Forbidden by Ted Dekker by Tosca Lee
The Books of Mortals # 1
Publisher: Center Street
Number of pages: 384
My copy: ebook, review copy from Netgalley
A terrible truth has been revealed to one man: the entire human race has been drained of every emotion except one– fear. To bring life back to the world, Rom must embark on a journey that will end either in his own demise or a reawkening of humanity. But to bring love and passion back into existence will also threaten the powers of the world with the revolution and anarchy that had nearly destroyed them previously.
After happening upon a journal through strange circumstance, Rom’s world is shattered. He learns that humanity long ago ceased to “live,” that it exists today in a living death of emotions. In a terrible risk, Rom exposes himself to the vial of blood folded into the old leather of the journal. His change is fearful and fraught with mind-bending emotion. A once-pious observer of the Order’s passionless statues, he is filled with uncontrollable impulses. He is filled with love.
He is undone, terrified, and alone in the desolate world.
My supply of Christian fiction has sort of run low ever since I started reading more YA books, so new books from my favorite Christian authors are always exciting and squee-worthy. One of the dream team-ups I had ever since last year when the news went out was Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee, and I have waited with anticipation over this book, Forbidden. Imagine my excitement when I saw that the book was available in Netgalley.
In the year 2005, geneticists discovered that there is a certain gene in our DNA that controlled the emotion of fear, further leading to the discovery of other genes that control other kinds of emotions. After a war that devastated the world, humanity vowed to destroy everything that led to that war, particularly the emotions that come with it — love, joy, passion, anger, hatred, sorrow. Out of all emotions, only fear was allowed to survive. And because of this, peace reigned.
480 years later, we meet Rom Sebastian, a simple, ordinary man who sings songs for the dead. On his way home from a funeral, he meets an old man who tells him of an Order called Keepers and leaves a vial of blood wrapped in a vellum with strange symbols. Citadel Guards caught up with them and to Rom’s horror, they killed the man. Soon Rom is on the run from the guards with his childhood friend Avra, confused and scared to why they were running away. When he decides to drink some of the blood in the vial he carried, long-forgotten emotion surface within him together with the fear that he has been so used to feeling: sorrow. Anger. Passion. And most of all, love.
Early into the first pages of Forbidden, I couldn’t help but compare this book with Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Both books have the same premise and almost the same environment. But where Delirium lacks, Forbidden totally makes up. The world building in this book is solid, so real, and contains the signature Dekker that I have known and loved. I found that the world building here makes the idea of a world operated by fear because of genetic means more plausible as compared to that where “love is illegal and I’d have to cut a vague area under your ear to get that love out”. This book had touches of Dekker’s Circle series, with the countries and royalties and guards and the people. The composition of the world contains both ancient and modern elements that somehow mesh together really well — from advanced alchemy to the hierarchy order of the Brahmin. This somehow gives the readers a clue that while it is set in the future, it doesn’t mean that it is actually advanced. Maybe the truth is, the world is going backwards because of the fear that the people were kept in.
Add to the world building, we have the fleshed out characters, which I think is Tosca Lee’s expertise. I liked how different and conflicted the characters were — Rom with his good heart, Avra’s loyalty, Neah’s hesitation, Triphon’s bravery. Feyn’s wisdom, Sarric’s greed, Jonathan’s innocence. These all seem like typical character traits, and I have to admit that some of the characters’ actions were predictable, but I think they were able to give life to them. People may be a bit turned off with the jubilant exaltation of emotions that some characters did in the book, but I thought it was forgivable as they’ve never experienced emotion like that before. Taking the reactions of the characters in this context, it wouldn’t seem exaggerated but just right. These characters were also involved in the right amount of action that it made me cringe and be surprised a couple of times. There was a particular part in the book that got me shaking my fist, but knowing I was in the hands of good writers, I know well enough to trust them.
Forbidden is very, very good. So what’s keeping me from giving it five stars? Well, it may be just me, but I cannot shake off the similarity of this with the Circle series. Also, this book feels just a tad like a prequel rather than the real first book. While there is action, I felt the climax and the ending was just a little anticlimactic. Perhaps I was expecting more…erm, bloodshed there? Not that there wasn’t enough bloodshed earlier, but I just thought there would be more there. However, that may be just because Dekker and Lee are preparing us for the next book in the trilogy. And the ending really did leave a lot of loose ends that I’m sure will be picked up and played with in the next book.
If you’re still not sure if you want to splurge on this, the authors have released a short story prequel to Forbidden, entitled The Keeper, available for free as an ebook. In this short story, a man named Talus meets two hermit monk brothers who he chooses to share the terrible secret that he has been carrying, to recruit them in helping protect the knowledge that will save humanity. This short story is a very quick read, and if you’ve read Forbidden before reading this, there’s really nothing much to surprise you here. However, I think that it gives those who have yet to read the first Book of Mortals a chance to taste Dekker’s world building and Lee’s characters. I have a feeling that reading The Keeper will make you want to know more about what this secret is and if Talus ever succeeded with his mission. Also, if you have read the Circle series (Black, Red, White, Green), you will spot a very familiar name in this short story that will probably make you say, “I knew it!” Then the story of Forbidden suddenly makes more sense.
I will finish this review with a quote from the book that pretty much sums up the message of this book:
This is the mystery of it. Life is lived on the ragged edge of the cliff. Fall off and you might die, but run from it and you are already dead!
Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee is now out in paperback and hardbound in all stores. In the Philippines, I saw some trade paperback copies of it in Fully Booked. Must. Get. Finished. Copy!
The Keeper –
Forbidden – e-ARC from Netgalley
The Keeper – ebook from Amazon Kindle store
The Violet Hour
Birth of a New Witch