Review: The Tangled Bridge
Madeline LeBlanc comes from a long line of magic–they call it pigeon–where they can see the briar and the river devils who live there. All of us have our own devils who whisper in our ears, trying to get us to do wicked things. For the most part the devils are an unorganized lot, except that Madeline’s great-grandmother Choloe and half-brother Zenon want to use the briar’s power to change humanity itself. And the only people standing in their way are Madeline and the six-year-old boy Bo Racer who was born a being of light.
Don’t let the fantasy label for THE TANGLED BRIDGE (Amazon) fool you. “Fantasy” is kind of a catch-all term for a book that’s more Gothic than anything. This book has twisted family connections, voodoo-like magic in a New Orleans and swamp setting, and a struggle between light and dark. This book isn’t for everyone, but there will be those of you who will really appreciate it for what it is: a well-written and original modern Gothic urban fantasy.
THE TANGLED BRIDGE is Rhodi Hawk’s second in the series after A TWISTED LADDER (Amazon). While I didn’t read the first book I had no trouble jumping right into the story, it works fine as a standalone, although I suspect reading the first would add more depth to the story itself.
Narrated mostly from Madeline’s PoV, and alternately from teenage Patrice’s during 1927 (and a couple of secondary characters), both of their stories are told in parallel as they struggle to cope with their pigeon magic and its obvious inherently evil nature. Despite being the second book, Madeline’s character doesn’t stagnate. Her love for Ethan hasn’t changed, but she’s coming to understand how much he means to her. She doesn’t understand why Chloe and Zenon want to kill Bo, a harmless little boy, simply because he has the lumen’s light within him; and as a result has trouble reconciling the nature of her magic and what Bo’s existence means. Patrice and the story of her brothers and sister–all teenage and younger–is less compelling than Madeline’s and at times more a distraction than plot advancement. While the children are well-drawn they are simply less interesting (for me anyway).
However, patience does win out, and after slow but steady forward movement of the plot, Madeline finally begins to put the pieces together. Hawk ekes out the story bits at a time, which can be frustrating as we try to understand what the events mean, but the pace is necessary so that readers don’t get overwhelmed with necessary back story, setting details, and explaining the magic. The prose is clean and descriptive without getting in the way of the story, but also sets a chilling tone to the events, particularly those that take place in the briar. Hawk does a great job describing New Orleans and the surrounds in a way that helps us feel the place, but without going overboard.
The events that lead up to the conclusion did confuse me at times (I’m wondering if it’s from not having read the first book?), but didn’t impede my understanding of what Hawk was trying to do, or my ability to enjoy a story that is original and satisfying.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: A few handfuls of the coarser variety
- Violence: A fair amount, the style is rather like a thriller
- Sex: Referenced and a brief scene