Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tangled Ashes - a Handlebar Review

Tangled Ashes, a new novel by Michele Phoenix, is a Christian fiction novel published by Tyndale. This novel tells the story of a castle in Lamorlaye, France. The castle has its roots that date back to several hundred years, and this particular story touches on the history of the castle during World War II and the German occupation of France.

Marshall Becker, an American architect, has been put on a project of renovating the Lamorlaye castle. An alcoholic struggling with wanting to quit, Marshall finds himself drawn to Jade, nanny of the castle owner's children. Jade has her own demons that you don't find out about until much later in the story. Therese, an interior designer working on the castle project, also has her own little part in the story, as well as an old squatter named Jojo.

During the story, the castle has some suspicious happenings. Parts of the renovation destroyed, a fire, etc. Becker finds himself battling an impossible deadline for completing the work. While working on a portion of the stairs that needs redone, he finds himself having alcohol withdrawal shakes. He has to deal with the children annoying him, the nanny who scolds him for yelling at his workers (and the children when they interrupt his work), and his desire for alcohol.

All throughout the story, little by little, the WWII story is told until it all unfolds at the end of the novel.

My thoughts? The story is very well-written as far as grammar and syntax are concerned. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the historical part of the story and discovering how it related to the book's 21st century happenings. The plot for the historical account was much stronger than the plot for the modern story.

The historical part of the novel was in-depth and drew me in. I found myself wanting to skip the REAL story and just read the chapters devoted to the WWII parts of the story. It would've been a great historical novel in my opinion.

The 21st century part of story was very choppy, I felt. I couldn't get a good idea on what exactly the plot of the story was until I was in the last chapters of the book.

The characters weren't developed enough. They seemed very split-personality-like. One moment, I would like Becker and Jade, then the next minute I really didn't like their characters at all. Jade was a very stand-offish type of character--she wanted Becker to be a man and give up the alcohol, yet she didn't want to be his friend and try to listen to him when he needed to talk. The story gave special notice to why Becker drinks. At times, I thought maybe he would get to talk to Jade about it, that maybe she would lend an ear, but nothing was ever developed from his story of alcohol abuse. I'm not sure why the author even created a story for the excuse for his drinking, because nothing ever was mentioned again.

I didn't like the three main characters surrounded in the plot in the story. They all seemed very selfish and, frankly, emotionally volatile. The story has no good ending, which isn't a problem to me, but the ending seemed just thrown together. It just felt like the characters didn't learn anything. They started out the story with problems (bad attitudes, selfishness, hermit-like tendencies) and finished with those same problems.

**SPOILER** Becker goes back to the US, Jade seems to want to continue in her pessimist attitude toward her life, and Therese seems to want nothing to do with her newly-found father.

I was very aggravated with this story. I felt like I'd wasted my time. However, if you enjoy a book that tells a story but there's no growth for the characters and no specific plot (instead, what seems like several little ones that could be developed and, I feel, exude promise), then you will enjoy this novel. It's definitely a different writing style than I typically enjoy.

I was given Tangled Ashes in exchange for an honest opinion. Handlebar Publishing provided the copy.

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