Here's a description of the book:
"Hannah Schmidt pines for Jacob, the boy who saved her life. But Jacob is gone, buried. Levi Fisher loves Hannah. But he knows how much Hannah loved his brother Jacob. He also knows the troubling event that took Jacob out of their lives.
So when a stranger named Akiva comes into their community, he carries with him two secrets: he is, in fact, Jacob. And he is now a vampire.
When secrets are revealed, Hannah must choose between light and dark, between the one she has always loved and the new possibility of love—a decision that will decide the fate of her soul."
This is the kind of book that requires a conversational review. I find it difficult to sum up my thoughts on this book in an eloquent way, so I hope you don't mind if I just speak plainly. (Pun intended, but not meant to be distracting!)
I have read two other books by Leanna Ellis: Ruby's Slippers and Once in a Blue Moon. Like those books, Forsaken defies labels. It is not a book that fits neatly into one specific category. Ellis is skilled at penning novels that are engagingly unique.
But unlike those two books, Forsaken is not "traditional" Christian fiction. Please don't let this be where you stop reading this review, or where you decide this is a must-read (depending on your preferences)!
I think the eerie cover fits the tone of the story, as well as the content, very well. So don't let the Amish girl there fool you. This is far, far different from a Cindy Woodsmall, Wanda Brunstetter, or Beverly Lewis novel. This is a book about vampires.
I have never read or watched any of the Twilight movies or books. But I have read Dracula by Bram Stoker. And I am pleased with how Ellis handles the subject--creating sympathy for Jacob, but showing that his vampire state (as Akiva) is evil. She includes certain characteristics of vampires that I recognized from Stoker's novel, such as a vampire's ability to morph into other forms (not just bats). But I also saw some differences, such as the vicious nature of a vampire attack (nowhere near romantic/seductive).
I think at this point it is important to state that this book contains some language, a fair amount of sensuality, violence, sexual innuendos, as well as drug/alcohol/smoking references. I believe that some of the questionable material was unnecessary, especially the extent of certain sensual scenes and the occasional language. But I also see that some of it is important to the story.
I don't say that to excuse Ellis' content or approve it. I think of it as more like what the artist Thomas Kinkade wrote in his book, Touched by the Light:
"Without a consciousness of darkness, there can be little or no awareness of light. Friends often ask me how I go about painting light. It often surprises them when I say that I start with massive amounts of darkness... Only after those pieces of cloth are saturated with darkness do I allow the light to emerge--and often only small pools of light at that." (p. 59)
In any case, I think the most important thing to note about Forsaken is that there are "small pools of light" which demonstrate a strong theme of good vs. evil, as well as a powerful message about love--the kind of love that sacrifices, giving instead of taking, and driving out unhealthy fear. That is the heart of the book, evidenced by the symbolism of blood (etc.) throughout the pages.
My main qualm with the book is the heroine, Hannah. I loved reading about Levi, and I really think he steals the show. He is sweet, protective, and strong in his faith. It is his growth and his insights at the end that tie the symbolism together. There were moments when I felt Hannah was maturing, too. But her overall emphasis on romantic love at the end disappointed me. Love between a man and a woman can be a gift, but it can never be salvation.
Last year on Ellis' blog she compared Forsaken to Phantom of the Opera. That intrigued me, and now I have seen the striking connection for myself. The love triangle will engross you; Akiva's fate will sadden you; and the "music of the night" might temporarily enchant you. But as Christine sings to the Phantom: "It's in your soul that the true distortion lies."
If you approach this book with an open mind and look to the deeper threads binding this story together, then I think you will find this to be an ultimately hopeful read through all of the sorrow and pain. But beware: it will also challenge you.
*With thanks to the author and Sourcebooks for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.*
Note: Since this was an advance copy, some changes might have been made to the final edition which would not be taken into consideration in this review.