Sunday, October 13, 2013

Book Review: "Blessed Child", Ted Dekker and Bill Bright

This is now my least favourite of Ted Dekker's books, replacing House and the short story, The Keeper. Thr3e defined Ted Dekker for me — a psycho-thriller with lots of twists and turns, a bit eery, clean, good wins over evil. Boneman's Daughters and Shadowdown continued those elements. The Circle Trilogy were good fantasy, again with a battle between good and evil. In all of those books, I really felt like I was in the story, seeing the world through the eyes of the characters.

Blessed Child just didn't hook me into the story in the same way. I cared about Caleb and what happened to him; I wanted Jason and Leiah to quit bickering; I wanted Crandal and his henchmen to get their due; but Dekker and Bright didn't draw me into the story.

The story was clean with just enough arguing between them and just enough mutual attraction to make the relationship between Jason and Leiah to keep their interactions believable, without cluttering it up with gratuitous physical intimacy. (Slight spoiler here.) The development of their relationship was "normal" and satisfying. The problem for me was perhaps my expectations. Dekker had set me up, in others of his books that I've read, to expect characters that seemed normal but with a hint of some intangible oddness. Jason and Leiah seemed written more like super-heroes (somewhat like Clive Cussler's characters) and Dekker and Bright just didn't pull that off well.

Caleb is a young boy who Jason and Leiah rescue from an Ethiopian Orthodox monastery just as it's being attacked by a contingent of Eritrean People Liberation Front soldiers who destroy the monastery. The EPLF soldiers pursue Jason, Leiah, and Caleb into a box canyon (not sure how else to describe it) where the first of numerous odd events, somehow connected to Caleb, occurs — an EPLF soldier is supposedly killed but then stands up and flees.

As the story develops, I really liked the tensions between Jason and Leiah on the one hand and Father Nikolous on the other. Another odd bit to the story is that Father Nikolous' church is Greek Orthodox — maybe that's only odd because of my ignorance of the similarities or connections between the Greek and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches and it's really not pertinent to the story. Also, the developing tensions between Charles Crandal, Jason and Leiah, Caleb, and Father Nikolous was well done.

The two sub-plots in the books actually helped the story. I got angry at the self-promotion of Father Nikolous and the way that he used Caleb for his own benefit. Crandal's end-justifies-the-means and win-at-all-costs approach to being elected President helped bolster the story. However, I didn't think the resolution of either of these was very satisfactory.

I suspect that some of the problems I had with the book have to do with the fact that this was an early Dekker novel — his second, published in 2001 after Heaven's Wager. Blessed Child has apparently been newly released as a Kindle edition. In later books, Dekker finds his voice and his own character development. Perhaps the fact that it was co-authored — by Bill Bright, in this case — detracts from Dekker's genius. "House", I think, suffered from the same problem (co-authored by Peretti and Dekker). Nothing against either co-author, it's just that perhaps the real Dekker doesn't come through when he writes with someone else. 

Blessed Child was a good book and a decent read. It's must not great.

This doesn't affect my review, but I continue to wish that Thomas Nelson would include page numbers and Kindle's X-Ray function in their blogger review editions. "X-Ray" is one area where Kindle really shines and it's a glaring omission.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of "Blessed Child" free from the publisher as a part of their Booksneeze blogger review program. I have been free to write the review that I thought the book deserved. There has been no other compensation except continued participation in Booksneeze.

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