Ted Dekker brought me back to Christian fiction.
I grew up on Christian fiction, but somewhere in my teens, I stopped reading it and moved on to other things.
Fifteen years later, a copy of Black was sitting on my friend’s table. “You should read that,” he said.
That’s why I really wanted to like this new series The Dream Traveler’s Quest from Ted Dekker and his daughter, Kara Dekker. I really tried to like it.
But I didn’t.
I hesitated to write this post as usually my goal is to focus on what I like instead of what I don’t like. However, I have had so many people ask me about these books that I felt it useful to share my opinions about it. I am really sad that I didn’t like the books. I feel a deep gratitude to Ted Dekker for bringing me back to Christian fiction.
The Dream Traveler’s Quest looks amazing at first glance.
This story continues in the Circle world, which was a major selling point for me. The covers look amazing. The story line is geared for 7-12 year olds, an age where parents are always looking for more books to give new and voracious readers. The description on Amazon makes the books sound just what Christian parents are looking for.
“What if you could find a way to enter another reality full of wild and life changing adventure? And what if every time you fell asleep you woke up in that other reality? Welcome to the world of Theo Dunnery, a twelve year-old boy who feels alone and full of fear when he stumbles on an ancient book that draws him into another world.
In that world, he learns he must complete a quest to find the Five Seals of Truth if he is to conquer his fears. Facing great odds and many enemies, Theo sets off on the adventure of a lifetime to discover who he really is as the son of Elyon, and overcome the darkness that has haunted him for so long.”
However, this is one series that is worth not judging by the covers or the description. You need to read it before giving it to your children so you can know what they’re experiencing.
These books won’t stay in my library for three reasons.
First, the theology is debatable.
To set the scene, the main character Theo finds a book called a “Book of History” and is transported into another world. Once there, a mystic gives Theo the quest of finding five Seals of Truth.
The seals are…
- God is infinite.
- I am the Light of the world.
- Seeing the Light in darkness is my journey.
- Surrender is the means to seeing the Light.
- True love is the evidence of being in the Light.
I have been told that these seals are taken from Ted Dekker’s non-fiction book called The Way of Love, but I have not yet read this yet to confirm it.
While I can agree with Seal #1, I hesitated with the second one. First, Matthew 5:14-16 does say that we are the light of the world. But there’s a purpose for our light. It’s not something that we have, but something that shows the way back to God.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
While reading all four books in The Dream Traveler’s Series, I didn’t see the second part of Matthew 5:14-16 (glorify your Father) at all. Becoming the light of the world was a matter of discovering who you already are and finding power within yourself. It was not a process of becoming something new.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Whether or not Ted Dekker believes that repentance is not needed, I don’t know. In his previous work of the Circle Trilogy, the Horde are saved when they drown in Elynon’s (God’s) red waters.
However, in The Curse and the Shadowman (Book 2), Theo meets a girl from the Horde who loves Elynon.
“But if you believe in Elyon, why are you still Horde?” Theo asked. “Why haven’t you been to the Red Lakes to heal yourself?”
“Talya is teaching me and my mother that we are beautiful. Even though our skin may not be, our beauty lies inside.”
Again, the idea comes, whether intentional or not, that our focus should be discovering who you really are. “You are the light of the world” substitutes how we are to find out our true self, not what God has done for us or changes us to be.
This is a small step into the slight but so important differences between Christian mystics that I see Ted Dekker continuing to make. As Dr. Bill Brink likes to say, “Watch your beginnings.” One small step becomes a big slide. That big slide could end up into theology that teaches you can become God. In fact, mystics tend to emphasize being one with God so much that it blurs into “being God,” not being one with God.
There were other issues in the theology that I found questionable, such as God revealing Himself as a young boy, the children losing the seals given to them by God, and a continued lack of God as they continued their discovery of who they are.
“Remember who we are. We’re the light of the world.” Theo, The Final Judgment
Not God is in us. Not God will help us. We. Our strength. Our power.
To compare with Narnia, the children don’t ever really do much in Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, Aslan defeats the White Witch and the battle isn’t over until Aslan takes care of it. Even in The Last Battle when Aslan doesn’t enter Narnia, Tirian says “But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.” I could show example after example of how C.S. Lewis uses The Chronicles of Narnia to show how God is the one who acts, fights, protects, and guides.
You can’t have Narnia without Aslan, but you can easily have this world of Ted and Kara Dekker’s without God.
Second, the writing in The Dream Traveler’s Quest is mediocre.
Ever hear the rule “Show, Don’t Tell?”
Basically, telling is something like “John was really terrified of the dark.” However, showing is something like… “The room descended into darkness. John huddled under a blanket. He forced himself to breathe as the dark suffocated him.”
In The Dream Traveler’s Quest, there is a lot of telling.
On top of that, most of the books felt slow. They are short books, only 120 pages. However, the second book is almost half done before the action starts.
The people also didn’t seem like real people. The girl, Annelee, seemed a weak character. She was pretty much the stereotypical girl. Her story arc does take an odd turn, but she just doesn’t do much.
The adults are basically nonexistent and uncaring. For example, Theo’s father hears that his son is being bullied at school but doesn’t take any action. All he says is, “Well, learn to be invisible.” To make matters worse, we learn later that the father works at the very same school.
The plot wanders as needed to get the message of the seals into the story. (SPOILERS HERE) One example is when Theo and his friend Danny first have to find and wear special glasses to see reality as it is. Then they learn that the glasses aren’t necessary because “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you.” Maybe they could have learned that before risking life and limb to get the useless glasses. (SPOILERS OVER)
Third, some of the content is questionable.
One of the things that stopped me reading is a sleepover between two boys and one girl. I understand the writer’s problems of having to get the three children together to further the plot. However, as a mom of girls, I would never allow my girl to do this. In fact, in the book, the kids push their parents “It’s for a study project!” which of course is then allowed. Furthermore, when the girl feels sick in the morning, the adults again show little concern. I find this highly unrealistic and not something I want my children to think is a normal activity.
Another thing that bothered me was in the second book. We find the villains about to burn the main characters at the stake. The scene is quite intense and real. Remember these books have been marketed for 7-year-olds. But I would never want these to be things living in the imagination at that young age.
Should your children read The Dream Traveler’s Quest or not?
That’s a decision up to you.
However, I believe that there are far better books that I would rather have my girls read, books with messages of God woven into the story. While I don’t believe reading The Dream Traveler’s Quest series would harm my children because they wouldn’t probably catch the issues I did, there is only so much time to read, and I would prefer to give them great quality books.
I hope to see better books from Ted Dekker in the future – books like the Circle Trilogy that thrill those who love fantasy, that illuminates God, and leads us back to Him.
I pray I do.