The Paradise Trilogy by Ted Dekker

 

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A man cloaked in black arrives in the sleepy town of Paradise, Colorado. He knows too much about the town’s many unspoken secrets, and he himself holds the greatest secret of them all. Bearing the power to grant any unfulfilled dream, he is irresistible. As dark clouds and sandstorms envelop the town, it becomes apparent that Paradise is being isolated for a reason. But why?

He slowly surveyed the patrons, his eyes sparkling blue. Face the music, they were saying. This is how you do grace and hope. You got a problem with that? Well, suck it up. I’m the real thing, honey.

And he was, wasn’t he? He had to be.’

Marsuvees Black is nothing like a normal preacher, at least not one the small, secluded town of Paradise is used to. All it takes is a single sermon, and he’s got the whole town on its knees. But it seems that he is unable to affect the mind of a single boy, Johnny Drake, who may be the only hope for Paradise’s survival.

Dekker has described this novel to be the very first in his entire series (Paradise, Lost Books, and The Circle novels), all of which are one circular story. This book sets the dark tone of the conflict between good and evil for the series. It is suspenseful and gripping, the plot unfolds quickly yet at the same time keeping just enough information secret to keep the pages turning.

I love how the book alternates between the point of view of different characters: the protagonists, antagonists, and minor characters alike. It certainly kept my interest high, as I was able to piece the plot together little by little as the story went on.

This book would be suitable for young adult readers. There are several grotesque and disturbing sequences and some of the characters go through intense spiritual battles and transformation. Dekker walks the line of good and evil in detail, so I would be cautious if handing this book to a young reader. 

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Saint

An assassin. The most effective killer in the world. And yet…Carl Strople struggles to retain fleeting memories that betray an even more ominous reality. He’s been told part of the truth – but not all of it.

Invasive techniques have stripped him of his identity and made him someone new – for this he is grateful. But there are some things they can’t take from him. The love of a woman, unbroken loyalties to his past, the need for survival.

‘“We call you Saint.”

‘The name ignited a light in Carl’s mind. Saint. He’d been covertly recruited for the Black Ops and given his life to the most brutal kind of the training any man or woman could endure. He was here because he belonged here. To the X Group.’

Carl can’t remember anything from his past except for what his superiors let him remember. No family, no home, no identity to call his own. But even with everything taken from him, Carl has retained enough to seek answers for himself. But the X Group won’t take failure, and they know how to deal with traitors. If Carl wants to return to his past, he must first survive. And survival comes at a price.

Set twelve years after Showdown, Saint reintroduces old characters and new enemies. The themes of good vs. evil are just as strong as the previous novel, though the suspense and adrenaline run higher and higher as it goes on. I liked how Dekker maintained the profiles of some of the older characters to create a familiarity with the progressive story, while at the same time introducing new threats to the success of the protagonists. 

Like Showdown, Saint would be suitable for young adult readers, or mature young teens. While the disturbing sequences are less, there is a lot of gun violence and torture. 

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Sinner

This is the story of Marsuvees Black, a force of raw evil who speaks with wicked persuasion that is far more destructive than swords or guns. It’s also the story of two unsuspecting survivors of a research project gone bad—who may be the most powerful people on earth. And finally, it’s the story of one who comes out of the desert to lead those willing to stand for truth. The epic conclusion to what began in a small town called Paradise.

‘Marsuvees Black strode back toward the cabin, black eyes fixed on Johnny. And as he passed them he spit something out of his mouth.

‘A copper-jacketed bullet plopped on the sand.

‘ “Welcome to the real world,” he said.’

Billy Rediger and Darcy Lange, two of the only survivors of Project Showdown, have completely shut out all memories of their childhood, forgetting everything that happened in Paradise. But on the night that Darcy is called on by a mysterious visitor the past begins to crash in around them. The Books of History have begun to resurface, and Billy and Darcy realize that they have powers to save the world. Or destroy it. 

Johnny Drake has put his life as an assassin behind him. With Kelly at his side, he can leave that reality forever. But when he’s suddenly reunited with Billy and Darcy, he realizes that Black has reared his head once more. It is time for the Sinner and the Saint to show themselves. It is time for the final showdown. 

The Paradise trilogy closes with both familiar characters and new faces, and adrenaline-laced action. Though the plot developed slowly and didn’t really pick up until three-quarters of the way through the book, Dekker set up the stakes and suspense relatively early on, creating enough intrigue keep the story moving along. It was slower than the first two novels, but I enjoyed the fact that it spent so much time setting up the plot so I wanted to see how it would unfold as much as the characters did. 

Like the first two, this novel is recommended for young adult readers. It was slightly disturbing (with numerous hangings and shootings) and has dark spiritual themes. The romantic aspect is like that of Saint, and there is no coarse language.  

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