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Book Review: The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead

31 January, 2012

This is a long overdue review of a book I obtained as part of the BookSneeze bloggers program.

Mark, my husband, is an avid Stephen Lawhead fan. He has read, and in fact owns, almost every book Lawhead has written. I have read a little of Lawhead’s books, The Dragon King Trilogy to be precise. I quite enjoyed that, and I don’t mind the odd fantasy or science fiction novel, so I was anticipating enjoying The Skin Map (the first in The Bright Empires series).

The book opens with Kit, an overworked, under-recognised pleb in a faceless corporation working his way through the maze of the London public transport system in order to get to the house of his joyless girlfriend. One transport mishap leads to another bringing him to the conclusion that it would be best to walk to her house.

On the way he encounters a strange storm whipping up unexpectedly and mysteriously meets a man who claims to be Kit’s great-grandfather. Upon following the old man, he is transported to another place, and another time, where he begins to learn the mysteries of ley lines and ley travel. Befuddled by this talk of seeming nonsense, he chooses to return to modern London, only finding himself having to explain his hours-long delay to his girlfriend.

After a frustrating attempt to explain the phenomenon to his girlfriend, Wilhemina, he takes her to the ley line where he met his great-grandfather, and it is there that disaster strikes.

The Skin Map then takes you on a journey spanning continents and millennia. The chapters switch between different times, places and characters with seeming randomness.

I didn’t enjoy The Skin Map as much as I had hoped I would. I found too many of the characters unlikeable, and I find it hard to care about or want to know what happens to these characters if I don’t even like them.

I felt there were too many different stories going on all at once, with too little explanation of each. At this very early point in the series, I would say it would be better for there to be a singular book focusing on one set of characters with subsequent books focusing on others, and filling in the “gaps” left in previous books.

I also felt the book wasn’t at all Christian and had quite a anti- Christian slant to it. I would be surprised to see it in a Christian book store and disappointed to read it, expecting a Christian book.

I think it’s for die-hard Lawhead fans only.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. DaughterofEve permalink
    31 January, 2012 7:44 am

    I have the same feeling about many Lawhead books. Even when they slant in an angle of God, the whole tone smacks more of evil. However, the Dragon King Trilogy is excellent (but not really suitable for children – a little too graphic).

    • 31 January, 2012 8:25 am

      I am reading the second book of the Bright Empires series at the moment, also for Book Sneeze, and I feel a strong bent towards a universalism – some sort of powerful spiritual being that controls the universe but that may be God as we know him, or it could be the universe itself, it could be the “Great Spirit” or any other belief system that involves a deity of sorts.

      I would expect a Christian novelist to at least have a Christian slant or somehow neutral rather than pushing contradicting beliefs.

      I may have to read some older stuff to see if it’s a progression over the years or if it’s just his style. Apart from Dragon King I hadn’t read any other Lawhead before (despite Mark owning most of his books).

      • DaughterofEve permalink
        31 January, 2012 9:42 am

        Pendragon cycle has a lot of Christian threads – a lot more than Song of Albion which I found a bit wierd. Both are very very celtic with druidic influence, but SoA more so. He seems to be overly fascinated with celtic mythology and religion.

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