The Books of Mortals: Forbidden

Forbidden is the first in a planned trilogy for authors Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee called The Books of Mortals. I got this book having already read and enjoyed a number of Dekker’s novels, so I was excited. With solid works like Blink, Obsession, and Three in mind, I cracked open this collaboration with Lee, a name new to me, eagerly.

Set in a future dystopia controlled by an oligarchy known as The Order, Forbidden centers around Rom Elias, a common artisan living in the world’s capital of Byzantium. All human emotions save fear have been genetically suppressed, and dire warnings abound about the time of Chaos, where lust and greed and hatred ruled humanity and led to all sorts of atrocities. Murder and war have been eradicated, but in the process, we have also lost our capacity for love and aspiration to create. Is the tranquility of a passionless society really worth the loss of all of our finer emotions? This is the question that Forbidden sets out to explore.

The book starts off with trademark Dekker action. Rom receives from a mysterious stranger an ancient scroll of vellum and a vial of blood that will restore emotions to whomever drinks it. The man reveals that Rom’s father was murdered for these things, and that he was a member of a secret society known as the Order of Keepers. This messenger is in turn murdered before Rom’s eyes, forcing Rom to take these items and run for his life just moments ahead of the assassins that are not supposed to exist at all in this ostensibly violence free world.

Rom and his friends are charged with deciphering the scroll and using the information it contains along with the vial of blood to overthrow the Order and try to bring passion and love back to a world that has been robbed of all feeling. In the process, Rom falls in love—twice!—and has to work to save the woman he loves as well as all of humanity. It’s a solid and believable combination.

The story line is intriguing, and the book moves at the fast pace that I have come to expect from Dekker. The setting is a unique blend of the ancient world with enough residual technology to set it firmly in the future. I especially enjoyed the political machinations of the Order’s leaders and while I’m not certain I understand the mechanism of choosing the world’s sovereign, I give the authors props for an original concept.

But right out of the gate, a glaring flaw tripped me up. How is a five hundred-year-old vial of blood still in a liquid form and thin enough to drink, and how does it counteract a change to one’s DNA? It was tough for me to get past, to be honest. I’m surprised this sort of glaring error made it past the editors.

Ah, but after all is said, do we read a work of fiction for a biology lesson or for the story? The story here is compelling, and not easy to predict. I like it when a book can surprise as well as entertain, and there are several surprises here.

While a sufficient amount of the story lines are resolved to make it a nice stand alone read, enough is left open to keep me anticipating the two volumes to come, Mortal and Sovereign. I also intend to catch up on Tosca Lee.

About Nick Contor

Nick Contor lives in southwest New Mexico with his wife and two children. In his spare time, he writes lyrics, plays drums, and sings in a local band.
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7 Responses to The Books of Mortals: Forbidden

  1. For those interested, you can download a free short-story prequel from called The Keeper by clicking here.

    I just downloaded it in anticipation of reading The Forbidden. I’ll tell you how it is, Nick, you stubborn bastard!

  2. Nick Contor says:

    What? What am I being stubborn about? LOL

  3. Nick Contor says:

    Oh I get it. It’s Kindle only. Those bastiches!

  4. Tim Ward says:

    I hadn’t thought about the blood being dried up or sludgy after that many years, though I don’t know that much about that aspect of biology. Part of me wants to punch you in the arm for telling me that, as otherwise the story seemed believable. I’m not so sure what I think about genetic modification to limit us to fear as our only emotion, so I guess I hadn’t completely suspended my disbelief.

    My only real beef with this book was that I didn’t really get hooked until around page 80. The action in the beginning didn’t do much for me because I wasn’t emotionally connected to Rom. I guess Ted and Tosca used the conclusion to that action as a way of emotionally attaching us, but I had to push myself through that first section. I’m glad I did though because the scene near the end on the cliff was one of those life changing moments that will make this a top Fantasy book for me.

    I believe if you sign their book of mortals on this page, they send you a pdf of The Keeper. If for some reason that doesn’t work, let me know. I met all these guys at The Ragged Edge last year.

    And as for Tosca, I’ve read Demon: A Memoir, and thought it was fantastic. It is an excellent story about a writer tormented by his failings and a demon who wants him to tell his story. Ted said himself that he thinks Tosca is a better writer. I wonder if you could tell that the prose is more eloquent in Forbidden than some of Ted’s other books.

  5. Tim Ward says:

    oops, forgot the link to the book of mortals. Wait for it, it’s a tough one…

  6. Nick Contor says:

    Thanks, Tim!

    Sorry to ruin the blood aspect for you. I was a bio major in college, so those sorts of things leap out at me, whereas I guess most people might not notice them. LOL

    It was still a great book, though. Cheers!

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