Review: Tangled in Time - The Portal

When I first saw an ad for the novel Tangled in Time: The Portal, I assumed that it was part of Disney's poorly rated Twisted Tales series of alternate universe fanfic retellings of their classic movies due to a portion of the title being shared with a popular Disney movie of the same name. Having little to interest in that series, I ignored the book entirely. Fortunately for me, it popped up again recently on a short list of princess book recommendations, and I realized that it had nothing to do with either Disney or the story of "Rapunzel." Instead, it is a juvenile historical fiction that incorporates time travel to the days when the most famous Queen Elizabeth was still a princess. If I had known that from the beginning, I would have picked it up much sooner than I did. The duology is written by Kathryn Lasky, who is known for her other historical fiction series including Dear America and The Royal Diaries. The book fell into my lap during a time that I started doing a lot of research on the history of royal families, so I found it a delightful read, though I have only read the first of the two books in the duology.

Tangled in Time: The Portal by Kathryn Lasky

Eleven-year-old Rose Ashley was distraught when her mother passed away in a car accident. She is forced to move in with her grandmother in Indianapolis who appears to be experiencing symptoms of dementia. Things seem bad enough for Rose having to start a new school as an orphan when she encounters a trio of bullies. Not everyone at her new school is mean to her. She finds a small group of friends that include a wheelchair-bound boy named Myles, but she still feels like an outcast. All of that changes when she enters her grandmother's greenhouse one night, and something magical happens. Rose finds herself transported to the sixteenth century, where she is employed as a servant for Princess Elizabeth. Rose has some knowledge of history, but does not dare share her foresight with her new companions and instead does her best to blend in, She has an easier time when she becomes best friends with Fanny, another servant girl who is around the same age as her. With Fanny's help, Rose peels apart the layers of her late mother's past and her mysteriously absent father.

I could see that Kathryn Lasky has a wealth of prior writing experience from the sumptuous level of detail on each page. She made the clever decision of turning Rose into a fashion blogger, which gave her motivation to pay extra close attention to the shoes and clothing of the historical figures she met that someone else her age might otherwise overlook. She also took special care to include various types of disabilities and make sure that Rose was respectful toward all of them, as a true princess should be. In fact, it was only due to Rose's kind treatment of a midget that the tearful conclusion of the story took place at all. She does a great job of telling the story from the perspective of a modern middle school student, though some of the Disney references were a bit jarring. If Rose were truly a Disney fan, she would make more comments about how some of the things she saw in the middle ages differ from Disney Princess movies that are supposed to take place during that era. Instead, random Disney merchandise pops into the descriptions of the modern-day world every now and again, some of which don't even make sense. For instance, why would rubber Disney Princess masks ever be a thing? If you have a face, you do not need a mask to look like a Disney Princess--just a wig and some makeup.

Something else that stands out about this book is that it has little to no romance. Normally, I love a good love story, but not when the protagonist is 11 years old or when there are so many more important things going on. There was a hint of a boy she liked, but it doesn't draw any attention away from the focus on Rose coping with the lack of a parental figure in her life. The real love story of this book is when Rose finds out the truth about her father, which is a little unusual for a fantasy time travel story like this. Sure, there was a similar scene in Outlander, but Briana's circumstances were different from Rose. Even though there is a second book in this series, I appreciate that the author took the time to write a heartwarming and satisfying conclusion to this one that didn't make me feel cheated into buying the next book. It is a touching father-daughter story that reflects the emotions that children might go through if they lose their parents at a young age.

I can't recommend Tangled in Time enough. It has everything that a girl from its target age range could want from a book--a sympathetic and relatable heroine, magical mysteries to solve, history lessons, and even some photographs of clothing from the era. I only wish that Kathryn Lasky had given the book a different title. Writing a princess-related book with the name of a popular Disney Princess movie in the title can get confusing when you consider how many alternate universe companion novels Disney releases of their movies, including one that just came out a few days ago. I might look into the second book, The Burning Queen, at some point when my reading list gets a little shorter. For now, I'm happy that modern girls can read such a lovely story about family and royal history.

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