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3 Stars Out Of 5
The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead
September 16, 2011
The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead revolves around a series of characters that are searching for the Skin Map. What is the skin map? You'll have to read the book to find out! This sci-fi, action & adventure story is fun, exciting, and full of interesting twists and turns that span different dimensions. Kit Livingstone must leave his boring and mediocre life behind to discover what his true talent is and where his destiny lies. Throw in time-travel and world travel over the span of mere seconds and you have a story that will keep you guessing and traveling space and time.
Lawhead is able to weave a very confusing tale about many different characters into a solid story of adventure and time-travel. Although I found the story was slow in the beginning, it definitely picked up after the first few chapters. While I did find all of the switching back-and-forth between characters and storylines to be very confusing, I also enjoyed the suspense that created with the characters. Some of Lawhead's characters do not have a lot of depth but others were a pleasant surprise. As for the Christian angle, it was very subtle and not too preachy. There seemed to be a lot more myth than religion in the story, which goes along with the timeline of the story. If you like adventure with a sci-fi twist, I would definitely recommend the book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ®.com <http://BookSneezeÂ®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Kit Livingstone's great-grandfather has re-appeared with an unbelievable story--the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legends but truly are pathways to other worlds. So few people know how to use them, though, that doing so is fraught with danger.
But one explorer knew more than most. Because of his fear of being unable to find his way home, he developed an intricate code and tattooed his map onto his skin. But the map has since been lost and rival factions are in desperate competition to recover it. What none of them yet realize is that the skin map itself is not the prize at the end of this race . . . but merely the first goal of a vast and marvelous quest to regain Paradise.
Enter the ultimate treasure hunt--with a map made of skin, a playing field of alternate realities, and a prize that is the greatest mystery of all.
The Bone House
Kit is on a quest for the ultimate treasure. But are his travels in time changing history for better or worse?
When Kit Livingstone's great grandfather appeared to him in a deserted alley during a London rainstorm, he revealed an incredible story: the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend but are in fact pathways to other worlds. An intricate code--a map of bizarre symbols--is the roadmap they need to navigate the multi-layered universe. But the five pieces have gone missing. Braving constant danger, Kit accepts his place in the adventure--though he has no idea just how critical a role he'll play.
The Skin Map and The Bone House are the first and second books in The Bright Empire Series.
My Review ~
I originally requested The Bone House because I've read another book by Stephan Lawhead and liked it, and I was interested in The Bone House's plot line. Shortly after downloading it though, I realized it was the second in the series. Thankfully, Booksneeze kindly agreed to let me review The Skin Map as well.
Kit is a likable young man, though in the beginning he was disrespectful of grandfather (which can be justified somewhat by what his grandfather was telling him) and well, just plain lazy. He matures and grows wiser though the book. And the plot is interesting - boy meets long lost great-grandfather, then travels through time using ley lines.
However, the story is a bit confusing at times, and not to mention that the thought of a "skin map" is just creepy. Add in some ancient Egyptian ceremonies and some gruesome deaths, and you have a book - or in this case - books, that are not really worth reading. It was interesting reading the historical parts of it, and the thought of time travel certainly is mind-boggling, but God is mentioned only a couple times, and the main character doesn't believe in Him. All in all, I probably won't read it again.
In accordance with the law, I am required to state that I got this book for free from www.Booksneeze.com in exchange for a review. I am not required to give a positive review.
This is the first volume of a new science fiction/fantasy series entitled â€˜Bright Empires' which, its author claims, has been fifteen years in the making.
The story begins when Kit discovers that he has the gift of being able to jump between worlds via ley lines. Unfortunately he inadvertently loses his girlfriend Mina in the process. Enlisting the aid of his great grandfather, Cosimo, who also possesses the gift, Kit sets off to rescue her, a quest that takes him first to seventeenth-century London and later to twentieth-century Egypt. But this quest brings Cosimo and his ally Lord Henry Flyte into conflict with their old enemy Lord Burleigh.
A second strand of the story follows Mina who finds herself somewhere in central Europe in the seventeenth century. With the aid of a young baker called Englebert, she makes a new life for herself in Prague. This strand culminates with Mina encountering Burleigh and later overhearing him asking an alchemist to manufacture some mechanical device for him.
A third strand introduces Arthur Flinders-Petrie who is a pioneer of exploration using the ley lines. He is the author of the map that gives the novel its title and which for security reasons he has tattooed on his own body. We see him in conflict with Burleigh (who wants the map for his own purposes), falling in love with a young Chinese woman, watching her die in ancient Egypt, and setting off in search of the Well of Souls in an effort to save her. At some point, presumably after his death, the map is flayed from his body, divided up and given to various ley line travellers for safekeeping. However, in an epilogue to the volume, we see him stealing the section of map that was given to Cosimo and Henry.
The volume concludes with Kit being captured in early twentieth-century Egypt by Burleigh and discovering that he has already killed Cosimo and Henry. Then, completely out of the blue, Mina appears and sets him free.
I enjoyed Lawhead's development of the idea that ley lines allow us to travel through time and space. He has clearly gone to a lot of trouble with this element of the story. The result is plausible and convincingly described. Actually his descriptions are generally pretty good, making it very easy to visualize the action and enter into the world of the novel.
Unfortunately other aspects of the novel's world-building are less satisfactory. In particular, the characters' apparent ability to jump from one culture to another without even the faintest hint of culture shock is hard to believe. Even less believable is their apparent ability to blend into to those distant times and places without arousing curiosity or suspicion. And Mina's miraculous ability to use her childhood twentieth-century German to make herself understood in seventeenth-century Austro-Bavarian and in a matter of weeks to be able to carry on business negotiations in that language quite destroyed my willing suspension of disbelief.
I also found Lawhead's characterization and dialogue disappointing. Kit and Mina are rounded, if rather straightforward, characters. But the supporting cast tend to be stereotypical; for example, his villains seem to have stepped straight out of a Victorian melodrama (one can almost see Burleigh twirling his moustaches!). As for the dialogue, it is often little better than wooden; one wonders whether the author ever read it aloud to himself.
Last but not least, in his rush to bring the first volume to an end, Lawhead turns Mina into a deus ex machina. Presumably somewhere between the end of her story strand and her reappearance at the end of the volume she has persuaded the Prague alchemist to duplicate Burleigh's device; she has mastered its use; and she has discovered that Kit is in danger. I can't help feeling there is an interesting story here. Unfortunately it is a story that remains untold.
None of the story arcs introduced here is brought to a satisfactory resolution leaving one with the feeling that this volume is really just setting the scene for the rest of the series.
It is many years since I read anything by Stephen Lawhead, but I recall enjoying several of his early works so I approached with this volume with high expectations. Sadly The Skin Map fell far short of those expectations. However, I found his use of ley lines sufficiently interesting that I will probably persevere with the sequel when it is published later this year.
NB I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.