Ted Dekker Continues the Dream
Dreams have many possible interpretations, as evidenced by the myriad of books written on the topic, each one contradicting the next and offering a unique perspective on the phenomena. In scientific terms, we are still investigating and trying to determine what dreams really are, what shapes and affects them. In imaginary terms however, we can take a bit more freedom with the topic, which is precisely what Ted Dekker did when he thought of dreams as gateways to another world in his Beyond the Circle Series. In the first book, The 49th Mystic, he introduced us to Rachelle Matthews, taken to another world by her dreams, one where she is the prophesied titular 49th mystic tasked with finding five seals to prevent the world from plunging into darkness.
With Rise of the Mystics, Ted Dekker concludes the two-book series and sets us back on the path of adventure as Rachelle continues her quest to save mankind. Previously, she had managed to find three of the five required seals, which would be a promising start if it wasn’t for the fact the remaining two are proving to be far more problematic than the other ones. Particularly, the other mystics warn her of there being no possible defence against the fifth seal, how finding it will quite literally cost her everything she has, and perhaps even everything she is. As the mystical dream world of the late Thomas Hunter is unravelled by the dark work of Vlad Smith, Rachelle sees no choice but to push towards the end of the journey, no matter the price.
As you might imagine, it would be ill-advised to get into this second book without having read the first one. They both make for one continuous storyline and omitting to read the first book will make this story feel confusing as there aren’t really many recaps or flashbacks. In other words, Dekker assumes you’ve read the first book and works onwards from there.
A Story of the Soul
Both books in this Beyond the Circle series are far from being traditional or straightforward fantasy adventure novels or what have you… rather, they are more akin to introspective journeys used to touch on various themes. In other words, as I kept reading the story I couldn’t help but stop to think quite often about the underlying message of whatever events might have been happening, and in many cases it’s one of a positive and hopeful nature. As the overarching theme of the entire story in Rise of the Mystics, I would definitely say there is a strong focus on what perfect love really is, and how it can be used to fight against hatred, fear and darkness.
While on the whole it might feel as if these themes are a bit cliched at times, I would argue Dekker knows how to skillfully integrate them into the story, making them part of the plot and giving them a tangible importance. We witness them in the lives and fates of the various characters, which in my opinion almost has an effect of making them automatically more interesting. As a matter of fact, despite repeating some of the themes with a few characters, the author never feels redundant for he has a good vision when it comes to tackling subjects from different angles. I believe this integration of thought-provoking themes into the story is a big aspect of what makes this series work; when you become intellectually or emotionally attached to concepts and ideas presented by the author, the story begins to feel much more alive and important in the real world.
Heaven and the Bible
I don’t think it is possible to talk about either book in the series without alluding to the amount of religious references and depiction present here. Dekker is quite obviously a Christian who is keen on sharing his vision on his own religion and how it can manifest in the real world. There is a very obvious depiction of heaven through the realm of the mystics, and we come back to it fairly often as Dekker continuously adds bits and pieces of information about it, painting a striking picture which I believe anyone can appreciate regardless of religious beliefs. While I don’t think it was ever meant to be taken as a one hundred percent literal interpretation of heaven, it does present interesting notions as to what it might be like, centred on the love of God and closeness to him, which in my opinion captures the heart of the concept better than most visions.
As you might imagine, there is a fair amount of religious references in Rise of the Mystics alluding to various stories in the Bible, and it doesn’t really take all that much familiarity with the religion to pick up on them. Personally-speaking, there were times when I felt the amount of these allusions was a little saturated for my liking, but overall Ted Dekker does attempt to use them and weave an allegorical narrative, one followers of Christ can identify themselves in. As a non-religious person, this aspect of the Rise of the Mystics was entertaining at best, but I do feel it wasn’t aimed at me and those of you who are religious will likely get a lot more out of it.
The Final Verdict
Rise of the Mystics by Ted Dekker is certainly a worthy continuation to the first book and conclusion to the series. Despite its heavy religious overtones, I believe this is the sort of story which can be enjoyed by people of all creeds and walks of life; its goal isn’t to convert you into Christianity, but rather push you to have your own reflections, at the same time imparting the sorts of positive values everyone can agree on. The story itself, as a result, is quite enthralling and will stick with you for a while. I highly recommend this series to anyone who is looking for a story to make them think profoundly on life, religion, and everything in between.
Ted Dekker is an American writer primarily focusing on the thriller, mystery and fantasy genres. Amongst his many works two extremely notable ones stand out, Thr3e and House, both having been adapted into major motion pictures. He is also the recipient of numerous awards including the 2003 Christy Award Best Fiction Book, 2010 Retailer Choice Award, and most recently the 2015 INSPYs Bloggers Award for Excellence in Faith-Driven Literature Mystery/Thriller for his novel A.D. 30.