From My Bookshelf – Rise of the Mystics

As I said in a previous post, I was given the opportunity to be an Advanced Reader for Ted Dekker’s newest 2 book series, Beyond the Circle.  Book 1 was title “The 49th Mystic”.  Book 2, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, was “Rise of the Mystics”.  Here’s my review (it’s a rather wordy one!) –

First of all, you will definitely need to start with “The 49th Mystic” for this book to make sense. “Rise of the Mystics” picks up in the middle of Rachelle’s story and you will be more than a little confused and lost if you don’t read the books in order!

From a strictly “storytelling” perspective, this series is Ted Dekker at his best! There were times I had to put the book down and catch my breath. Other times I stopped reading because I could tell that what was about to come was going to place the characters I had come to love in a precarious, even dangerous position and I wanted to avoid the stress for a moment! But ultimately this story is about identity. As I, the reader, followed Rachelle’s path to finding the five seals, I was challenged to examine everything I had been told about matters of faith. I wasn’t just reading about Rachelle’s journey to finding the five seals. In my own heart, I took the journey with her. Yes, I enjoyed the story, the characters . . . all of the necessary pieces are there that make this a quality novel. But as a woman of faith myself, I was impacted at a personal level in ways I didn’t expect. This one will stick with me for quite some time!

This book will challenge you to look at how you define yourself – what things/people/titles do you hold most dear? What would be left of you if all those identifiers were taken away? How would it impact your life if you could truly cease to fear what others might to do your earthen vessel, knowing that they can never harm who you truly are?

“Rise of the Mystics” will challenge you to redefine your concept of the word “fear” and how it contrasts with a real, unconditional love that is pure, untouched by frustration, and never dimmed by the actions of others. This statement, written as though Rachelle herself had said it, sums up what impacted me most in this book – “One thing was certain: the power of Christ made manifest was far, far greater than anyone, even the most devoted follower, could imagine.”

Dive in and see for yourself.

**Side note – Those who enjoy study guides should check out “The Way of Love”, also written by Ted Dekker. This Bible study (with a companion journal!) addresses the same concepts covered in the novel from a more personal application approach.

The Lady’s Gamble (by Abby Ayles)

The Lady's GambleThis is not the first novel I’ve read by Abby Ayles, but it is, hands down, my favorite.

In many period romance novels, the story focuses on the eldest unmarried daughter in a family and her prospects for marriage. But the “The Lady’s Gamble” the story focuses on Regina, the youngest daughter who sets out to save the family after her father loses everything in a gambling loss.

To put it quite simply, I adore Regina. Coming from a childhood marred by the loss of her mother, Regina grows up believing she is unattractive, undesirable, and an embarrassment to her four older, prettier, more talented sisters. The truth is far different than what Regina perceives and it is only through an unexpected friend and a love that she fears is unrequited that Regina begins to see the truth. All of this occurs while she is secretly being taught to gamble by the devastatingly handsome Lord Harrison, a relationship that his friends assume is a romantic one.

Beyond the central storyline, I love that Ms. Ayles touches on the sacrifices that we make for all types of love. Lovers don’t marry because he is dying and has a brother who can inherit the estate after he passes while she will never need to worry if a future suitor is interested in her or the wealth she inherited from her late husband. A “bastard child” endures harsh treatment by the nobility because he is devoted to his father and will not leave him. Regina risks public humiliation to win back the family estate from the man who won it from her father. Ms.Ayles even touches on the difficulty faced by Lady Cora, Regina’s chaperone, who tries to keep her attraction to other females from becoming a widely known fact among “proper society”. Even Lord Harrison put his own reputation on the line, earning money through gambling so that he could restore the estate that his father had lost almost entirely.

The love story is beautifully written – Ms. Ayles knows how to enchant her readers! – but my favorite part of the story is watching young Regina blossom. Once she is no longer living as “the baby of the family” she discovers that not everyone is offended by her quick wit, there are those who find her funny and intelligent, and that she has a real talent for playing cards and reading people. It is her growth and increased confidence in herself that makes this a truly wonderful read.

The Lady's Gamble