Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mortal (The Books of Mortals #2)

If you read and loved The Circle Series by Ted Dekker, his newest Books of Mortals fantasy, co-written with Tosca Lee, is right up your alley. The series begins with Forbidden, reviewed previously HERE, and Mortal is the sequel. The third book, Sovereign, will be released this June. If you haven't read Forbidden and plan to, skip this review for now until you are caught up.

Mortal begins nine years after the events in Forbidden. Rom is now leader of the Keepers who have allied with the Nomads in a group numbering over a thousand brought to life through Jonathan's blood. They call themselves Mortals. The rest of the world is essentially dead, purged of all emotions except fear, which keeps them docile and obedient. In a few days, young Jonathan is set to come of age and take the throne to rule the world, but evil has been waiting for this moment to rise. Saric, supposed dead (truly dead) by the Mortals, is more alive than they could possibly guess. Through alchemy, he has devised a way to feel emotion, albeit a darker version than the Mortals experience, and he's amassed a loyal army from his own blood. The Mortals have dedicated themselves to serving Jonathan, in awe and thanks for the life he's given them, and all their efforts have been poured into preparing to live a life under his rule. But when Jonathan's succession to the throne is suddenly called into question and an army stands in the way of what should have been an easy transition, the Mortals are suddenly thrown into chaos. It doesn't help that their soon-to-be sovereign is reluctant to step into the spotlight and doesn't seem cut out to rule. In fact, the boy seems to have plans of his own...plans that could get him killed.

Ted Dekker's fantasy series are far different from his thrillers, and this one is perhaps even more different than his usual fare because it's co-written. Yet his fantasy series are very similar to each other. In some ways, The Books of Mortals seems like a repeat of The Circle Series. Both are somewhat allegorical, containing symbolic representations of similar Christian ideas. Both take place in a world that has fantastical elements (like superhuman power) but is actually our world at a different point in history. The story arcs of the two series are even similar: characters awaken to a new, vibrant life, but they rebel against any further change, and further change is always required. Thematically, as well, the stories are parallel. Further change comes through sacrifice and blood and appears, to those on the outside, to be unnecessary, even a regression. In fact, the only difference I see between the two series is the packaging of the plot itself, and to be honest, though The Books of Mortals series rests on an intriguing premise, The Circle Series is, as far as I'm able to compare the two with one yet unfinished, the more complex, interesting series. That's not to say The Books of Mortals isn't entertaining and insightful. But comparing the two, it seems like it's been done before, and done so well as to be a difficult act to follow.

As for Mortal itself, I didn't really get into the book until halfway through. It's not as punchy as a Dekker thriller. It takes its time setting the stage for the second half of the book. That's just how fantasy is, often, but since I'm normally grabbed pretty quickly by a Dekker book, I noticed the slow going even more than I might have. The second half of the book, however, is thrilling. The payoff begins. Everything unravels. The characters' lives get worse before they get better. It's the type of conflict that keeps you reading, and it's everything good storytelling should be. Not comparing it to the books of The Circle Series, it's a crazy ride by its own right in an intriguing world with edgy, conflicted characters who explore the deepest themes of life in the ultimate good versus evil plot.

For Ted Dekker, who often likes to blow your mind by making everything you thought you knew about God wilder and more uncomfortable, Mortal is not his strongest portrayal of Truth, though it's certainly full of the right stuff. For me, it was only a three-star read. But that doesn't mean I won't own and treasure this series, like I do most of his other books, because when it comes to Truth, Dekker hits it on the nail.

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