Tag Archives: bright empires

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

The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead, a review

The Bone House by Stephen Lawhead
Book 2 of the Bright Empires 5-book series
Published 2011 by Thomas Nelson, 416 pages
Genre: Fantasy with Christian worldview, suitable for teens and adults

The Bone House continues story threads from the previous book, The Skin Map, which opened the series. In fact, if you haven’t read The Skin Map, don’t read this book. You’ll just get very confused. It’s clear the five-part Bright Empires series must be one giant tale, rather than five smaller ones. And what a tale it is.

At the end of The Skin Map, our hapless hero Kit Livingstone has been mysteriously rescued from the brink of death. The rescuer is none other than Kit’s formerly clueless girlfriend Mina, mysteriously appearing and whisking him away. It’s still sad, though. The ruthless bad guy, Lord Burleigh, did succeed in murdering Kit’s mentor, Kit’s great-grandfather Cosimo.

Cosimo had handed Kit a task, finishing Cosimo’s work of finding and decoding the Skin Map, while eluding Burleigh. But who will tell Kit how to pick up this task? Kit, a newbie, has much to learn. (The Skin Map is a grisly artifact, parchment made of the torso skin of Arthur Flinders-Petrie, a pioneer in ley travel who recorded his findings in tattoos on his own torso. The map has been divided into five pieces and hidden.)

It turns out Kit’s former girlfriend Mina, on her own, is becoming an expert in ley travel and can teach Kit some things. Ley lines are lines of geological force along the surface of the earth which in this series can catapult a person into another dimension. These other dimensions are alternate universes, ones spawned whenever any major decision is made on the home world (ours). All the possible results of those decisions create alternate universes based on differing assumptions. The result is an infinity of universes, all pretty similar, it seems, and connected by these ley-line energy pathways. It’s possible to move from one universe to another rather consistently, with some practice.

In The Bone House we find out plenty about the background of bad guy Burleigh, but not everything–we still don’t know what’s motivating his ruthlessness. And we meet another main character, Douglas Flinders-Petrie, the amoral grandson of the man who gave the world the Skin Map. All these characters are hopping through hot spots in various worlds, chasing each other, trying to get the Skin Map and something more. What? Kit still doesn’t know. Something motivates Burleigh to murder and attempt murder, again and again. What is it? Does the mystery have something to do with the stars?

What do I think?

This book is another 1/5 of a massive construction which is becoming clearer. Details of ley travel are explained in this book, and key characters discuss their faith in a benevolent God.

This faith in God in a book about multiverses is critical for me, a Christian. The multiverse idea was coined by atheists trying to explain how man could have evolved from nothing, with such low probabilities at key points of the evolutionary theory. If you multiply our universe by infinity, surely in one of those universes the probability will be high enough that evolution could indeed have happened. So some people, such as physicist Stephen Hawking, actually believe the multiverse theory is true and use it to support their atheism.

Lawhead, on the other hand, uses the multiverse idea as the basis for a massive adventure tale romping across worlds. The yarn is beginning to remind me a bit of Star Wars, with an young clueless (at the beginning) hero suddenly bereft of his mentor, an unbelievably dastardly villain (whose past is not fully revealed yet), and a very capable heroine, along with other characters. There’s an appropriate dose of mystery at the core. I’ll be very interested to read the next installment.

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

This post is part of the Christian Science-Fiction/Fantasy (CSFF) blog tour. Please visit blogs of other participants to see what they have to say about this book too:

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

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