You may or may not have noticed, I've been stepping back from doing book reviews lately. One, most of my book talks have been over on my YouTube channel. Two, I've found doing book reviews can be somewhat exhausting. For some reason or another, the books I tend to pick to review before their publication date have tended to fall flat for me. But, because I said I would have to finish a book I don't like.
do a review on the book, I have to finish it and write about it. whether I like it or not. I don't know about you, but I feel like reading should be fun, not a chore. Unless I'm reading for school, I shouldn't feel like I
Therefore, I've become much pickier about the books I agree to read in advance for a review.
Last year, I had read AD 30 by Ted Dekker. It ended up being one of my favorite books I had read in 2014. It was so good and I loved every moment of it. Ted Dekker is technically a Christian writer, but many of his books have gone "mainstream" because he's a Christian, but he's also a writer. He knows how to write compelling and exciting stories. Personally, those are hard to find in Christian novels. He's not afraid to tell a good story while also wrestling with heavy theological themes. If you want to read about AD 30, click here.
When I was approached to join the blog tour for the sequel, AD 33, I was ridiculously excited. Of course I wanted to read about what happened next! So, without further ado, here is my review for AD 33.
AD 33 takes place roughly two years after the first book ends. Maviah has gained a few thousand followers and has been called "Queen of the Outcasts" with the aid of Saba, her adopted son Talya, and her faithful followers. Yet, her growing power threatens the leaders around her and they challenge, her, her faith, and her family. Seeing guidance, Maviah and Saba set out in search of Yeshua (Jesus), right as he's about to enter Jerusalem for the last time.
Spoiler alert- Yeshua dies on the cross. Shocker, I know.
The first section of this book rushed by. The last we saw Maviah, her lover Judah was in prison and she set out to become queen. When we enter this book, she suddenly has thousands of followers, her own council of sheiks, and Judah is still in prison. I don't want to give many spoilers, but let's just say a lot happens very quickly in the first hundreded (maybe less) pages and I felt a bit whiplashed. There wasn't time to process anything which had happened and I was sitll figuring out exactly what had happened in the last two years between the two books. I wanted to know how she had gained so much power and how she had met those who gave her council and get back into the world. Instead, I was thrown into the fire along with the characters and wasn't able to get my balance when all of the sudden major events happen and left me reeling. While, this could be exciting and fast-paced, to me it felt jarring. When you make big decisions with major characters, it's nice to have at least a small amount of time to recover before moving onto the next thing. I felt like it was "BIG PLOT TWIST" and then "Okay, get over it, moving on."
Once this was over though, the pacing was much better. Maviah spent much more time in the presence of Yeshua than she did in the previous book, as well as among his followers. She spent time in Bethany with Mary, Martha, and Lazaraus, and she was in the background during the events of Holy Week. (Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Good Friday, etc.)
The chapters switched from Maviah's perspective to her son's a few times. I liked seeing the different perspectives, but it was jarrings because when we were with Maviah, it read in the first person point of view. When it went to Talya, it was in third person. I wish he had either stuck with first person and had headed each chapter with who was speaking, or had made it all third person.
We definitely had more action with Saba in this book! When I was looking over my previous review for AD 30 I had noted I wanted more of Saba because he was an interesting character. Dekker definitely delivered in this installment. I think he could have gone deeper with Saba's character, but he was much more of a central figure in this book and it was awesome to see his character and faith develop.
We also go to know Maviah's adoped son, Tayla more in this book. He was only a boy, but you could see his maturity and he had visions which were really interesting.
Petra barely made an appearance, which I found disapointing. I loved Petra in the first book and when she popped up in this one, I was excited. Then, she was barely there. Maviah had one conversation with her and she showed up slightly at the end. Being such a beloved character (at least to me), the events at the end I feel would have been much more powerful if Petra had played a larger role.
In this book we got to know Mary, Martha, and Lazarus more. I loved that! While we did see some of Yeshua's disciples here and there, it was good to get ot know other Bibilical characters we've read about in Sunday school.
What I love about Ted Dekker and his writing, is he is not afraid to tackle the big theological themes and questions. Most Christian novels I've read are pretty fluffy. They touch on the big questions, but don't dive into them much. They stay on the shallow end and sometimes dip their toes in deepr. Dekker takes the characaters and readers over to the deep end of the pool and does a cannonball. I'm talking the ideas of the Old and New Adam (which I had always found confusing), linking creation to the death and ressurection of Christ, what it means to die to yourself and to live in Christ, etc. These ideas and themes are talked about in other books, but Dekker truly dives into them and exploring the way a true theologian would in a way that translates for the reader.
The words of Yeshua are taken straight from scripture (he has the references for each chapter in the back of the book) and he weaves them into conversations naturally. At times it feels a bit preachy, but for the most part, it flows well. He then uses scripture to explain scripture and puts the pieces together. Sometimes the Bible can seem like it contradicits itself or is a strange puzzle we can't figure out. Dekker was able to show how it all works together.
I also appreciated how the characters would get confused on what the message of Yeshua truly was. We've all been there when we are at church or an event and everything makes sense in that moment. Then, the moment we walk away and are back in "the real world," we get confused and wonder "Wait... did he mean this, or this?" Maviah had so many moments when she remembered Yeshua's words, but the meaning became muddled.
The pacing of AD 33 was a bit off for me. It felt rushed at times. I wanted to get to know the characters and get lost in the world, and Dekker rushed through those parts. While I understand needing to get through the story so you can get to where the focus needs to be, it also can throw the reader off and make them detatched from the story. Then, when big events happen, the emotional impact isn't quite as strong as it could be.
I loved getting to know Saba, Tayla, and other characters more. They gave a new perspective on these Biblical events.
The theological themes and points were fantastic. I am always in awe of how Dekker is able to convey them in his writing.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed AD 33. It wasn't quite as good as the first book because of the pacing, but absolutely a great addition to this series.
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.
Release Day: October 6, 2015
You can purchase AD 33 via these links:
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/1SNnBwg
For more information about AD 33, click here.
To read about Ted Dekker and his journey to writing AD 33 (which is super interesting), click here.