PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 13, 2011
orbiddenby Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee is book one of the Books of Mortals series. In a world where the only emotion is fear, Rom stumbles across a vial of blood that can bring the lost emotions to life. Along with the blood comes a quest that takes him into places he’s never traveled in order to find a way to bring life to the populous.
For those of you who thought that Ted Dekker could do no wrong, I urge you to stay away from this book. Live in your land of bliss and read the other countless books he’s put out. If you are a fan of fantasy fiction, this message goes double for you. I am such a person, waving my wizard-vampire-werewolf-nephilim-creature-futuristic world flag high for others to roll their eyes at. From the first chapter to the last, I was sorely disappointed in this fantasy novel by Dekker and Lee.
To be fair, Christian writers have a hard job trying to break into the secular market, while still holding true to their morals. They often use literary allusions to bring spiritual truths to a story that on the surface seems just fiction. While this is handy for the writer, it can prove distracting for the reader. I was constantly looking for the spiritual story underneath the novel, and when it started to collide, I was underwhelmed.
One thing that the top fantasy fiction writers understand is that even in a world of orcs, vampires, unfeeling dictators and wizards, the characters have to be believable. You have to be able to relate enough to them that you’d follow them to Mordor and beyond. Perhaps it was the premise of a world without feeling, but it made the main character, Rom, unrelatable. Even when he came alive with emotion, it was so caricature that I could not bring myself to care about his soaring heart. The same goes for the other characters in this book. They were cartoons of emotion, which, while it might have been fun to write, is not stimulating to read.
The love stories were uninspired, begging the reader to ask if either of the writers have ever experienced the emotion themselves. The sudden loyalty had no backbone to it. The whole premise of the book deflated like a balloon as I passed chapter after chapter. The whole goal is to make the people come alive with feelings? Who okayed this? I’m sorry, but I need more. It also seemed inconsistent. The people can only feel fear because they have had all other emotions genetically muted. However, the muted B characters experience relief, peace, trust, and other emotions that according to the story, should not exist.
Many people applaud Dekker for being a genre jumper. However, this book smacks of insincerity. This novel should stand as a message to all writers. Write what you are passionate about, not what you think can sell the most copies. It shows, and your readers deserve your heart, especially if you are expecting them to open their wallets.
fter Chaos came Order, but is this order truly living or is it a living death? To maintain order, all feelings but fear have been eliminated. There is no more passion, no more hope, and no more love, only fear carefully nurtured and guided by strict laws. However, there are a few, known as the keepers, who for 480 years have guarded a secret knowledge and though feeling no hope, believe in a future where all humanity can once again experience the joy of emotions.
Rom suddenly found himself thrust into this secret group when one of the keepers hands him a box containing a small vial of blood wrapped in a piece of vellum containing a cryptic message. As he works to piece together the puzzle given to him, he discovers a plot that threatens not only the Order, but also the soon to be Sovereign of the world. With high hopes I dove into Forbidden looking forward to what promised to be a fantastic new series, only to discover it wasn’t new at all.
The review I’m going to write is quite different than the one I envisioned writing when I first picked up this book. Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee are both very talented authors and they should have complimented each other beautifully. I thought this book was going to be amazing, but much to my disappointment, it’s not. It’s not terrible, but it is lacking and has way too many overlaps with the Circle Series for me to be enthused about the events that transpired.
Forbidden has an odd beginning in that it starts out somewhat dry. It’s possible that this is by design in an effort to set the tone of a world without feelings, but it makes it hard to connect with the characters. Character issues plague this book. Why were Lee’s talents for creating dynamic, vibrant characters not utilized? With possibly one exception, the characters are flat, lacking any true personality, and at times annoying in their trite dialog and predictable behavior.
The drama between Rom and Avar combined with their repeated professed love caused me to cringe every time they were together or thinking about each other. Their love felt cheap and shallow, filled with teenage desire more than true depth. I cannot recall a single instance when they acted like they loved each other.
Telling but not showing was a problem throughout this novel. I was told Saric was evil, but I didn’t feel his evil. The people lived in fear, but they didn’t seem to be motivated by that fear. The world lived in order, but I didn’t feel the structure of their surroundings. To make this story work, it needed to capture these emotions, but it didn’t.
Since this world was not adequately constructed, it made the whole book feel unimaginative and impersonal. In fact, that is my biggest issue with Forbidden. It never felt like Dekker or Lee took ownership of this story and made it their own. There was nothing special or unique about it. They are the creators of this tale, but it didn’t feel as though they used their brilliant imaginations to make it personally theirs so that it came alive and felt unique. I don’t have to like the condition of the future earth or be blown away by the beauty of a setting or depth of characters, but I do expect an author to take ownership of their story and make it their own. Lack of imagination and ingenuity is not something I’m willing to let pass—especially in a fantasy novel.
There are some nice dialog exchanges/philosophical discussions incorporated within Forbidden and I agree with what was said. Love is the greatest emotion of all and to live without passion and hope is death. To love at times can be painful and to only know fear and fear of death is a terrible existence. But while the dialog reached me on an intellectual level, it went no further.
The premise of life without emotion is an excellent theme to explore, but the presentation is lacking. The theme briefly ignited my imagination, but after the initial introduction, it fizzled and soon ceased to intrigue me. Things never progress beyond the surface of the notion of a life that knows only fear. The theme is repeated multiple times and the reader is told how wonderful emotion is, but I wasn’t pulled into this world. Instead I watched it as a dispassionate observer and never felt a part of their lives.
The lack of originality (not to mention plausibility) in this book is very disappointing. I do not want to spoil theCircle Series for those that have not read it, so I will not list the numerous similarities (15 just off the top of my head) between them. However, from the moment that Rom drinks the blood and starts exhibiting Thomas’ personality, it is painfully obvious how this story is going to unfold and I easily predicted outcomes based solely on my knowledge of the Circle.
For those that have not read the Circle Series or for those that can’t get enough of that series, their opinion might be vastly different than mine. I don’t think I would have thought this was a great book regardless, simply because of the characters, the melodrama, lack of attachment to the story, and disinterest in this new environment. However, at least the plot would have been fresh rather than feeling recycled.
So yeah, I’m disappointed. Dekker and Lee should have been a fantastic combination and this book should have been outstanding. I should be writing a review praising the beauty of this story because the premise is great. Instead I’m extremely disappointed because I want to love it, but I don’t.