Rise of the Mystics truly elevates Dekker’s body of work, somehow both shattering and fulfilling the core of his Circle series. The issues that I had with The 49th Mystic, namely that the dialogue often felt stilted and that certain elements of Rachelle’s journey seemed too convenient, weren’t present here. I don’t know if there was a legitimate change or if I had just been reading starker prose than normal, but Dekker’s actual writing style seemed greatly improved, as well. There was a flow to his prose that has been missing for a while, and the plot seemed to flow more naturally instead of feeling forced to take a certain path. I also really appreciated that this book picked up exactly where the first book ended, and that Dekker provided a quick recap of important events from The 49th Mystic at the beginning. Both of these decisions show a thoughtfulness in regards to the reader that authors sometimes overlook, and I respect authors when they take the time to include things like recaps and casts of characters and glossaries.
I’m not going to say much about the plot, as even the simplest statements could give away important plot points of The 49th Mystic, this book’s predecessor. However, I will say that I truly appreciated the growth of our main character, as well as that of many of the supporting characters. Both Rachelle and the other characters around her took on a depth of dimension they were lacking in the first book. There was real struggle in this novel, naked doubt and fear and uncertainty. There was real anger and true rage and even truer love. There was premeditated sacrifice of self, which is one of the most meaningful gifts one person can give another. There was immense beauty revealed through the harshest brutality. Above all, there was the decision to completely trust the Creator with every element of life, because He’s the one that designed each one in the first place.
The reason I have always loved Ted Dekker, even when I was sometimes disappointed in his craftsmanship, is threefold. First, the man is a wonderful storyteller. His prose might not sing, but the story he has to tell is always vibrant and moving and feels somehow more real than those crafted by authors who pen lovely sentences. Second, there is so much spiritual depth to every book Dekker publishes. Each story has a second layer to it, as if the tale we are actually reading is simply a parable, something that explains a deep spiritual truth in a way we can more easily understand. Because of this, the core of these stories resonates and stays with me for years, shaping my theology in subtle ways. Third, I really appreciate the way he ties so many of his stories together. There are only two other authors I can think of who make this much effort to weave their tales together, those being Brandon Sanderson and Stephen King. As someone who beliefs deeply in God and whose faith in Him colors the entirety of my worldview, I am completely enamored by the thought of so many varied elements coming together to create an overarching design of some sort; that’s how I believe God works, so I love seeing that in fiction.
If you couldn’t tell from the gushing above, I really loved this book. Dekker has always been one of my favorite authors because his concepts resonate with me so deeply, though in recent years I’ve been disappointed in the technical side of his books. I don’t know if this is because I’ve read so much more as an adult and have thus experienced far better writing, or if Dekker had just slacked in the craftsmanship department for a while. Whatever the case, it was such a relief for me to pick up this book and just disappear into the story without being distracted by my inner critic. While this duology can technically stand on its own (though you do absolutely have to read The 49th Mystic before this book, or you’ll be completely lost), I highly recommend reading Dekker’s other works first, especially his Circle series. The Paradise trilogy and The Outlaw Chronicles also have multiple tie-ins within these two books, but you could absolutely read them after the duology should you choose. If you’ve read Dekker’s work in the past, I can’t recommend these two novels strongly enough. They do a fantastic job of weaving together almost everything Dekker has written. Even if The 49th Mystic was a bit weak in places, it’s absolutely worth reading just to get to Rise of the Mystics. The Circle will never be the same.
Dive Deep, my friends.
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