11 November 2013

Review: A Man Called Blessed by Ted Dekker

A suspenseful story hiding nuggets of spiritual wisdom


David Ben Solomon has dedicated his life to searching for the Ark of the Covenant in order to restore it to Jerusalem and welcome the Messiah. He has been joined in his quest by his daughter, Rebecca, an archaeologist and assassin. They Raphael Hadane, a Falasha Jew from Ethiopia, who tells them the information they seek is hidden in the Debra Damarro monastery in Ethiopia.

Caleb is twenty-five and has lived almost his whole life in the Debra Damarro monastery, first in the care of Father Matthew, now with his adoptive parents. He, apparently, holds the key to the location of the Ark. But not everyone wants the Ark found, and one man in particular is determined to stop Rebecca and Caleb …

A Man Called Blessed is the second in the Caleb Books series by Ted Dekker and Bill Bright. Dekker is famous for his suspense, and that came through in the novel. Bill Bright is famous for his non-fiction books on spiritual maturity, and that came through as well, with quotes such as these:

“You say that you may not be living up to your beliefs, but by definition, this is impossible. We always live up or down to our beliefs. Beliefs are the rails which govern our lives.”


“In reality, most people who call themselves Christians do not believe in Christ at all. Their train is not on his rails. They do not live what they say they believe, because in reality they don’t believe it.”


What didn’t come through so well, for me, were likeable characters I could believe in and relate to. We didn’t see much of Caleb in the beginning, and it seemed as though he had a personality transplant when he arrived in the desert. It didn’t quite ring true. Equally, Rebecca seemed to morph from a military assassin into a stereotypical brash American tourist when she left the monastery. Neither transformation rang true to the characters as they had been established in this book (although the character of Caleb might have been consistent with the previous book, which I haven’t read).

And I had issues with the plot. Some aspects were incomprehensible (how to you build a crate around an object without ever touching said object?). Others felt contrived. Fiction uses a story to demonstrate truth. But one of the issues with fiction, especially Christian fiction, is that we don’t accept miracles in our novels, even though we know we serve a God of miracles. If you must have a miracle as a key plot point, that miracle must be foreshadowed—it must be signalled from the very beginning. It can’t just come out of nowhere. Otherwise it breaks one of the biggest ‘rules’ of fiction: the injunction against using deus ex machina to solve plot problems.

I also had issues with the writing, particularly the overuse of adverbs and exclamation marks, and the developing relationship between Rebecca and Caleb. I continually felt I was being told how they felt about each other—I never saw it.

On a more practical level, it was interesting to gain insight into the minds of the modern Jew and Muslim, especially Palestinian Muslims. There are serious problems in the Middle East, and A Man Called Blessed illustrated them well.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze® for providing a free ebook for review.

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