Having read and enjoyed Dark Intercept, I was excited to request Dark Angel, second in the Shepherds series by Andrews and Wilson.
Compared to the first book, I enjoyed the second title at least as much. This was a case where, because of the groundwork laid in book one, the authors had more opportunity to further develop characters who were previously introduced, while also introducing new characters.
- Author: Andrews & Wilson
- Publisher: Tyndale House
- Synopsis: Now training with the Shepherds, an elite group of spiritual tacticians, Jed Johnson finds himself embroiled in a global conflict involving a defected Shepherd, Nicolas Woland.
The authors introduce Part II with a passage:
There are different kinds of gifts. But they are all given to believers by the same Spirit. 5 There are different ways to serve. But they all come from the same Lord. 6 There are different ways the Spirit works. But the same God is working in all these ways and in all people. The authors open part two with a passage:1 Cor. 12:4-6
This passage does seem to be an excellent summation of the novel’s central theme, which has to do with the team members working together on the missions they are called to.
I also believe that the following verse is quite appropriate for the book’s themes (and I’ll discuss why, below):
But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.Luke 10:20
Luke 10:20 (Spiritual Themes Discussion)
First off, I’ll note that, to my recollection, this verse isn’t directly quoted in the text. However, I came across it last night and it really articulated my main points of discussion. I like this verse because Jesus is pointing His followers back to His Kingdom, when their focus is drifting toward the supernatural gift they’ve been given.
It’s easy to focus on the excitement of a spiritual gift or calling, but what ultimately matters most, even more than the mission, is relationship with Jesus. In some ways, the novel does a good job (see “Positives”) of portraying this truth. However, I did identify one major problem (see “Negatives”) that is also worth discussing.
The novel begins with the perspective of Nicolas Woland, a defected Shepherd. Having joined the Shepherds in the hopes of climbing the ranks to the top, Woland had no trouble switching allegiances, when he decided he could have more power as a dark one.
Jed, the main character, eventually learns that Woland is the main reason that each team has two leaders: a tactical strategist and a spiritual adviser. After Woland’s defection, the organization decided that there needed to be more accountability in place.
Woland illustrates what happens when a person gives into the temptation to seek spiritual authority, as itsN own end. He’s easily swayed because his motivation isn’t walking with God. It’s grasping for as much power as possible.
In contrast, Jed is learning, through his training, about what it means to serve God. He learns that, apart from God, failure is imminent. As Morvant explains to him, God will give us more than we can handle. What He won’t give us is more than He can handle. (Isn’t that a great assurance?)
On the flip side, there was one line, in particular, that really bothered me: “As Shepherds, we are the guardians of the gate holding chaos at bay.” The line troubles me for two reasons. First, the emphasis is on the people, not on God. Second, the line has an air of exclusivity. The Shepherds are the one separating mankind from destruction.
While I absolutely believe that God gives specific people anointings, callings and talents, including intercession, I am strongly opposed to the idea of a single person or community “saving the world.” Jesus is the One to do that and there is no biblical precedent for elevating one group above another.
Unfortunately, this is a real trend I have witnessed in contemporary society: people talking about ascending “levels” of spirituality or using terms like “General” to describe a status in the realm of spiritual warfare. I’ve seen this with people who describe themselves as Christians.
For this reason, I’m very leery of this one line of the book and, even though it is just one line. Yes, the book is a work of fiction, but it is so heavily laden with spiritual principles that it makes sense to consider the logical conclusions of that one line.
Additionally (and this is a big one), I really feel a lack of actual relationship with God. Yes, there are references to His power and sovereignty, but there’s a lot more emphasis on training sessions. The spiritual gifts, rather than being illustrated as an outpouring of God’s power from a relational place, seem almost separate, at times. As a result, I have some trouble with the book’s premise, in general.
What I Liked
While the above line does make me very uncomfortable, there is a lot to appreciate about the book. For one thing, most of the thematic content really does support the message of Luke 10:20, as noted above, with various examples. In fact, for a person who does struggle with seeking supernatural power for its own sake, there is some good discussion/illustration of why that’s a dangerous pursuit
Book two also continues building on the foundations laid in book one, in terms of plot, character development and relationships. I think that this was one of the reasons I enjoyed Dark Angel so much. Because the authors devoted sufficient time to introducing the Shepherds in book one, there is more time to develop the organization, in book two (For this reason, I would recommend starting with Dark Intercept, as I don’t think Dark Angel would make a great standalone).
We also get to enjoy some rewarding pay-offs, in terms of character interactions. Jed and his former best friend are rebuilding their friendship, and Jed has become an uncle figure to Sarah Beth. (I really enjoyed seeing the respectful way Jed approaches this relationship, making sure her parents are involved in and aware of each aspect of the friendship).
For those who are unfamiliar with operational terms, the authors provide quick explanations of the terms. I’m impressed with how well they integrate these definitions into the text, without appearing to “insert” them. Moreover, there’s also a glossary at the back of the book.
The plot is highly engaging and very well-paced, thanks to shifting perspectives. While Jed is definitely the main character, we also read from the perspective of several other people.
The novel provides a satisfying conclusion for book two, while also leaving several threads loose. For this reason, I am eager to read book three when it arrives.
As a reader, I am more concerned with language that misuses God’s names than “swear” words. With that said, there are several uses of “swear words” in the text.
Some chapters of the story are in the voice of some of the vile characters, including the defected Shepherd, Nicolas Woland. As a result, we’re party to his gruesome thoughts.
In terms of romantic/sexual content, there are some flirtatious comments, plus a few of the evil characters trying to seduce other people. It’s clear that this content is included to show the character of the people performing these acts– not to put the reader into their shoes.
As with the first book, there’s also a bit of violence, due to the nature of the conflict.
This was definitely an entertaining, well-written novel. As I reflected on the book, I realized that it also raises some important questions about the purpose of supernatural gifts and their source. While there are definite references to God’s power, I would have liked to see a lot more of Jed’s(and the other Shepherds’) relationship with the Lord. As it is, he seems fairly young in his faith, which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable with his role in the Shepherds, especially when they claim to be such a powerful organization.
For these reasons, I have several hesitations in providing an unreserved recommendation of the title.
On the other hand, Jed’s immaturity is also a reminder that God chooses who He chooses. It doesn’t always make sense to us. There’s also some valuable content about accountability and the importance of relying on God. It’s also a good book in that it hightlights the reality of the supernatural world, while emphasizing God’s control over it all.
Based on the nuances discussed above, I would categorize this title as “Reader Discretion Strongly Advised.” I really enjoyed reading the book, but I felt that the spiritual content was a bit off-base– or, at the very least, not clearly “on-base.”