Also by this author: The Dream Traveler's Quest, Into the Book of Light, The Garden and the Serpent, The Final Judgment, Millie Maven and the Bronze Medallion, Millie Maven and the Golden Vial, Millie Maven and the White Sword, Millie Maven, Play Dead
Series: The Dream Traveler's Quest #2
Published by Outlaw Studios on September 2018
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Children's, Fantasy
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.
Join Theo on The Dream Traveler’s Quest, one story told in four chapter books. Read all four and discover the truth for yourself.
(ed. note: These reviews are written from the perspective of an adult comparing this series to the Circle. Someone coming at the story with no previous knowledge may have a different perspective.)
The Dream Traveler’s Quest is a four-book series written by Kara and Ted Dekker that pairs with Ted Dekker’s Beyond the Circle duology that released around the same time. Written for ages 7-12, The Dream Traveler’s Quest follows Theo Dunnery, who stumbles upon an ancient Book of History that sucks him into another world. Here, Theo learns to overcome his loneliness and fear through the Five Seals: five statements of truth that Ted Dekker developed in his non-fiction work, The Way of Love. But the journey won’t be easy, evil bats and school bullies will conspire to stop Theo from discovering his identity as the son of Elyon.
The Curse of Shadowman takes place a couple weeks after book one and we see Theo desperate to go back to Other Earth. We’re also introduced to Annelee, who ends up being the butt of school bully Asher’s jokes this time around. (Easter Egg: Ted’s wife is named LeeAnn. You fill in the blanks from there.) While Theo is still in school, the young Roush named Stokes appears and tells Theo that he needs to come back to Other Earth and bring Annelee with him.
Pause for a moment. The whole plotline of the first four Lost Books is about how at least three original Books of History are needed to physically transport beings from one reality to another. But here, Roush (and later, Shataiki) move between the worlds at will. Stokes says it’s because he ate a certain fruit—playing off the established mechanic that certain fruits in OE have different effects—but this is a subversion of the established canon. It’s a plot hole. A big one. One that would have been fixed with good editing. Anyway, onward…
Theo finds Annelee and convinces her to go with him to the special room in the library. Which, you know, under normal circumstances, several red flags are now waving. Against Annelee’s will, Theo jabs her finger with a thumbtack and makes her bleed on the page.
“I’m sorry. I needed your blood, and I knew you wouldn’t give it if I asked.”
I know this isn’t what Kara or Ted Dekker intended, but the lack of consent really bothers me here. The implicit message becomes that it’s okay to violate someone’s body or harm them if you know/believe that it will result in their (or your) greater good. There needed a better way to write this to avoid them implication. Most kids are going to read right over it or not think critically about it, but still.
Theo and Annelee appear in Other Earth and go with Michal, Gabil, and Stokes to Mount Veritas. In book one, the journey to Veritas goes through a Roush village. In The Curse of Shadowman, they take a different route and end up meeting a Horde girl named Maya who loves Elyon.
It’s subtle, but I think the Dekkers are referencing Jesus’s meeting with the Samaritan woman in John 4. In this conversation, Jesus reveals himself as Messiah and tears down the societal and ethnic constructs that separated Jews and Samaritans. The message from Jesus: You can be a Samaritan and follow Jesus too.
The Dream Traveler’s Quest plays off of this by introducing us to Maya, who is both Horde and a follower of Elyon. The Horde are afflicted with a scabbing disease, one that can be healed by drowning in Elyon’s Red Lakes. In the Circle Trilogy, the disease is symbolic of the effects of sin and drowning is a spiritual symbol of repentance and a physical symbol of baptism. But here, the point is that even though Maya is ugly and smelly on the outside, it is what is inside that matters. A very good point—except that Other Earth is explicitly a place where the inside is made manifest on the outside.
It’s a good theme that is poorly executed given the world’s established mechanics. If you’re reading this with no previous knowledge of the Horde, if you’re reading this as a standalone lesson about inner beauty, then great! But if you’re reading this within the context of the Circle, then it simply doesn’t hold up.
All of this is foreshadowing to Theo and Annelee being captured and turned into Horde themselves. Ba’al, the high priest, has concocted a potion that makes Albinos (those with smooth skin who have drowned into Horde). Normally, I’d say that the idea that evil can undo the work wrought by Elyon is heresy, but in this new context, it appears that the symbolism of the scabbing disease is only skin deep. So, whatever.
The theme—that Elyon looks past our struggles and temptation and sins to really see us as his creation, and that evil often promises us outward beauty through popularity, wealth, success, and so on—that’s a really good theme. I absolutely love it. The trio—Theo, Annelee, and Maya—defeat Shadowman by realizing and proclaiming that they are the light of the world, that Elyon’s power flows through them. It’s a stunning climax only made clunky because the symbolism doesn’t fit Other Earth.
Overall, The Curse of Shadowman suffers from some of the same flaws as The Book of Light and The Dream Traveler’s Quest as a whole. The writing is mediocre, the attention to the established world is minimal, the mechanics seem forced. And yet, the theme is solid—as long as you take it as-is and not as part of the larger Circle mythos. If this story was divorced from the world of the Circle, I’d be able to give it a much higher rating.