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:
Thomas Clayton Booher
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Carol Bruce Collett
D. G. D. Davidson
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rachel Starr Thomson