My favourite sisters, the Widdershins, are back for a brand new adventure. A Tangle of Spells is the third book in the adventures of the Widdershins sisters. Michelle Harrison has truly had me under her spell ever since I read the first story about sisters Fliss, Betty and Charlie. 'A Pinch of Magic’ was magical by the bucket-load and ‘A Sprinkle of Sorcery’ was an epic adventure. The question was, could Harrison magic up another spellbinding read? The answer is a resounding yes. A Tangle of Spells is everything I love about Harrison’s writing - wonderful characters, a village steeped in folklore and witchcraft, and an unbreakable sisterly bond.
Fliss, Betty and Charlie are thrilled to be leaving behind the Poacher’s Pocket on the gloomy island of Crowstone but their new home in the picturesque village of Pendlewick is not all that it appears. It isn’t long before things start to take a dark turn as their new home reveals its secrets. Blackbird Cottage is a crooked house and is full of mystery with lines of salt on the window sills and silver coins in the corners of every room. It’s not just their home that has secrets, the village of Pendlewick is steeped in a dark past and the locals are fearful of magic and any talk of it or witches immediately rouses suspicions.
As the sisters try to settle into their new life they soon learn why the locals are so afraid. Legends of the Hungry Tree, Tick Tock Forest and the pond on the village green are enough to frighten the bravest of souls. The more Betty uncovers, the more she learns of a town bewitched and of people living under a spell. And every new thing she learns puts her closer to danger and a confrontation that not everyone will survive. Can the sisters free Pendlewick from the dark magic that has bewitched the locals before they themselves fall under its spell?
A Tangle of Spells had me bewitched from the first page, so much so that I was unable to put it down and I read it in one afternoon. I was desperate to find out what would happen but I also did not want it to end. The story is seeped in stories of witches, old legends, folktales, mysteries and dangerous secrets. Just when I was thinking that I had put all of the pieces of the mystery together, Harrison dropped the biggest of bombshells that had me gasping for breath.
It was awesome to be back with the three sisters, I feel like I know them so well after joining them on their two previous adventures. It honestly felt like being back with old friends who I genuinely care about. The character development from the previous books is superb. Betty is feisty, fearless and will do anything to protect her family. Fliss and Betty appear to be growing apart as Fliss is becoming more interested in other things, namely boys, and Betty is missing the older sister who she is used to having as a motherly figure and confiding in. Charlie, well Charlie is Charlie - bold, honest, blunt, brilliant and funny. Determined to not miss out on any of the action, Charlie provides some light-hearted relief to many of the more tension-filled moments. I particularly love her mis-pronunciation of the occasional word or two.
For me this is easily the most dangerous adventure that the girls have had as they find themselves battling dark powers that will put their own magic to the ultimate test and has lives hanging in the balance. It is much darker than the previous two books and there are plenty of spine-tingling, creepy and eerie moments as the girls try to unravel the mystery of Pendlewick. Harrison is currently one of the best writers of middle grade fiction and she is an expert at creating atmosphere, building tension and imagining the most wonderful of settings. I love that the town of Pendlewick gives a nod to the famous witch trials of Pendle in the 17th century, and Bread-and-Cheese Hill, the Sugar Loaf tea room and the Splintered Broomstick are wonderfully imaginative.
It is yet to be confirmed whether there will be another Widdershins adventure, I for one am hopeful that this is not the last I read about my three favourite female siblings.
Recommended for 9+.
With huge thanks to Simon & Schuster and Michelle Harrison for the advanced reader copy that I received via Netgalley.