Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Dark Divine

I don't know what to think of this young adult book. I was very surprised to find it in a secular market. I'm not sure if it was written by a Christian or a Mormon (she lives in Utah) or what, but the author, Bree Despain, has a fairly solid understanding of the typical pastoral family and what grace means in a sinful world. But from what I can tell, The Dark Divine was published by a secular market. I'm just surprised. Can that even be done? I mean, we're talking about Christianity here. It's like the forbidden religion. It's intolerant and all that...

But sarcasm aside, I kept wondering if I was reading a Christian book, and it threw me off a little. Okay, I have a confession to make. Though I am a Christian, for a long time now I've thought that some Christian fiction, especially Christian fantasy, is too preachy. I have some favorite Christian authors, but mostly, I avoid the genre. It's probably hugely unfair of me, and I suppose I could be called hypocritical for it, but the thing is, I like good stories. Stories can have messages in them, sure, but when you try to stuff a modern Christian worldview into a fictional created world, you lose something of the suspension of disbelief you are trying to create. That's why I don't often like Christian fantasy. Lewis and Tolkien manage it well, but hey, they're Lewis and Tolkien.

Okay, so I went off on a little soapbox of mine there. Getting back on track (but my above-stated views are relevant to this review), let me give you a summary of the main plot before I tell you what my final feelings are toward this book.

Grace Divine is the daughter of the local pastor. Lots of symbolism in her name. Perhaps too much. More than she feels she can live up to. She lives with lots of rules, including number one: never keep a secret. Grace doesn't break the rules. She can't. She's a pastor's daughter. But while life seems perfect for the Divines on the outside, there is one secret that haunts them and that they won't talk about. Grace just wants to know the truth. Why did her best friend Daniel, the boy her family cared for when his dad abused him, leave and never try to contact her again? Why won't her family talk about him? And why does her saintly brother hate him? She's about to get some answers because Daniel is back, and Grace can't stay away from him, even when everything about him screams danger and secrets and all that a pastor's daughter should not get herself into, especially when he turns out to be a werewolf.

Werewolves and theology. What will they think of next? (Oh, yeah...angels.)

So, what did I think of this interesting mix? I kept expecting to see blatant errors about Christianity, but all I saw was humanity. Humans make mistakes. Christians make mistakes. It's how they deal with the mistakes and challenges of life that's important. The Divines aren't perfect, and I don't know a pastor's family that is (speaking from experience). They try to look like they are, and that's true to life, too. In the end, though, I was impressed that they weren't completely broken apart by their faith, as often happens in secular portrayals of Christianity. Oh, they were certainly broken apart, but in the end, Grace, both the figurative and the literal, the message of Christianity and this book's heroine, won the day, and I was pleasantly surprised at the positive vibe I got about faith.

I was intrigued by the plot throughout the book, but I'm not certain I liked the heroine. In some ways, her life just happens to her. She seems like a goody-two-shoes, not daring to break the rules, and then she lets "dark and mysterious" sweep her off her feet. She doesn't feel like a strong character, and perhaps she wasn't meant to be. By the end, her strength comes to her, but in the beginning, she feels a little like the cardboard cut-outs Christian novels sometimes use.

I liked Daniel, and I liked Grace's dad, the pastor. I'm really happy that he came across as a good guy and not a fake. The werewolf plotline is vaguely entertaining but doesn't have much pay-off until the very end.

The Dark Divine is the first book of a series, and actually, I think the concept of the second book intrigues me more, though I haven't read it. You need The Dark Divine for set-up, I guess, but Grace seems to be a stronger character in a sequel that ups the stakes. The Lost Saint, book two, seems to take you a little further from the church and into the streets. It would be interesting to see that transition, but I'm not sure I will.

Still, I give The Dark Divine three stars for keeping my attention.


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. For my part, I'm with you - Christian fiction is almost always bad. For me it's not that it's too preachy, just that it's often too unreal. Everything always comes out super-fantastically amazing in the end. (It's the same reason I can't stand the film Facing the Giants.)

    Also, for the record, Bree Despain is a Mormon.

  2. Yeah, that's a large part of my current disinterest in Christian fiction, too - that everything turns out perfectly. I admit, I like happy endings, but it's like Christian authors think that to be a witness, their books have to end nearly miraculously. There's a difference between a satisfactory resolution and a neat and tidy bow that just doesn't ring true physically or emotionally.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.