When I read the synopsis for A Tangle of Knots and saw that it involved special "talents," I instantly thought of Graceling and Savvy - both of which have characters that are born with, or later develop, unique abilities. Because of this, I was afraid it was going to feel very familiar, and in some ways it did.
The story revolves around eleven-year-old orphan, Cady, who has a remarkable talent for baking delicious cakes that perfectly match the recipient. Actually, the story has so many characters, it is hard to say who is the main character. There are nine main characters, all introduced with their own chapters at the beginning of the book. Each character seems to have a problem they are trying to sort out - and throughout the story, a mysterious man with a talent for tying knots and a fascination with powder-blue suitcases appears to flash a grin "that suggested he knew more about the world than he was letting on" and helps the characters work out their Fate (131).
Cady's story also includes the recipes for each cake she makes, (reminiscent of Gingersnap, Everything On a Waffle, One Year In Coal Harbor, to name a few). Cady is a likeable character because her only desires are to make people happy with her cakes and to finally be adopted. The other players in the story include Mr. and Mrs. Asher and their three children: Will (whose talent is getting lost), Zane (with a talent for spitting) and Marigold (who is desperately trying to figure out what her talent is). There is also Mrs. Mallory, who runs the orphanage and V, who was in an accident and can't speak.
The premise is interesting and the story has a real element of mystery, complete with a creepy "Owner" with an equally unsettling talent, and his hapless errand boy, Toby, who has seen happier days. There are so many characters and plot lines introduced, that it seems unlikely that they would tie together. Luckily, by the end most of the questions that pop up are answered, although, a lot of the pieces don't entirely fit into place. The charm of this book is how the seemingly unrelated characters are woven together with a common thread and with each revealed secret they are more tightly tied together.
A Tangle of Knots
by Lisa Graff
Published by Philomel
Recommended for ages 8 and up