Be forewarned that my review will contain spoiler warnings, so you may want to read carefully!
I received a copy of Immanuel's Veins, by Tedd Dekker, with great anticipation and curiosity. First of all, the book information came with no real synopsis, only a sketch. I knew it was a fantasy-adventure type novel with a great love story. I couldn't wait to dig in! The book includes pages of short reviews, people who wrote of being enraptured by the story, so I waited until a weekend when I had plenty of time so it would be ok if I got all caught up in reading.
Then one day I received a note from the publisher giving me extra resources for writing my review. I watched this compelling video, and my excitement grew:
Now, let me say if you think that you would like to read this book, then stop reading my review right now. The rest will spoil the story for you!
Right away in Chapter 1 we are introduced to the hero of the story. Something very bad happened for me. I didn't fall in love with him. In fact, I was put off by the dialogue that was so casual and sensual between he and his best friend. In Chapter 2 I had the rousing suspicion that I was reading a vampire story. Ugh. Yes, dear friends, that's what it is. I know our culture is crazed with Twilight and other related stories, but I am just not into the whole vampire thing. In fact, I find it repulsive. So, not loving the characters, and now completely turned off by the entire plot of the book, I found the rest of the book cumbersome and detached...I had to make myself get through it. :(
In this book, the vampires are the bad guys and our warrior hero is the good guy. He and his best friend are sent from Russia to protect a royal mother and her twin daughters living at a summer castle in Moldavia, nestled at the base of the Carpathian mountains. They are regretting having to leave the glory of the Russo-Turkish War to "babysit" these girls, however they are bidden to do the will of Her Majesty. The hero, Toma, is desperately loyal to the empress of Russia, Catherine the Great. The empress has admonished Toma not to fall in love with either of the twins while he is there. What does he do right away? He falls in love with Lucine. So much for loyalty and service. The thought here is that true love supersedes duty and service. However he spends most of the rest of his story painfully hiding his love, never telling Lucine of his love, until it is too late. Someone else loves Lucine, and wishes to marry her. You can guess it is a vampire, and not just any vampire but the leader. He takes her and makes her his vampire bride, and the book culminates with Toma's quest to redeem Lucine and rescue her from the living dead.
The hook in this story is supposed to be Toma's sacrifice of his own life for the redemption of Lucine. It is a reflection of what Christ has done for us. Because Dekker purposefully aims to present the Gospel through his story, I feel that I must address that subject in my review. Toma is not a Christian, it is clear from the first chapter. In desperation to save Lucine, he rushes to the local priest to ask for help. The priest asks Toma if he is a Christian, to which Toma replies "Yes." The priest then reveals that Toma cannot possibly be a Christian because he is not a member of the church. This is good and bad--good, because MANY people wrongly believe as Toma that they are Christians (likewise that they are "good people"). It is bad because the priest says Toma is not a Christian because Toma is not a member of the church (neither am I a member of the Catholic church, however I AM a Christian)...a flawed logic. Toma desperately asks how he is to become a Christian. The priest replies with a long list of things that Toma needs to do to earn salvation (living a good life, giving alms to the poor, etc). Toma has no time to earn salvation based on works--he needs salvation instantly (which is what we have when we repent--turn from our sins--and trust in the saving work of Jesus on the cross). Toma is given a "blood book" by a strange character we met in the first chapter named Thomas, presumably an angel. Upon reading this book, Toma realizes that salvation is found through the cross alone--in the blood of Jesus poured out for us. (Strong references here to the practice of communion--and the Gospel of John chapter 6 is a great place to start reading). Armed with this new information, Toma sets out to vanquish the vampires and redeem Lucine. Thomas pleads with Toma to "be his twin"...implying that Toma should be as Jesus. While that is the call of all Christians, I wonder if this calling isn't just a little defiled by the whole "vampire" theme? Perhaps I'm just too picky.
If you enjoy vampire thrillers, then you will probably enjoy this book, and that's a good thing. It's just a story, after all. I didn't love the characters, but that is just my personality. I think when I picked up this book I was hoping for something a little more like Frank Peretti. Unfortunately, it was a little too worldly and sensual for my tastes.
One more closing thought. The publisher asked me to answer this question: What is true sacrificial love? True sacrificial love is what Jesus did on the cross. It wasn't just the painful death of crucifixion--it was bearing the full cup of God's wrath. A cup that was meant for me. A cup that I cannot even begin to imagine. Far worse than a beating and death. He took that cup from me, and He bore it to the cross. And He rose again!! He conquered sin and death. He endured the wrath of Hell so that I could live in glory. To Him be the glory! Any "good" that I do in my life is a reflection of what Christ has done on the cross. It is by His grace that I am able to do *anything* good. That is sacrificial love.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”