Book Review Wednesday – Tamed

Tamed by Sarah Witenhafer

Amazon Book Description:

Reign Phillips has just earned her PhD in ancient languages when her Professor returns from Greece with treasure for the University of New Mexico; fifty-six mummified remains and a puzzling sealed gold casket that doesn’t seem to fit any time period. Accompanying him is the man responsible for brokering the deal with the university, Damon Sarantos. Unknown to anyone, Damon himself had buried the casket almost two thousand years before. Reign is a woman Damon can’t ignore and desperately wants to win. Her vibrant light soothes the darkness inside him, even as it pulls her away and warns her not to love him. As she decodes the mysterious writing on the outside of the casket, Damon must work to gain her trust and win her heart. Can he be the man she wants him to be? Or will they be eternally separated by his partly demonic nature? The casket holds the answer, and opening it will either bring peace or unleash a darkness that threatens to engulf the entire world.

Are you intrigued by that description? I was, even though I am typically a bit leery of the Demon/Nephilim falling in love with a Human angle since that can venture into bad theology very easily. However, I was pleasantly surprised on that aspect. The Nephilim are not treated as poor misunderstood creatures that the Israelites picked on nor are they presented as wholly evil unless they were among the number who ceased to resist the influence of their demonic ancestor and often became vessels to minor demons. Instead, the Nephilim are presented as being wholly caught up in the desire to be near those humans who are known as a Child of Light, whose souls are filled with a light of varying strength instead of the darkness that usually surrounds the human soul. It becomes clear almost immediately when Damon describes Reign and her light that the source of the light is not truly her (as he believes) but it is the Light of the World indwelling her soul. Much of the book is filled with Damon’s conflict over his desire to have Reign near him because the light is soothing and helps him to push back his inherent darkness since he fears he will damage her light but he can’t stay away either.

The Plot – Grade A

I really liked the plot for this story. It wasn’t all about the romance and “I love her/want her but I shouldn’t have her” or the suspense of what was going on and how did the chest figure in; instead, there is also a spiritual journey taking place. One of the things about the plot that I personally enjoy but it might annoy other readers is how there are two storylines, one set in the present and one set in Cyrene in 115 AD, both were well-done. The characters felt real in both modern and historical settings even with the occasional phrase or word that would feel a little too modern for the second century AD.

Content – Grade C+

Okay, this is the part where the subjectivity of reviews is going to be the most obvious. This story tackles some tough issues including Christians and non-Christians dating plus the always controversial “Date them to Salvation” tactic, teenage promiscuity and abortion although this is dealing more with the aftermath, and how to help at-risk girls rescued from prostitution. I appreciated the fact that Reign struggled with her attraction to Damon knowing he wasn’t a Christian and that she could not marry a man who didn’t share her faith. However, she still let him get too close (something she eventually acknowledged) and did not guard her heart as she should’ve, basically she was trying to date Damon to salvation even though nobody calls it. The good was in how Witenhafer did not shy away from showing how miserable Reign was in trying to struggle through her attraction and what she knew and believed considering unequally yoked marriage and this was before marriage. It’s a good warning about the follies of Christian women (and men) trying to date their boyfriend (or girlfriend) to salvation and it doesn’t paint the picture that this is okay or that it doesn’t cause them any spiritual turmoil. The bad was that the sensuality was a little heavy at times and I did grow weary of reading about Damon’s Greek god physique. That Reign allowed a lot of snuggling and some pretty intense kisses when she knew that Damon was just trying to get in her pants (at first) was foolish and would be part of the letting him too close issue. They never sleep together but I wasn’t too thrilled with how much sensual descriptions from both Damon and Reign’s POVs were present. I felt it toed the line a little too closely, especially considering how often she spent the night alone with him or allowed him to sleep in her apartment with only a token objection of how it will look.

In the modern storyline, the issue of teenage promiscuity and abortion and the consequent fallout is touched on. I felt that was handled well, the character in question had reacted by becoming very rigid in her rules until she realized she was still trying to buy God’s favor, which explains a lot concerning why she reacts to situations in the book as she does. In the historical and modern storylines, it is very clear that Damon is not a Christian and that he is no stranger to women even keeping a mistress, which bothered Reign (I wished it had bothered her more though). Yet, his actions were handled with tact.

In the modern storyline, Reign does some stupid things in her quest to help girls who are at-risk including going into gang territory by herself for a year and randomly taking home a young prostitute. Now, I understood her motivation especially since she grew up in a house where apparently her parents practiced bringing in at-risk teenagers to foster. However, she was taking risks she shouldn’t even though this is only acknowledged and admitted in regards to the gang. The problem with taking the teenage prostitute home is that she lived by herself and was simply going to “trust” that Hope would stay and not betray that trust or do something to hurt her. It made sense for her to take Hope to her parents who were qualified to foster at-risk teenagers and could enact at least some safety precautions. Reign took too many risks in the name of showing people God’s love. I didn’t like how her reasoning implied that the only way to show people God’s love was to ignore basic safety considerations, especially for single women.

There was also a brief touch on homosexuality. First, Damon asked if Reign was gay because she said she didn’t date. I rolled my eyes at that. Second, Hope confessed to Reign that she wished Reign loved her like she loved Damon. What I liked was how Reign explained that she knew it was only reasonable for Hope to feel attracted to women who showed her kindness at that stage in her life due to the abuse she suffered at the hands of men. It was not given the green light of homosexuality is acceptable but it was not written as “hate the sin and the sinner” either. It’s described as “growing pains” because “You’ve never been loved without sex coming into the picture. Your mind just can’t wrap itself around the love we have for you, but Jesus will help you understand it…Men have used you and left you feeling hollow inside so naturally you’re drawn to women, and when they love you, you can’t figure it out because you’ve never experienced someone sacrificing for you.” (Tamed, pg. 369, Kindle Edition).

There was also a lot of language in this book, which frankly caught me off guard since none of the reviews mentioned it. The female ‘B’ word is used a LOT, especially once the main characters go into gang territory and when they meet Hope. Damon curses and is rather crass in his language. Even Reign lets out an “Oh my God” and how a decision/situation is “crappy,” which some Christians will find offensive. I happen to be one of those Christians who does expect Christian books to not write out the curses and to avoid even the mild four-letter words like “crap.” I actually double-checked Amazon to make sure that Tamed was in the Christian category after I came upon all the cursing. Some Christians don’t mind language, especially if it’s added for “realism,” which I think was the goal in Tamed since only the non-Christian characters are truly crass and curse. If this had been a secular novel, I would have been happy at how the language wasn’t pervasive. But, because this is a Christian novel, I was disappointed that the language was written out even for “authenticity” because I do expect MORE from a Christian novel and I believe from both a reader’s perspective and a writer’s perspective that scenes can be just as authentic with the curse words hinted at but not written out. Readers can fill in the blanks quite well.

Technical – Grade B-

There are typos present in this book. Your/you’re is a prominent one and the one time Sumer is mentioned, it is written as “Sumner.” However, there are not typos in every single sentence or paragraph. But, grammar Nazis be prepared to twitch at the typos and wrong spelling, right pronunciation mistakes, such as “main” for the horse’s mane. The way the author used commas was a bit weird and as a writer I kept finding places where I couldn’t help but wonder why she used a comma and not a period. If she had used a line editor, I think it would have gone far in ironing out the structure issues. The pacing was a bit slow in places, but the end made up for it. There were also several places where she told instead of showed a scene that I felt would have been interesting to the reader.

Final Grade – a B or 4 stars

Overall, the plot won me as far as this book is concerned. The technical issues I can attribute partially to the debut novel syndrome, although I do wish she would go back and address those points and then issue a second edition. In spite of my reservations concerning the content, specifically the sensuality and language, I am intrigued enough by the characters and the remaining plot threads that I intend to buy the second book as well as Witenhafer’s third book, which is the start of a new series set in ancient Babylon. I would recommend this book for mature Christians or if you intend to give it to your teenager, I would recommend reading it before they do so you can discuss the issues raised in this book.

Tamed is available through Kindle and in paperback.

Next week – The Ryn: Book One of the Eyes of E’veria by Serena Chase

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