cheer-worthy scene has to go to Stepmama when she puts her snobbish family in their place .
The Kat series is a treat for adults and kids alike, and I would urge anyone looking for a fun, lighthearted read to pick up A Tangle of Magicks and be rewarded with a fast paced, amusing story, loveable characters and a young protagonist who is well on her way to becoming the most infuriating, difficult and stubborn student in Guardian history.
Poor Mr Gregson!
*For those who would like a taste of Kat’s adventures, check out Duelling Magicks — a short Kat story here.*