Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book Review: Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix

Tangled Ashes is a work of historical fiction, in which author Michele Phoenix transports the reader to Meunier Manor in Lamorlaye, France. She weaves a tale of two castles; the castle in more recent times as it is being renovated and the same castle during World War II. The chapters weave back and forth between the past and the 1990s.
First the reader is introduced to two young women that are hired to work at Meunier manor which has been made into a Nazi headquarters. One of them meets a soldier and love ensues. Although the two French women, Marie and Elise, only took the jobs to supplement their families meager existence, they end up in midst of a medical experiment of Hitler's regime.

In the alternating chapters, reclusive architect, Marshall Becker is introduced. He is hired to restore the now decrepit manor to its former glory. Becker is reluctant to take on the project, yet goes to France to complete the task. As he begins the restoration, Becker finds himself fighting his own demons and the distant memories of a time past at the manor.

This book has a lot of strong points. First, the character development is top-notch. As the mystery builds throughout the novel, the character’s personalities reveal the past. Next, the quality of writing Michele Phoenix offers is exceptional. Her ability to weave a masterful story with appropriate, descriptive word choices is above par and made for a quick read, but also one that pulled me into the plot. 

The thing I find most compelling in Tangled Ashes, is that although it is labeled as a Christian Fiction book, it doesn’t come off like one. I am usually hesitant to read novels in this particular genre, because I find them to be sugary, over-the-top characterizations of people of faith. I enjoyed this book immensely because it is not that.  Rather, it represents life in its gritty, messy glory. The book is full of realistic characters and life situations most people can relate to. It also doesn’t tie the matter of finding faith up into a neat little ribbon. Jade doesn’t present her faith in a nice, neat formulaic manner and the character of Beck doesn’t accept what she says blinding. Instead, he goes kicking and screaming, full of doubt and lingering questions, which is closer on how most people wrestle with God..

The story's intricacies made this one top-notch. It is gripping, engaging and enticing. It is thought-provoking and sad, hopeful and deep. The story is riveting and the ending is unexpected and memorable. If you are historical fiction fan, Tangled Ashes is a must read. 

I received an advance copy for review from Handlebar Marketing.

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