Review: Tangled in Time - The Burning Queen

My recent interest in Tudor history with The Spanish Princess and Six the Musical inspired me to read the second book in Kathryn Lasky's Tangled in Time duology. If you forgot or missed my previous review, this limited series is about a middle school girl named Rose Ashley who copes with the death of her mother by traveling back in time through a magical rose in her grandmother's greenhouse to the era of a young Queen Elizabeth. The first book, The Portal, was satisfying enough that I didn't feel obligated to read the next one. However, there were a few loose ends that I was curious about, so I decided to complete the series with The Burning Queen. I was disappointed to learn that this book was very similar to the first one and offered almost no progression in Rose's quest to rebuild her family. This post will contain some spoilers for Tangled in Time: The Portal, so please read my review for that instead if you don't want to be spoiled.

Tangled in Time: The Burning Queen by Kathryn Lasky

The Burning Queen picks up where The Portal left off, when Mary Tudor, the daughter of King Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon, is crowned queen for her short-lived reign. Renowned in history as Bloody Mary, the new queen spares no time in sentencing everyone who does not follow her religion to burn at the stake. On a personal note, I never understood the division between Catholics and Protestants. While there are different levels of Judaism like reform, conservative, orthodox, and Hasidic, we would never accuse someone else of having the wrong type of Jewish beliefs. I find it weird and confusing that some Christians think that their Christian beliefs are superior to other Christian beliefs. Anyway, this new regime means trouble for Rose, who is not particularly religious in any respect. Her father urges her to return to her own time, where she will be safe. Rose can't bring herself to stay away from him forever after the tragic loss of her mother, so she disobeys his order and continues to travel back and forth between the past and the present time periods just like in the first book.

My biggest disappointment with The Burning Queen is the complete lack of effort that Rose puts into her goal of getting her father, Nicholas, to come back to her own time with her. In The Portal, Nicholas agrees to try to find a way to return to Rose's time period with her so she would no longer have to be an orphan in the present day being raised by a senile grandmother. Yet, every time she brings it up in The Burning Queen, he comes up with some sort of excuse as to why he wouldn't be able to make it in our time as though living with the benefits of technology without the fear of being burned at the stake if you say the wrong thing is so unappealing. Rose even suggests in the previous book that he could continue his profession as a goldsmith in modern times and that she would do everything she can to help him acclimate. Yet, this discussion gets glazed over time and again in the sequel until it ends with a feeling of complete dissatisfaction.

This book is a rare case where it would be more enjoyable if you have not read the prequel first. It reintroduces the same creative concept of a modern girl traveling back in time and blogging about historical fashions. It gives a peek at what it would be like for someone from this time period to live as a servant to royalty during the Renassiance. It also continues the message of helping those in need when Rose convinces her grandmother to sponsor a girl at her school who falls upon trouble due to her immigration status. What it does not do is expand upon any of the unanswered questions from the other book.  Rose finds that people from the 16th century mysteriously remember her being there during multiple year-long absences when she returns to her own time period. This might be more believable if she wasn't given such an important profession. Sometimes, characters reference dresses she made or tailored for Mary or Elizabeth during her absences. If she wasn't present during these time periods, where did those dresses come from, and how did they get fixed?  I had hoped that the author would have had more time to think about this in the sequel, but it seems I was wrong.

Overall, The Burning Queen feels like nothing more than a rewrite of The Portal. If this was the route the author was planning to take all along, Tangled in Time should have been a single book, whether it was about Princess Elizabeth or Queen Mary. I appreciate that Kathryn Lasky wanted multiple books to show off her wealth of historical knowledge to children, but she seemed to forget about her protagonist in the process. Rose Ashley is a lonely girl who just wants a capable parent to take care of her. It isn't right to string her along for an entire sequel without at least having her try to fulfill that goal. I would only recommend this book if you have not read the first one and think the concept sounds intriguing. For anyone who wants closure to The Portal, The Burning Queen is a burning disappointment.


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