Finished: Sept. 25, 2010
First Published: Sept. 7, 2010
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: christian fiction, paranormal
My name is Toma Nicolescu and I was a warrior, a servant of Her Majesty, the empress of Russia, Catherine the Great, who by her own hand and tender heart sent me on that mission at the urging of her most trusted advisor, Grigory Potyomkin, in the year of our Lord 1772.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze Program.
Reason for Reading: I've been a fan of Dekker's for a few years and am reading each new book that comes out.
A warrior, Toma, and his companion are sent to guard a Lady and her twin daughters as the Empress feels they may be in danger and the daughters are suitable to be used for marriage negotiations. His companion has an affair with one daughter and Toma falls in love with the other but keeps his feelings to himself as he is duty bound not to become involved. Through his companion's escapades though, Toma, becomes aware that the nearby neighbours living in what one would call more a fortress than a castle are not only dangerous but downright evil. Ultimately, this is another take on the vampire tale, though the V-word is never used. Instead the mythology is taken from fantastical Biblical interpretations of the Nephilim. The story is a sensual one, full of lust and enticing senses. It is a story of Good vs. Evil, of the Passion of Christ, God's Love and redemption. However, the book would also read as a paranormal by non-believers.
The first half of the book has a very strong Gothic feeling with dark castles in the night, women wandering alone, long musky tunnels underground and strange portraits hung on the wall. Typical of that genre is the melodramatic love story that would match any Victorian Gothic. Ted Dekker once again writes another book that keeps you turning the pages with an eerie atmospheric suspense. This book, though, is quite different than anything I've read by Dekker at this point. I won't say it's my favourite but the story was certainly gripping and intriguing.
I did have some theological problems with the book though. Set in a country and era where all the characters are part of the Russian Orthodox Church (whether practicing or not), Dekker's characters were somewhat unrealistic. Water was made holy, by having a just-turned believer saying a few words that came to mind over it, a crucifix as well. An Orthodox Christian would know this would not necessarily even work and a priest's blessing would be needed for the type of Evil we are talking here. And secondly, this man who is a soldier in the Empress's Army fighting for God goes over the Lord's words at the Last Supper in his mind and vehemently stresses the symbolic nature of the blood at the Eucharist. An Orthodox Christian in 1700s Russia wouldn't even have contemplated such heresy, never mind have taken it as some sort of "fact".