Wherein many loose threads are tied together.
Between the death of my father at age 98 and the launch of my second book, “The 12th Demon”, the past week has proved to be very busy so I will be doing a one day review of “The Spirit Well”, Stephen R. Lawhead’s latest book in his five book series, “A Bright Empires Novel”.
First, let me say that if you have not read the first two books, you WILL find yourself scrambling around trying to make sense of the story. There is an introduction of the characters in the beginning of the book that does give you a sense of the events that have transpired in the prior two books and is indispensable in making sense of the current story, even if you have read both books. However, if you have read the first two books, this book will begin to bring things together in a much more coherent narrative.
Second, Stephen Lawhead has done a masterful job in creating this believable world, or more appropriately, worlds connected by “ley” lines. His attention to historical details, his use of period language, and his inclusion of the particular behavior of certain historical periods is spot on. To read this book is to savor each and every world.
Third, Stephen Lawhead has finally brought together some diverging, or as it turns out, converging story lines. For instance, in the first book, “The Skin Map”, Kit and Mina are instantly separated into two parallel worlds and disparate times only to meet briefly in the second book before once again losing each other. But, in the “The Spirit Well”, Kit and Mina through no device or their own find themselves reunited. Mina has grown considerably into a self sufficient, crafty person and Kit has managed to develop a strong self assurance and a “six pack” to go with his bulging biceps!
Fourth, Stephen Lawhead begins to reveal the truth behind the existence of the “ley” lines and the ultimate purpose behind their existence. I don’t want to ruin it for the reader but it has to do with “perfecting creation” through the growth and maturity of humanity, or reaching an “Omega” point. Personally, as an apologist, I have been waiting for a more obvious nod to the Christian worldview and in this book, Lawhead delivers. He discusses the “anthropic principle” and the role humanity plays in God’s metanarrative. Here is a wonderful discussion of how God operates by “always working through the small, the insignificant, the powerless — it seems to be sewn into the very fabric of the universe.”
“Over and over again, we see that when anyone willingly gives whatever resources they have to Him — whether it is nothing more than five smooth stones gathered from a dry streambed or five little loaves of bread and two dried sprats — then God’s greater purpose can proceed.”
Or, as the story manages to drive home over and over, “there is no such thing as coincidence.”
Fifth, Stephen Lawhead finally answers the question about the skin map. It is the singular goal of Lord Burleigh and his “Burly” men. The skin map will lead ultimately to the “well of souls” where immortality, youth, healing, resurrection can be found. The skin map was once tattooed on the chest of Arthur Flinders-Petrie. In this story, we discover how it came into the possession of his offspring and how it became a literal “skin map”.
Sixth, Stephen Lawhead introduces new characters and discloses the existence of a society dedicated to bringing together those who have the genetic ability to traverse ley lines. Here, in this new character of Cass and her attachment to the Zetetic Society, the connection to Kit and his grandfather, Cosimo from book one are illuminated. After reading this book, I am more excited than ever to read book four and five. The stage is set and this book brings so many, pardon the pun, parallel story lines together. I highly recommend the entire book series. Book three, “The Spirit Well” delivers the goods!
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Book link – http://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Well-Bright-Empires/dp/1595548068/
Author Website – http://www.stephenlawhead.com/
Author Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/StephenRLawhead
Participants’ links: Be sure and check out these other reviews!
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
http://home.earthlink.net/~wyverns/“> Emmalyn Edwards
http://projectinga.blogspot.com/“> April Erwin
http://vicsmediaroom.wordpress.com/“> Victor Gentile
http://christianfictionaddiction.blogspot.com/“> Jeremy Harder
http://fantasythyme.blogspot.com“> Timothy Hicks
http://thequietpen.wordpress.com/“> Janeen Ippolito
http://thewriterssword.blogspot.com/“> Becca Johnson
http://www.spoiledfortheordinary.blogspot.com/“> Jason Joyner
http://carolkeen.blogspot.com/“> Carol Keen
http://emileightherebuilder.blogspot.com/“> Emileigh Latham
http://blackanddarknight.wordpress.com/“> Rebekah Loper
http://www.shannonmcdermott.com/“> Shannon McDermott
http://www.bloomingwithbooks.blogspot.com/“> Meagan @ Blooming with Books
http://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/“> Rebecca LuElla Miller
http://annamittower.blogspot.com//“> Anna Mittower
http://www.bookwomanjoan.blogspot.com/“> Joan Nienhuis
http://blogginoutloud.blogspot.com/“> Lyn Perry
http://dadscancooktoo.com/“> Nathan Reimer
http://www.chawnaschroeder.blogspot.com/“> Chawna Schroeder
http://www.rachelstarrthomson.com/inklings/“> Rachel Starr Thomson
http://www.epictales.org/blog/robertblog.php“> Robert Treskillard
http://christiansf.blogspot.com/“> Steve Trower
http://www.fantasyandfaith.com“> Dona Watson
http://www.shanewerlinger.com/“> Shane Werlinger
http://christian-fantasy-book-reviews.com/blog/“> Phyllis Wheeler
On this, Day 3, of my review of “The Bone House” I will talk about the ending of this book and how Stephen R. Lawhead brings together many threads, in fact many “ley” lines from the first book and this second book to a satisfying and moving conclusion.
By the time the reader reaches the last third of “The Bone House” the reader has learned of how Mina managed to gain a certain device allowing her to maneuver through the ley lines. The reader also learns of how Kit manages to move beyond his awkwardness and become a seasoned ley line traveler and help locate a key “treasure” mentioned often in the first book.
The reader also learns how the originator of the “skin map”, Arthur Flnders-Petrie manages to secure a family and begin to instruct his offspring in the ways of interdimensional travel. Stephen R. Lawhead brings the four main characters, Kit, Mina, and Lady Fayth together with the villain, Lord Burleigh in a believable and breath taking way. This scene is fast paced and chilling and it ends with Kit discovering an entirely new world.
This final portion of the book is so moving, so achingly beautiful in its description of the pristine world of Kit’s primitive “River City” tribe. Here, Kit finally completes his journey in becoming the man he must be. His physical skills increase. His self confidence grows. And, his spiritual journey reaches a most satisfying conclusion.
For, here among the simple community of this primitive tribe, Kit encounters the Ancient man whose sense of contentment, joy, and balance with the universe is breathtaking. The young men of the Ancient’s tribe build him a Bone House. I do not want to ruin the imagery. You must read of this journey Kit takes with the elder man into the unknown. For here, in final scenes of the Bone House, Stephen R. Lawhead delivers on all of his promises. He shows up the ultimate “treasure” led to by the “skin map”. He answers the riddle of the man whose skin is the map. And in the process, he opens a doorway to an entire multi-universe that the reader cannot wait to explore.
And, the final scene is very fitting as Turms, the Immortal is laid to rest.
All in all, “The Bone House” starts out a bit confusing, but persistence will pay off. Do not give up. One caveat: if you purchase the book on Kindle, Nook, or iBook be aware you will begin reading automatically with the first page. You must back up and read the summary of the first book and the list of characters that appear just after the table of contents. I did not know these pages existed until after I began to write my first review and discovered them on going back to the table of contents. It helps tremendously to review the story of “The Skin Map” whether or not you have read it.
I highly recommend this series of books now named “Bright Empires”.
In Day One of my review of “The Bone House”, I spoke about the possible confusion one might find at beginning this novel. But, if you press on, you will be rewarded with a tightening of the focus in the middle of the book. So, today, I will discuss the middle.
I was somewhat confused in the beginning of this book when Arthur Flinders-Petrie and his wife Xian Li show up before Turms, the Immortal. (Spoilers ahead) Why? Because I was certain Xian Li had died in the first book. And yet, here she was healthy and pregnant in the second book. Well, if you press on, you will learn why and I dare not even begin to hint at the reasons for fear of spoiling a wonderful story.
Let’s just say that in the middle of this book, there is a wonderful development in the characters of Kit and Mina. We finally learn how Mina came to be in the perfect spot to rescue Kit from certain death. And, what I love about this story is how this dowdy, frumpy, let’s face it, BORING woman in the beginning of book one has become smart and sassy and very, very resourceful. I really like where Stephen R. Lawhead has taken her in this book. And, this for me is the mark of fine writing; the ability to disappoint me with a certain character only to show how, inevitably, that character can grow and mature and begin to gain my respect. J. Michael Strazcynski did this with G’Kar in Babylon 5 and surprised me with the results. We see the same growth here with the character of Mina. I really like the girl!
Same goes for Kit. Still a bit wobbly and uncertain, Kit rises above his sorrow over the death of Cosmino and follows through with a plan given to him by Mina. And here is the wonder of the second book. I don’t want to give too much away, but Kit must meet with and convince Dr. Thomas Young of the reality of the ley lines. And, in so doing, Kit must then lead Dr. Young to the hidden treasure at the heart of these books. Who would have thought that Stephen R. Lawhead would somehow evoke a wondrous exploration of the reason why man has always built tombs? Sound silly and not at all consequential to the story, but this section thrilled my apologetic heart (apologetics being the field of defending the Christian faith). Here is an excerpt without giving too much away:
“Contrary to what many may think, immortality is not a fairy tale invented to compensate for an unhappy life. Rather, it is the perception shared by nearly all sentient beings that our conscious lives are not bounded by this time and space. We are not merely lumps of animate matter. We are living spirits — we all feel this innately. And in our deepest hearts, we know that we can only find ultimate fulfillment in union with the supreme spiritual reality — a reality that appears, even during this earthly life, to take us beyond the narrow limits of time.”
And so, Kit and Thomas eventually solve one of the great mysteries of this story. But, Kit ‘s story does not end with the discovery. In fact, it only just begins and in the final review, we will learn of Kit’s fate.
Another important development in the middle is the revelation of the origins of one of the book’s main characters. I do not want to divulge which character, but here, in the middle of this book, Stephen R. Lawhead begins to give some humanity to one of his coarser creations. We begin to see the reasons behind the motives; the motivations behind the actions; and the history behind the man.
All in all, good stuff! Well worth moving through the sometimes confusing beginning narrative to get to the meat of the story and the reader will be rewarded for perseverance. In fact, as I said in my review of “The Skin Map” it is almost as if we, the readers, are ourselves being drawn from ley line to ley line, passing through countries now mysterious and now familiar. For eventually, the author brings those lines back together and weaves a grand tale that I can’t wait to finish!
Tomorrow, the Ending!
By the way, if you are in the Shreveport/Bossier City area I will be reading portions of my book “The 13th Demon: Altar of the Spiral Eye” and then signing books at the Barnes & Noble on Youree Drive this Saturday, October 29th from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M. I’m giving away a free tee shirt with each book purchase! See you there!