A Tangle of Secrets is the fourth book, and perhaps the final one, of R.G. Thomas’ Town of Superstition series. I think it’s best enjoyed when read in order, but there is enough early catch-up to bring new readers along. This review may contain some spoilers to previous stories.
Thaddeus Cane is a 15-year-old warlock-in-training, now growing up in Superstition, a small New England town. He’d moved 32 times before his father settled them in Superstition, and Thaddeus now knows that this was to keep him safe from other magical folk, including his aunt Isadora and uncle Lucian, his father’s siblings. In the first three books, we learn that Thaddeus’ family are witches/warlocks and his mother had been cursed and turned into a dragon by Isadora and Lucien because she fell in love with his father…while married to Lucien. O.O The adventures of the past three books involved the recovery of his mother and turning her back from a dragon to a human. Thaddeus was aided in this by Teofil, his boyfriend, who is a teenaged garden gnome, and Teofil’s family, plus some other wizards. I really enjoyed these quest books, by the by.
This fourth story recounts Thaddeus returning to “real life” at his new high school. Starting out with no friends, he’s picked on by the school bully straightaway. And he is befriended by another new kid, Andy, and two others. Thaddeus runs afoul of the counselor, who’s suspicious why Thaddeus and his dad moved so frequently. Thaddeus is having trouble keeping his thoughts together, and has unexpected and increasingly problematic urges to do magic in public, at school, to prove that he’s stronger than the ridicule he faces. This only gets worse when his dad takes a “city job” that’s less-than-ideal. Thaddeus is overwhelmed with frustrations and anger, and it causes problems for him and Teofil. Teofil, as a gnome, doesn’t go to school, and he’s off on excursions to track down Lucien so he can possibly locate his missing brother, Fetter, who’d been abducted by Isadora more than a decade ago. The secrets that have kept Thaddeus safe his whole life are being twisted in his mind—and it’s intense. Thad’s growing anger issues are causing problems in all his relationships, and soon Thad’s being suspended (first time ever!) and grounded (also a first!) and Teofil’s maintaining a distance that breaks Thad’s heart.
I’ll be honest that I don’t know if there are more stories to come in this series. All of the major plot lines have been resolved by the end of this one, with a giant showdown that leaves Thaddeus on the way to recovery, both physically and emotionally. It’s such a well-described world, with characters and potential for more that I hope there will be further books. This is a young adult magical adventure, and the romance between Thaddeus and Teofil is sweet and innocent. It was hard to see this dynamic get turned around as Thaddeus became more and more affected by dark magic he didn’t know was working on him. The bullying aspect seemed just a little over the top, but that’s me, perhaps. I’m more used to bullying that’s covert, while Thaddeus’ attackers are overt and obnoxious. That said, I appreciated seeing this new side to Thaddeus’ world, because we’d been all about the magical realms to this point, and now we get to see how he fares in the mundane, after learning about his magical abilities. Also, it was awesome to see how he and his mom developed their relationship. She’d been cursed when he was a toddler, and it’s not smooth sailing for them now that she’s home. Simple things, like how he likes his eggs, can become fraught; that felt so realistic.
I’m a fan of this series, and recommend it to anyone who likes YA romance and adventure stories. It’s really perfect for LGBTQ teens who like to read about queer youth and magic.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.