Sovereign Rich in Spiritual Symbolism
- Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee's sprawling, futuristic The Books of Mortals trilogy winds to an epic conclusion with Sovereign, a dense, meditative volume that isn’t quite as action-packed as one might expect, but still manages to provide closure to the rich thematic questions raised throughout the series.
Set 500 years in the future on Earth, the series follows the aftermath of a mutual global decision to strip all emotions except fear from humanity. The discovery of a vial of blood which could restore emotions set the plot in motion, culminating in the “resurrection” of those humans who received a transfusion from a ruler – or Sovereign – named Jonathan. This occurred at the close of book two, Mortal, but not before the evil Saric and an alchemist named Pravus had developed their own restorative serum which gave them control over anyone infused with it. Jonathan’s death plunged the world into darkness, under the control of a new Sovereign named Feyn.
Sovereign finds the remaining inhabitants of the world divided into three factions. The Sovereigns, numbering only three dozen, are Jonathan’s legacy, still loyal to his cause but camped under the city of Byzantium and awaiting rescue. They are led by Jordin, Jonathan’s lover, and Rom Sebastian, the man who discovered the original vial of blood. Above the city, Feyn broods inside her walled fortress, surrounded by an army of Dark Bloods made from her own blood. The third group –powerful nomadic warriors called Immortals – seeks to stamp out Dark Bloods, but is not loyal to the Sovereigns either.
Jordin, previously a supporting character, takes center stage, as she struggles to make sense of a world seemingly abandoned to evil after Jonathan’s death. The action in Sovereign is punctuated by only a select few moments of intensity, since much of the plot surrounds Jordin and her fellow Sovereigns planning a way to wrest control back from Feyn and debating various strategies, many of which involve transfusion.
Like its predecessors, Sovereign is full of rich metaphysical and spiritual symbolism. Occasionally, the figurative elements are a bit too overt, as in the obvious Jonathan/Christ parallels, but the way in which literal transfusion of blood is allowed to stand for a change in one's spiritual state, is particularly compelling. And a climactic scene in the desert where Jordin encounters a spiritual world beyond her physical realm, then must overcome several temptations, is one of the book’s strongest sections, especially as it enables the reader to see clearly way in which the spiritual and physical realities in our own lives intersect.
When the dust settles from the book’s climactic battle scene, it seems that Dekker and Lee were actually most interested in exploring the age-old question, "How, then, shall we live?" Through the various main players in the story, and the roving point of view and deliberately decelerated pacing, the reader is allowed to consider whether a purely physical existence, or an existence with all emotions, or one with sacrificial love as the center, is most desirable. While the last option is the one ultimately chosen by Jordin and a few other characters, the novel explores the advantages and disadvantages of all choices.
The first two volumes in The Books of Mortals have already found an audience, and there's nothing in Sovereign to disappoint loyal readers or fans of Dekker or Lee individually. For those waiting for a reason to dive into the series, its culminating story might be the perfect occasion.
*This Review First Published 7/2/2013
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