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Book Review: A Tangle of Magicks by Stephanie Burgis 

 November 13, 2022

By  Turn The Page

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.