The Spirit Well:The Review

13497118The Bright Empire Series; Stephen R. Lawhead; Thomas Nelson

The Spirit Well

Well, now that we’ve reached the third book in the series “The Bright Empire” the juices of anticipation and excitement should have warranted a substantial reward; unfortunately, they didn’t.

What had all the makings for an increasingly good story flat-lined; causing the story, in my not so humble opinion, to lose momentum.

Instead of taking what he already had going in The Bone House, such as Burleigh’s obsession with the map, the escalating danger of Mina’s true identity being discovered, Kit’s super jump into the stone age or the spirit well itself, Lawhead starts to add other things to the mix, resulting in what is now a cacophony of under developed back stories.

Rather than adding another spindle to what is rapidly becoming a very crowded wheel, I would rather he spent the 375 pages of my time further developing the story he already had. Now I feel like I’ve been handed additional pieces to what already feels like an incomplete 5000 piece puzzle. And if you’ve ever had me as a puzzle partner, then you’ll know I tend to get snarly when I’m suddenly handed additional pieces I had no previous knowledge of. Grrrrrrrrrrrr!

Will I read “The Shadow Lamp” 2013; #4 in the Bright Empire series?

Without a doubt!

As I said in my review of “The Skin Map“, I’m a loyal reader and I have complete faith,  that between here and The Fatal Tree (2014), Lawhead will answer all my unanswered questions, resolve all my unresolved issues, and bring this story to a great and successful conclusion.

On my readers scale of 1-5, I give this a 3.

The Bone House: The Review

BoneHouseThe Bright Empire Series; Stephen R. Lawhead; Thomas Nelson

The Bone House; 2011

In The Skin Map, Lawheads 2nd book in the “The Bright Empire” series, we find our characters once again zipping back and forth through time, popping in and out of each other’s lives, and thankfully standing still long enough for the reader to take a deeper look at just who they are.

I appreciate that the author spent more time developing his characters in this book than he did in the first, but I can’t say I like Kit Livingston any better …well maybe just a little; at least he stopped whining.

As for our antagonists, Burleigh and his Burley Men, even after the authors continued development, I would have still liked to have spent a little more time with him than I was given;  it might have helped me get a better handle on what it is that motivates him, other than greed and a inflated sense of self. On the other hand, that may be all there is to the man and Lawhead felt,  to say more,  would have defeated the purpose.

Regardless, I think as antagonists go, this one has great potential, and I only hope the author intends to cultivate his character further.

My motivation for reading the first book was one of author loyalty and previous  experience; pleased to say that upon finishing the first leg of the journey, Lawhead hooked me with enough interest that I was willing to give him a second go …and I wasn’t disappointed.

Of the two books, “The Bone House” is definitely  my favorite. Which can only mean that the story itself will get progressively better and better.

Who knows, by the end of the series, I may even change my mind about Kit.

On the scale of 1-5, “The Bone House” gets a 4.

The Skin Map: The Review

Skin mapThe Bright Empire Series; Stephen R. Lawhead; Thomas Nelson

The Skin Map; 2010;

I’ve been a Stephen Lawhead fan since I first read his Albion Trilogy (Thomas Nelson) back in the ’90’s, and this sentiment was later reinforced with his Pendragon Cycle. So when I heard he’d come out with another series; one that took a step back away from the historical,  and leaned more towards the fantasy, I could hardly wait.

Now keep in mind, even if the author hadn’t been Lawhead,  the whole idea of realm travel and skin mapping would have been enough to peek my interest; the fact that he’s the one who wrote it, simply assured it an unsolicited place on my stack of,  ‘MUST READS’ pile.

Let me begin my review by reminding all of us who aspire to become authors someday, that in an age where there are literally hundreds of thousand of novels being produced every year, the fact that Lawhead created one that is both unique, as well as plausible, is an amazing feat in and of itself.

As with his Albion Trilogy, he has used  the concepts of Ley lines, ancient pathways, history, and mankind’s propensity to pursue that which gives one pleasure through power at all costs,  to weave a suspenseful, fast paced story.

Unfortunately, he didn’t do as well with his main characters.

Now I’m the first to admit I have a rather short attention span when it comes to how much time I’ll give an author to hook my attention. I read somewhere  that the average reader needs to be hooked within the first three to four pages; with me you have less than one. And if you can’t pique my interest with character, and writers voice, you’d better do it with style. Fail either, and I’m off to the next book.

Fortunately with Stephen Lawhead, I’ve read enough of his work to realize, that even if he fails to immediately  inspire me  with his characters, his skill as a writer is credible enough to make me give him the benefit of a doubt. So I did.

The pay off? Given thirty pages or so, he eventually gave me a character I could like (though maybe not the one he intended); one that had enough depth and interest,  that I found myself continually turning the pages in hopes of discovering more.

I  really enjoyed following our main protagonists,  Kit and Wilhelmina,  through modern-day England, ancient Egypt, Prague, and the Orient. I was also quite pleased with the way Lawhead developed the possibility of using geographical energy sources to travel between realms and time, then using tattooed skin as a way to map it.

What I wasn’t happy about was the cacophony of unresolved questions,  or my dislike of the main protagonist Kit: a young man lacking purpose in life, dominated by a strong-willed girlfriend, and too cowardly to try and do anything about either. As a reader you’re hoping that given enough experience, opportunities,  and life threatening challenges to overcome, he will, at some point, redeem himself.


Which may have been why I was as equally surprised to find that Wilhelmina, who jumps into the story resembling a modern-day harpy, manages to do what her male counter part doesn’t; allow circumstances outside her control to change and mold her into the hero, at this point,  he  has yet to become.

On a scale of one to five, I’m giving The Skin Map a 3.5 star.