The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Beyond the Circle” series.
Rachelle Matthews is a blind girl living with her father, David, in the secluded, self-sufficient town of Eden, Utah. A spiritual leader named Simon Moses controls the town and assures citizens they will be safe from the collapse of the outside world because of God’s protection. Rachelle gets around effectively using echolocation, but David urges her to try a revolutionary procedure to fix her blindness using genetic alteration.
Frequent nightmares of Shadow Man plague the girl. Shadow Man tells her he will always steal her sight, no matter how many times it is restored. He refers to her as 49th, the fullness of all that is, and tells her she will be punished since she bears all the fear and darkness of the world. David, a therapist, believes Shadow Man, and even Rachelle’s blindness, may be manifestations of Rachelle’s anxieties.
As David waits for Rachelle to wake up after her procedure, a stranger in a suit jacket and slicked-back hair enters the room. He tells David his name is Vlad Smith and hints at his plans to override Rachelle’s memories. David tries to stop Vlad, and the stranger throws David against a wall. Vlad injects Rachelle with something. After he leaves, she is comatose.
Rachelle wakes up 2,000 years in the future with her vision intact. She eventually discovers this is her true home, and her life in Eden was a dream. Vlad, a.k.a. Shadow Man, exists in the historical town of Eden, but he wants to have the power to survive in the future as well. He will only be able to do so if Rachelle writes him into a powerful book he carries.
In the future reality, Rachelle meets a man who calls himself Justin. He informs her she must overcome her fears by opening Five Seals of Truth before her enemies destroy her. She must recognize herself as she was in the beginning and return to the other side of the Great Divide to regain her memories. Until she embraces her true origins and her identity as the 40th mystic, the world will be trapped in darkness.
A race called Horde, led by the ruler’s son, Jacob, traps Rachelle. They have gray, scaly skin and serve a god named Teeleh and his high priest, Ba’al. They think Rachelle is evil and diseased. Rachelle learns the Horde had previously captured her and erased her memory, but she had escaped.
Samuel, son of mystic Thomas of Hunter, rescues Rachelle from the Horde. A spiritual guide named Talya, who has a lion named Judah, asks her travel with him. Talya shows Rachelle how to recognize her true origins in a week of intense mental training. Talya shares biblical wisdom and helps her see that her true identity can only be found in Justin (Christ).
Her fear is a function of the temporal mind and body. She begins to understand the depth of Elyon’s (God’s) power and love for her. She also comes to realize that humans, like those in Eden, are so bound by fear of the law that they cannot accept the freedom they were made to enjoy. Until they, too, rediscover their origins, they will live in darkness. By recognizing her origin in Christ, she finds the First Seal.
Rachelle dreams herself between the future, where she is 21 years old, and her home in Eden, where she is 16. Vlad Smith takes over Eden and brainwashes the citizens into following his legalistic rules and false teachings about God. He also turns off the power and tells citizens he won’t restore light to the city until Rachelle writes about him in the book of the future. The citizens turn against Rachelle and kill her father’s girlfriend before turning on her and David and imprisoning them.
Back in the future, Horde leader Jacob saves Rachelle. The two are captured together by the legalistic Elyonites and slated for execution. Samuel, who has been tracking Rachelle to rescue her again, is also captured. The Elyonites blind Rachelle with snake venom. Justin appears to her and helps her discover the mystery of the second seal: She is the light of the world because Christ is within her.
Back in Eden, Vlad alters people’s memories and begins creating fear to turn the citizens against one another. He makes Simon’s wife believe Simon has been beating her for years, so she shoots and kills her husband. Vlad reveals that Eden isn’t a real city, but a secret domed project created and overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to study the effects of memory editing.
The citizens, including David, make plans to blow up the dome. Rachelle tells Vlad she will write him into the book. Instead, she writes her father into the other world. Vlad is pleased, because this had been his plan all along. He knows he can manipulate David into writing him into the future.
David finds himself in the future Rachelle has spoken of and discovers it is real. Jacob’s father, Qurong, questions David. Qurong’s adviser, Ba’al, insists they need Vlad to help them conquer the Elyonites. Ba’al knows Vlad by other names, including Shadow of Death and instrument of their god, Teeleh. They threaten David into writing Vlad into the future.
Rachelle, in Eden, shoots Vlad. The man disappears into the other world, and Rachelle realizes she’s been his pawn. She medicates her sleeping father to wake him up. She discovers the Third Seal, which is the realization that seeing the light in darkness is her journey. After the dome collapses, DARPA workers arrive by helicopter to rescue the people. They know the media will crucify them for their project. Vlad arrives in the future and tells Qurong he’s in charge. Talya and Judah find Samuel’s father, Thomas of Hunter, to seek his help in the battles ahead.
The text mentions Bible stories Rachelle learned in her youth and paraphrases Bible passages. (Full Scripture verses are provided in endnotes.) The story contains allegorical snippets that follow biblical narratives. For example, Justin drowns people with the scabbing disease in a red pool. When they emerge, they are saved and become albinos in the order of Justin. The Horde’s history consists of an Adam-and-Eve-like story about Tanis and Teeleh eating fruit and creating an opening for evil to enter their idyllic land.
Simon and the Elyonites believe in a vengeful God and a rule-based religion. Growing up in this environment, Rachelle believes God’s favor is based on her personal goodness. Rachelle’s father says he doesn’t believe in God the way the others in Eden do. He doesn’t discuss religion with Rachelle much because he doesn’t want to compromise her faith.
Like the citizens of Eden, the Elyonites live by strict rules and beliefs and frequently argue over nuances of Scripture. They reject the writings of Paulus because they consider it heresy to claim any human can be united with Elyon (God). They believe they are the only true followers of Justin (Jesus).
Vlad Smith, the satanic figure, simply builds on the fearmongering and legalism religious leaders have already begun. He convinces the citizens of Eden that God has fears so they should as well. He also claims God is a finite being. As Rachelle encounters Justin and studies with Tayla, she learns about metanoia. This is shifting one’s perspective to see God as a being of love rather than one humans have created in their likeness.
Tayla points out that power doesn’t result from merely speaking the name of God, which would be akin to saying a magic word, but from being “in” Him and knowing Him intimately. Talya condemns the use of magic or any religious philosophy bound up in an attachment to earthly vessels.
The Horde worships Teeleh, also known as Vlad or Shadow Man.
Simon, the misguided leader of Eden, preaches a law-based religion. Vlad, the representation of all evil, re-enforces the rule-centered philosophy to keep people blinded from God’s light. Justin and Tayla lovingly teach and speak to Rachelle and help her learn to relinquish her fears. Rachelle’s father protects her to the best of his ability. He thinks the future world is in her mind until he experiences that reality himself.
Crap, freaking, slut, and b–tard each appear once. David wakes up traumatized after Rachelle has given him an adrenaline shot and yells God’s name with “Oh” several times. It is uncertain whether this is the Lord’s name being used in vain or whether it’s a real cry out to God.
A number of battles involving bloodshed and death are recorded. Eden citizens shoot and kill one another. The Elyonites blind Rachelle by allowing a snake to shoot venom in her eyes.
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