by Ted Dekker
Thomas Nelson Publishers
7 September 2010
In 1772, Toma and his sidekick, Alek, arrive in Moldavia on a mission from Catherine the Great to protect a family of three women, a mother and her twin daughters, from any and all harm until the eldest daughter can be married off to proper Russian royalty. Alek, a ladies’ man from the start, immediately falls in love with (or, at least, lusts after) the younger daughter, Natasha. The Empress advised Toma not to become romantically involved with anyone while doing his duty, but he inevitably falls for the elder twin, Lucine.
In the midst of this, another family of Russians, led by a man named Vlad van Valerik, beckons the sisters with tales of true, eternal love and undying happiness. When Natasha and Alek become entwined in the Russians’ love at their home, Castle Castile, Toma must rescue them from what he believes to be harm, though at every turn they both deny any harm coming to them. When Lucine decides to let Vlad van Valerik court her, Toma is beside himself with jealousy and suddenly must save her, too.
Immanuel’s Veins is easily the one of the strangest novels about… well, if I told you the main themes of the story, I’d be putting it in an unnecessary box and spoiling part of the fun. Still, in writing it, the author said, “no one has seen a novel quite like this before”, and with that, at least, I have to agree. It was at the same time completely obvious and totally unexpected. Honestly, I kept hoping that, perhaps, the “bad guy” would reveal himself to actually be the “good guy” since he professed to love all things, but it turned out that, while everything was not exactly as it seemed, it was still close enough not to be much of a surprise. In Immanuel’s Veins, evildoers wear black and red, can perform amazing feats of physical strength, and are all around as obvious as a brick through the window.
Assuming I believe Toma’s story, he gave up a hell of a lot (no pun intended) to save Lucine from damnation. None of the other characters believed his story, including the Church; he was put in chains and jailed; and he had to fight Evil among other evils. He nearly died. But honestly, the love story—the thing that makes Toma’s sacrifices believable—is contrived. It didn’t feel like love, just lust. If it’s just lust, it doesn’t make sense for him to give up so much, though, so I guess it had to be love, right? I just… well, the whole thing seemed to be based on Lucine’s physical beauty and… I just wasn’t convinced.
The interaction between Lucine and Vlad van Valerik was more believable to me. I was disturbed by the use of domestic violence in the second half of the book, and I was equally disturbed by Lucine’s apparent unthinking acceptance of it. I don’t know if I believed their relationship more because I’m usually in a cynical state of mind, or because it was actually more realistic (in the scope of the novel). As a semi-related side note, methinks the character Alucard is somewhat overplayed (generally speaking), even though he was only mentioned in explanation in this novel. I mean, it’s not like he’s an original idea. >_> Just sayin’.
Immanuel’s Veins reminded me of some of C.S. Lewis’s work in that it was a novel with major Christian themes and symbols that weren’t so obvious and overbearing (ie: preachy) to someone not of that faith. It’s a novel that can be read as a Christian epic, but it doesn’t have to be. At least not until the end, anyway, at which time it’s pretty hard to ignore. I’ve never read any of Ted Dekker’s other works, but I know he’s a New York Times bestselling author (as the cover of the book told me), and it’s always difficult to honestly critique someone’s work when they have a lot of success on which to lean. And by that, I mean: tiptoeing around a successful author’s fans can be… an exercise in aggravation.
All that said, though, Immanuel’s Veins was intriguing. There was a lot of really great writing—I gasped at a reference on page 203, for example—but it didn’t really catch my interest until about 200 pages in. (Since it clocks in at 367 pages, it’s not a great thing that I wasn’t interested until more than halfway through.) If you like Dekker’s work, I recommend it. If you’ve read his stuff before and didn’t like it, it’s unlikely you’ll like this one. If you’ve never heard of him before this review (as was the case with me before I read this book), then pick it up and give it a try. You might like it; and if you don’t, no harm done.
T-SHIRT GIVE AWAY!
As you can see to the left, I have a t-shirt give away related to this post and book! (I literally just slapped the front of the shirt on my scanner and this is the result.) It’ll be shipped directly from the publisher, so I’m not 100% that you’ll be getting the same kind, but your shirt will be reminiscent of Dekker’s book. The shirt I received is grey, short-sleeved, and comes in adult sizes S-2XL. On the left sleeve, it reads in small, red print: “www.FaceBook.com/TedDeKker“. Yay for free stuff, right?
All you have to do is comment on this post. (Make sure to use a real email address so I can get in touch with you!) Talk to me about sacrificial love. What does it mean to you? Is it a good thing? What do you think? On September 22nd, I’ll pick a winner at random and email you privately for your shirt size and mailing address.
DISCLAIMER: I received Immanuel’s Veins free from Thomas Nelson Publishers in return for a review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.