Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)
Rachelle and Ted Dekker’s latest novel is a very creative take on a simple truth that many Christians never live out. The detailed allegory-like storyline, the relatable characters, and the extreme creativity culminate in an enjoyable, unpredictable read that illustrates key spiritual truths. Grace, her mother, and brother Jamie live in Haven Valley, a place whose borders are closed in by a red rope. The residents of Haven Valley live under the protection of a mysterious being who claims to protect them from the Fury – frightening beings who are always looking for someone to attack – in exchange for unconditional obedience. Among other things, there are strict rules for how men and women can dress, look, behave, and interact with others – and above all there can be no lies or secret sin. Jamie has always questioned the validity of the community’s core beliefs, and one day he acts on this impulse by convincing Grace to journey with him beyond the red rope. What the two see and experience beyond Haven Valley’s borders send them hurrying back to safety and leave them with more questions than before. When Grace returns from her brief venture into the unknown she brings back a friend no one else can see who claims to be a source of wisdom and protection. Against this friend’s advice, Grace keeps breaking rules in her search for truth. When her decisions lead to consequences that she never desired, Grace will have to decide what she believes and who can be trusted. To find out what happens to Grace, Jamie, (and everyone else I didn’t mention ’cause spoilers), read the book!:) On the whole, the plot and storyline in this novel demonstrate excellent continuity and a level of depth not usually seen in this genre. The dialogue between characters contains many thought-provoking dilemmas that we are all faced with at some point in our lives. (spoiler) Additionally, the underlying contrast of legalism as death and grace as life and freedom beyond our wildest imagination gives the plot meaning and will be attractive to non-Christians. On a side note, this is a rare Christian novel that I would recommend to a unbeliever, especially one who was turned off to Christianity by a legalistic church or person. In contrast, there are two errors that keep this novel from a perfect score. First, there are a few too many sensational villian sequences between Rose and said being. Lastly, it is my opinion that Ben’s story was somewhat glossed over compared to the other characters’ stories. In spite of this, the well-placed flashbacks, intelligent characters, and creative undertones round this section out to just short of a perfect score.
Character Development (3 points)
In comparison, this novel is a great example of what happens when two good authors collaborate on characters. First, Grace is a nearly perfect protagonist who demonstrates (rarely seen) refreshing intelligence, realistic emotional responses, and relatable thought processes. Second, Jamie is a great secondary character who adds much to the plot because his story takes a realistic turn. Rose is a unique antagonist who is neither a strawman nor a typical villian. This being said, her backstory, current responses to past familial tension and abuse, and dependence on something other than God is a great illustration of someone who feels like they have to earn their salvation. Additionally, the minor characters are above average and have a clear role in the story. Furthermore, the representations of Jesus, his sacrifice on the cross, and live-giving resurrection are well-placed and make the story all that it is. In contrast, the errors here are minor and could be fixed if the novel was adapted to be a screenplay. As previously mentioned, Ben’s story needs more depth and a bigger place in the story because of how his role ends. Finally, some of the characters’ stories are wrapped up rather quickly; however, because the pros outweigh the cons here, the Dekkers earn an above average score in this section.
Creativity and Originality (1.5 points)
Finally, the Dekkers earn a full point in creativity for their great storyline and a half an x-factor point for their original, deep dialogue sequences and for their unique characters. This novel turns over a new leaf for it’s genre by proving that meaning, depth, and spiritual encouragement is possible in a thriller. Because of this, we here at BOR think this book would make a great Christian series. The book would need very little alteration to be converted to screenplay form, and most of the dialogue is good as is. As always, it is our continual hope that someone will recognize exceptional novels such as these and adapt them for the big screen.
Wish List Rating: 8 out of 10 points