REVIEW: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

tangleofknotsA Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
Philomel, 2013
[Goodreads | Amazon]

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 really cute middle grade novel. There were lots of things to love about this one, including the wide cast of characters, the whimsical aspects (hot air balloons and a girl who loves baking cakes), and the wonderfully appetizing cake recipes scattered throughout. It’s also a really fast read; I was finished with it in a matter of hours, and it had a readability factor to it that kept me eagerly turning pages. While it did take me a while to ultimately figure out what was going on and why these specific characters were being spotlighted, I found the ending to be sweet and satisfactory, much like the cakes used in the story.

This book really focuses on the journey a person takes to figure out who they are and what they want. In this world, people have Talents; they can be anything from a gift for whistling, to the ability to tie knots, to the gift for playing jacks, to the ability to bake a cake that’s perfect for a specific person (and knowing almost instantly what that perfect cake is). I loved how the Talents were sort of strange and different, and while some of them are things you’d imagine, like the ability to write or knit or float two inches above the ground, not all of them are useful (Zane’s gift for spitting was one I’m really glad none of my students possess!). And then you had Marigold, who has no Talent at all, and spends most of the book trying to figure out what she’s good at (and I loved what it seemed like her natural talent was). Cady’s talent, too, was interesting, because it made her focus more on others than herself, which wound up causing her some trouble later in the book.

Zane was the character who really spoke to me, particularly since he kept repeating “worthless” over and over again. It makes a person like myself, who works in the education field, really think about how you really can influence your students in both positive and negative ways. I felt terrible for Zane, because he was going through life thinking this terrible thing about himself, and it was impacting his actions and feelings on things to the point where he figured it just didn’t matter. For me, his character was the most strongly drawn and written, and I was certainly pulling for him to figure things out.

A Tangle of Knots is a busy book. There’s a lot going on, a lot of characters to keep straight, and not a whole lot of world-building to explain the Talents and why they exist. But in the end, I found that to not really be necessary, because the heart of the story was able to shine through and everything really did come together in a mostly-satisfying way. I’m definitely adding this to my library’s “to purchase” list, and am thinking about picking up my own copy simply for those cake recipes. The chocolate one sounds especially yummy!



An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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4 Responses to REVIEW: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

  1. Livvy @Nerdy Book Reviews says:

    This sounds like a very cute, fun read. I simply adore the cover and the hot air balloon. I find that I’d like a little more world building in a book whether it’s middle grade or adult, but still, definitely one I will keep my eye out for! :) Lovely review!

    • Merin says:

      Thanks! I would have loved more world-building simply to understand how these talents came to be, but I guess, even though it was set in the US, it was a very fantastical world that just resembled ours more than anything else.

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