Tag Archives: stephen lawhead

The Fatal Tree by Stephen Lawhead, a review

The Fatal TreeThe Fatal Tree, final book of the five-book Bright Empires Series, by Stephen R. Lawhead
Published by Thomas Nelson, 2014, 335 pages
Genre: Multiverse/alternate history/time-travel written from a Christian worldview, for teens and adults

Former novice Kit Livingstone is a seasoned ley traveler now. He’s been using a method of walking along natural energy-filled “ley” lines in the earth’s crust to travel to alternate, but similar, universes, following in the footsteps of other ley travelers like his late great-grandfather, Cosimo, and the ruthless Lord Burleigh. They’ve all been looking madly for the Skin Map, which they think will show the ley-travel way to the Spirit Well: what seems to be the fountain of youth and life.

In this book Kit and friends discover that the stakes are far higher than they thought, and the Spirit Well is something different from what they thought. The multiverse is getting more and more unstable, and quickly. Ley traveling doesn’t take them where it used to, but to strange and dangerous places.  Napoleon’s soldiers appear in 1930’s Damascus. Kit’s friend Mina runs into a duplicate of herself.

And the key to it all, the Spirit Well, is beyond their reach, because an enormous yew tree has planted itself in the portal leading to it, a tree that zaps to death anyone that reaches for it. If they can’t get around the tree, the multiverse will quickly unravel. The world and all its clones in the multiverse have only a few weeks to live, but only some scientists and some ley travelers know it.

And the key to the tree belongs to the one person none of them wants to trust.

What do I think? I’ve gotten pretty fond of some of the newer characters in this series, the ley-traveling Italian priest Gianni especially. Gianni brings a Christian flavor to some of the book, which is sold in the general market and therefore is very delicate about conveying its worldview, lest non-Christians put it down. I think having the sunny priest convey certain ideas works very well.

The fully-drawn characters, the well-described locales all around the world spiced with those critical details, and an intriguing plot that brings a whole epic series to conclusion make this a winning book.

Read my reviews of all five books in the series: one, two, three, four, five.

This review is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour.

Please check out what others are saying:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Karri Compton
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Jason Joyner
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Jalynn Patterson
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Author Websitehttp://www.stephenlawhead.com/
Author Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephen-R-Lawhead/84503526872

I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

The Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead, a review

shadowlamp-hpThe Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead, Book 4 of a 5-book series, Bright Empires
Published 2013 by Thomas Nelson, 379 pages
Genre: Multiverse fantasy with a Christian worldview, suitable for teens and adults

Five books is a lot for a series. Devotees of Stephen Lawhead, like me, will of course eagerly pick up each book as it comes out. But it is necessary to do a bit of reviewing before plunging in. There’s just too much to remember.

Kit Livingstone has stumbled through the previous three books slowly getting a little wiser in his search for the Skin Map. Why do Kit and a variety of others want the map? It leads to the Spirit Well, a possible key to conquering death. And Kit has even been there, though briefly. Can he find his way back?

Kit has some loyal compatriots, starting with his former girlfriend Mina, and in this book picks up some more: Cass and Gianni.  He’s also got a compatriot who betrayed him before, Haven, and her servant Giles. Will she betray Kit again?

They all decide to look for the Spirit Well using shadow lamps invented by the evil Lord Burleigh that assist traveling to other universes. But it will be a while before more lamps can secretly be made. So they wait in Prague.

But Haven can’t wait. And soon enough Burleigh finds their trail. Is it too late?

Lawhead is a masterful writer. I enjoyed his rich characters and twisty plot. I’m also enjoying all the zillions of possibilities that the multiverse concept gives. With such a long series there are many threads and characters to weave together, and Lawhead does a masterful job. As with any masterful job, there’s always a quibble: one scene didn’t seem to add to the plot in my opinion (concerning how Lord Burleigh found and hired his henchmen).

Read my reviews of all five books in the series: one, two, three, four, five.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Please check out what others are saying about the book.

Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirriam Neal
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Rachel Wyant
Phyllis Wheeler
Deborah Wilson

Author Websitehttp://www.stephenlawhead.com/
Author Facebook pagehttp://www.facebook.com/pages/Stephen-R-Lawhead/84503526872

The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, a review

The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead, Book 3 of Bright Empires series
Published 2012 by Thomas Nelson, 377 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy for teens and up

Lawhead’s latest book is number three in a sprawling five-book series. To date, there have been two protagonists and one main villain. This book adds another protagonist, Cass, and detail on another villain, Douglas. All of them are seeking the mystery pointed to in the coded Skin Map: the Spirit Well, something like a Fountain of Youth.

You see, the earth is covered with lines of energy along its surface. When one walks at a certain speed at a certain time of day along a particular ley line, it may transport you to an alternate version of our universe, possibly in a very different era, where many things are the same, but some things may be different. It’s possible to consistently hop from say present day to a version of 1890s London and back again, for example, or on from there to many places and times. So a map would be very useful, wouldn’t it?

The main protagonist Kit, fleeing from the villain Burleigh, takes a hop along a ley line near Prague. He unexpectedly finds himself marooned in the Stone Age with hairy men who hardly speak. But their telepathic skills are far above his, and he learns to love living with them. Eventually Kit mysteriously stumbles on the way from there to the Spirit Well. But how can he leave the Stone Age to find his friends and report the discovery? His ley line is no longer active. And does he even want to leave? Here he has a clan who somehow don’t experience dissension, aggression, backbiting, or any of the other petty sins of humans. And they’ve adopted him.

Meanwhile, Cass, a 25-year-old archaeologist, is chasing a native American employee down an Arizona canyon when she finds herself whisked away to a desert landscape someplace else. The native American has gone there too; he shows her how to quickly walk the ley line to return to Arizona. Now she’s hooked: what are the possibilities here? From the canyon she tries to make another leap and finds herself somehow transported not to the desert she expected, but to Damascus where she finds other ley travelers. They are all growing old, and they desperately need a young person like her to continue their quest. Does she want to risk her life to help them find Kit and the Skin Map? Or does she want to return to her safe archeologist life?

Douglas Flinders-Petrie is the great-grandson of the man who had the Skin Map tatooed on himself, Arthur Flinders-Petrie. Nevertheless he is somehow reduced to thieving and conniving to find the pieces of the map. And he spends years perfecting a plan to return in time and deceive medieval intellectual Roger Bacon into helping him decode the map. Will Douglas succeed?

What do I think?

Lawhead, of course, is a master of characterization and detail. He travels to the locales he describes, providing a wonderful authetic feel. His bad guys are very very bad, and his young clueless protagonist, Kit, is very very clueless. I am really enjoying reading this tale.

This particular book, The Spirit Well, is basically the middle of an epic tale. Each of the three story arcs described above are included in this book, so there’s a bit of closure. But mostly this book points you on to the next books by picking up and weaving a number of story threads, including several more than the three I described above.

The faith element? Lawhead is a Christian, but he doesn’t make it obvious. Only in this third book is there a discussion among characters in one scene about the dark and light spiritual forces at work in the struggle over finding the map. Meanwhile, in this and previous books in the series there are odd apparent coincidences that rescue the characters and lead them toward the Spirit Well unawares. In short, this book should be very readable by non-Christians who might be given a bit of food for thought, and also by Christians.

Since Lawhead writes at the rate of one book per year, we’ll have to wait two years to find out how it all ends. But it will be worth the wait.

Read my reviews of all five books in the series: one, two, three, four, five.

This is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog tour. Please check out what others are saying too:

Jim Armstrong
Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Christine
Karri Compton
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Jeremy Harder
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Joan Nienhuis
Lyn Perry
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

Author Website – http://www.stephenlawhead.com/
Author Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/StephenRLawhead

Lawhead talks about his research

Stephen Lawhead, whose latest book The Bone House we are examining at the CSFF Blog Tour this week, has some research ideas for writers that you might find interesting. From an interview on his website:

Q: So you’ve been to Egypt, and Prague and Oxford, and all those places?
A: All of those places, to be sure — and others that are yet to appear as well. Oxford is where I live, so that’s a location that I’m becoming increasingly familiar with on many levels.

Sometimes – and this has happened with other books, it’s unavoidable – I can’t travel to the place I need to write about. That may be for political reasons, such as the country being closed to Westerners, or it may simply not be worth travelling to some far-flung place if it only makes a fleeting appearance in the story. It may also be that, now in the 21st-century, it is almost pointless to go to a place and be able to get much inspiration for how it was hundreds of years ago. For example, if I wanted to know what Manhattan Island was like in the 1200s, a week in New York City, as much as I might enjoy it, really isn’t going to be much help.

So, in the past, I have used experiences gained in one place to stand in as another.  For example, years ago I visited Haiti – still very primitive in the hinterland – to inform descriptions of India.  In The Iron Lance I let a visit to Kairouin Tunisia, stand in for medieval Baghdad, as the ancient walled city was closer visually and historically than the bustling modern metropolis in Iraq would have been.

Pretty neat, huh? Envision Lawhead visiting all kinds of out-of-the-way spots on the globe for his books. No wonder it takes him a year to write a book!

In The Bone House, he describes a trip down the Nile in a small boat. Not surprisingly, he’s done it himself:

And the Nile. Of course, now the Nile has been dammed at Aswan and that has affected the countryside dramatically throughout Egypt, so you have to imagine what it was like when the Pharaohs ran the place. But I made an effort, by spending a week in small wooden boat – a dahabiya – sailing from Aswan to Luxor, berthing on the riverbank each night, and observing along the way the villages and people I could see, and even visiting some of those villages.

Once the boat was tied up, the captain – an elegant man who wore a traditional gallabiyah with a light purple turban – would stroll ashore with a plastic bag of something smokeable in his hand. He’d make a little fire, walking around it as he fed in bits of sticks and wood he found on the riverbank. When he got his campfire going, one of his crewmen brought him his hubble-bubble pipe, and he sat there cross-legged smoking sheesha while his crew trimmed the sails, and settled the boat for the night.

Priceless.

Source: http://www.stephenlawhead.com/interview-on-research.html

For a more general interview: http://www.stephenlawhead.com/faq.html

To read what others are saying, check out these other bloggers on the CSFF blog tour:

More from Lawhead about the Bright Empires series

The Bright Empires series is staggering in its scope. Lawhead gives us an idea in this video:

Check out what other CSFF Blog Tour bloggers are saying about Lawhead’s new book, The Bone House:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Chapman
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton
D. G. D. Davidson
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Marzabeth
Katie McCurdy
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant

Win a free copy of Stephen Lawhead’s The Skin Map

Have you been wanting to read Stephen Lawhead’s new sci-fi/fantasy novel, The Skin Map?  Here’s your chance to win a copy free of charge. I am holding a contest!

Five winners will be randomly chosen from among those who “like” the Christian Fantasy Book Reviews Reviews Facebook page during the contest period AND post or comment on the page. For each time you post or comment, you get a point. You can talk about why you like Lawhead, why you want to read the book, or you can comment about any other book review post on the Christian Fantasy Review Facebook page. No spam comments, please! They won’t count.

Here’s a way to get additional points: post on your own blog or Facebook page with a link to this post: http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/blog/2011/01/25/win-a-free-copy-of-stephen-lawheads-the-skin-map/

Then be sure to email me at info “at” motherboardbooks.com with the link to your post/page so I know to count that entry.

For each point I will assign a number, and then choose the winners using a random number generator. So the more points you have, the more likely it is you will be a winner.

You must have a USA shipping address to win the contest. The contest period ends Sunday, Jan. 30, at midnight, central time. Shipping’s on me.

Tell your friends!

The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead, a review

skinmapThe Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead
Published 2010 by Thomas Nelson, 398 pages
Genre: Fantasy, suitable for adults and teens

Stephen Lawhead starts off his new Bright Empires series with this book, The Skin Map. The title refers to a grisly artifact: a parchment made from the skin of a man. This man was an experienced time/space traveler across alternate universes who had his torso tatooed with markings that served as a map in case he would get lost. (I was put off by the grisly part, but decided to forge ahead anyway, and I am very glad I did. There was nothing gory about this book.)

An alternate universe, by the way, is spawned by decisions made differently at a key point in history. For example, two of the characters go back to 1600s London and purposefully wake someone up so as to prevent the Great Fire of London. So from that point on, history is different in that universe.

The alternate universes idea is a favorite of physicist Stephen Hawkings, and it has made its way into literature before, most notably in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and following books. Pullman argues that God is either dead or irrelevant, so I, a Christian, found reading those books the opposite of edifying. Lawhead, on the other hand, is a Christian, though his books these days are subtle about their underlying worldview. I did enjoy reading this book.

Many fantasy books start with the protagonist living a humdrum existence. Then the protagonist finds himself  swept into an alternate fantasy world somehow. In The Skin Map, the main characters find themselves swept not into a fantasy universe, but into medieval Europe in the early 1600s.

Kit Livingstone is a young contemporary Londoner leading a boring life, trying to please a boring girlfriend, when he suddenly meets his great-grandfather in an alley. His great-grandfather,  a stranger who is a vigorous old man, invites Kit for a bite to eat and leads him to the other end of the alley–which opens into a medieval fishing village elsewhere in England.

Kit is shocked by the strangeness of the experience and runs back to his humdrum circumstances. He tries to tell his girlfriend about it. She doesn’t believe him, so he brings her to the alley, which runs along a “ley line” or joint line between alternate universes. The ley line returns him to his grandfather’s fishing village, but the girlfriend, Wilhelmina, vanishes into somewhere else. So now Kit and and his great-grandfather have to rescue her–she could be in deep trouble somewhere. But where? And when?

Kit also finds himself enmeshed in his great-grandfather’s struggle against the bad guy, Lord Burleigh, who is crossing time, space, and alternate universes looking for the Skin Map. The great-grandfather has part of the map squirreled away in Oxford, or thinks he does. So Burleigh’s men, armed with a huge saber-toothed cat from the Pleistocene, attack him whenever he uses ley travel.

Meanwhile Wilhelmina finds herself dumped into Prague in the early 1600s. A baker, she is picked up on the roadside by a German baker.  Together they start a bakery business. Soon Wilhelmina is actually doing well. She even runs into Lord Burleigh and gets by unscathed.

But things are not going so well for Kit and his great-grandfather in modern Egypt. Together with some allies, they seem to face certain defeat and death at the hands of the evil Burleigh. I will stop here–read the book to find out more!

What do I think?

Lawhead does a great job with his characters. I especially like how Wilhelmina transforms from a catatonic city dweller to an energetic and enterprising businesswoman. Kit grows too, of course. It’s funny when he, a thoroughly modern guy, tries to make friends with a wagon driver from medieval England, who is in a lower social class and gets very uncomfortable.

The story is told through the eyes of four different characters: Kit; Wilhelmina; Arthur, the man with the skin map; and Lord Burleigh.  Only a bit is told of Arthur and Lord Burleigh. The sole chapter from Lord Burleigh’s point of view informs us that he is a shady antiquities dealer from the present era, leaving much untold about his motives and designs.  But in later chapters it becomes clear that the atheist Burleigh is after information on the mysterious Well of Souls, which may have something to do with reviving the dead.  I am wondering now whether there will be an Indiana Jones-like collision of stupid atheists and the raw power of God at the crux of the series, which will run to five books.

Because The Skin Map is part of a larger story, it leaves many issues unresolved. So finishing it is not entirely satisfying. But I am expecting more great characters, plot thickening, and resolution in the next book, and I hope it’s not too long coming out! Lawhead does a great job of spinning a yarn.  I recommend this book for teens and adults.

Read my reviews of all five books in the series: one, two, three, four, five.

This review is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) Blog tour.  Take a minute to check out what other bloggers are saying about this book:

Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

Author’s website:  http://www.stephenlawhead.com/