This series is incredibly special to me. I first read it when I was sixteen years old, and it radically changed the way I viewed my own faith. There are only a handful of books that have had so great an impact on my core beliefs, and this series was one of the first, if not the first, to do so.
I pushed it on my brother, my parents, my best friend, and the boy I was dating who turned out to be my future husband. Dekker’s series dramatically impacted them as well, and changed the way we discussed our faith. My husband has the emblem tattooed on his forearm, and we just reread this together because of how dramatically it impacted us when we were dating. My best friend has a medallion of the emblem that she wears all the time. And I have bought multiple copies of the series, lending them out to anyone I could convince to give Dekker a try, and giving them away to anyone who felt their impact as deeply as I.
What makes this series so special? Imagine if you will living simultaneously in two world; whenever you slept in one world, you awakened in the other. And now imagine that this other world you’re experiencing is different in one drastic way: anything that is spiritual in our world is physically manifested there. God (Elyon) manifests Himself in a lake, and you can literally dive into His presence. Sin is a disease that can be seen on your skin and in your eyes and in your aversion to the Elyon’s waters. The cure for this disease? Literally drowning in the lake, breathing in Elyon and accepting the new life he gives.
Seeing my faith physically manifested in such a way rocked me to my core as a teenager. At the time, my favorite Bible verse (and the way I signed my letters to anyone) was Romans 12:2, which says “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but rather by transformed by the renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” That signature soon became Dive Deep with that verse tacked onto it, because that little two word phrase now held such a depth of meaning for me, and I yearned for people to ask me what it meant so that I could share my faith with them.
Going back and rereading this series after so many years was eye-opening for me. I have honestly become lazy in my faith; I no longer go out of my way to share that faith with others because I don’t wish to offend anyone. I feared that my passion had cooled, but rereading this series proved otherwise. If my faith has cooled, it is only because I have not fed it as consistently as I used to, but Dekker’s work reminded me of that necessity. I will definitely be rereading more of his novels, and soon, because I deeply desire to reclaim the closeness with God that I used to take for granted.
However, my eyes weren’t only opened to my need to work on my faith. I have read so many books in the past twelve years since discovering Dekker, so many by fantasy authors who were new to me, that I have to reevaluate my proclamation of Dekker’s talent. I’ve already mentioned how spiritually impactful his work has been for me; I own a copy of every single book he has ever released, which is something I can claim for very few authors. That’s 46 Ted Dekker books that live on my shelves. But I have to admit that, having now read so many other authors in similar genres, Dekker is not the best of writers technically speaking. His dialogue can be clunky and his metaphors can be heavy-handed. The writing itself just honestly isn’t that great.
While not a prose-smith, Dekker is a masterful storyteller. If you can look past the writing itself, the stories he tells are deep and brimming with truth presented in radical ways. They’re stories that stick with a reader so strongly that getting a tattoo of an emblem from his book covers ten years after having read them makes complete sense. My family still uses his books in our conversations about faith.
Something else that I really appreciate about Dekker’s writing is the interconnectedness of so many of his books. This interconnectedness is why I have remained such a Dekker fan for years, and is actually the reason I started reading Stephen King, because I had heard his work provided something similar. While the Circle series can absolutely stand alone, I would strongly recommend reading his Paradise trilogy (Showdown, Saint, and Sinner) and possibly Immanuel’s Veins before reading Green, Dekker’s final installment in the Circle. Green is one of the most unique reading experiences I’ve ever had, as it’s neither book 1 nor book 4; it’s book Zero. This is the book that makes the Circle series a literal circe in itself, ending at the beginning or beginning at the end. I was so conflicted over this book when I read it the first time, because while the idea was intellectually incredibly unique, I felt cheated out of an ending. However, in this 4-in-1 bind-up, Dekker gave us an alternate ending that was actually an ending, which gave me closure I didn’t realize I needed twelve years later.
Do I recommend this series? Absolutely yes. If you have any interest in the Christian faith, this is allegorically one of the best representations of it I’ve ever come across, and it’s emotionally power-packed. This is a story brimming with struggle and philosophy and war and rage and, maybe more than anything else, Romance. That R is totally capitalized for a reason. But be aware that the writing might not be as polished as one might expect. My rating of this book is purely based in the impact the story has had on my life, not on Dekker’s prosaic craftsmanship. But, read with an open heart, this is a story that can radically change your view of the world, your faith, and even your life.
Dive Deep, my friends.