Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Book review: The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead

Note from Shannon: I love books. I love free books. I love writing so I don't mind receiving free books or other freebies with the string attached that requires that I review the item on my blog. One thing I *really* love, though, is being able to bless friends. This review is written by my dear friend Jenelle Leanne Schmidt who is an fantasy fiction author (see here and here for her books; I also know that there are two more in the works!). One of her favorite authors is Stephen Lawhead, so when his latest book became available for review, I wanted to snag it for her to review. Many thanks to today's guest author Jenelle for this fantastic review, and - if you like fantasy (think Tolkien) - check out her books at the links above!

When I heard Stephen Lawhead was writing a new book, I was thrilled. When I learned the title of the new book was The Skin Map, I was confused. It didn’t sound very ... well... Lawhead-y. However, as I began reading this beginning to a brand new series, I swiftly became engrossed in the story.

Filled with descriptions that beguile all five senses and all the beauty and charm of the language I have come to expect from Lawhead, this book is a fascinating blend of fantasy and sci-fi. In the world of The Skin Map, there is an Omni-verse, a universe filled with alternate realities that are easily accessible to those who know where to look via roads known as “ley lines.” These alternate realities are also located in different “time zones” as it were, and thus jumping from one reality to the next also inevitably includes a certain amount of time travel.

The book follows the stories of several different characters: Kit Livingstone a young man from modern-day London, who encounters his great grandfather and is shown how to ley travel; Wilhelmina, Kit’s girlfriend, who, when Kit tries to prove to her that ley travel is real, gets trapped in 17th century Prague; Cosimo (Kit’s great grandfather) and Sir Henry, ley line adventurers who wish to use the ley lines for the betterment of science and humanity; Lord Burleigh, the villain of the story, whose motivations seem to stem from greed; and Arthur Flinders-Petrie, the “Ernest Shackleton” of the ley line adventurers who mapped out the ley lines and had them tattooed on his body so they could never be stolen or lost.

Something I love about this book is the masterful way Lawhead subtly uses his characters to point to Christ. He never beats his audience about the head with his beliefs, despite publishing with a Christian publishing house. Instead, he allows his books to unfold the message of his faith - either through characters whose faith is an integral part of who they are (such as Etzel), or through characters who don’t know what they believe and the conversations they have with other characters about questions they have (such as Kit and Lady Faythe). As always, Lawhead is unique in that he is not a writer of Christian Fiction. Rather, he is a Christian Author who writes Fiction.

On the flip side of this rave review I do have a couple of negatives to mention. First, is that I have to wait until next September to read the second book in the series. Second, don’t read this book expecting to have any questions answered. I was about 10 pages from the end when I realized that the book was leading me to a cliff-hanger ending, and I was going to have to wait for the rest of the series to find out what happens. Since Lawhead is delving back into sci-fi with this series, this first book was mainly an introduction to the characters, the concept of ley travel, and a tantalizing glimpse at the story this series will become.

Overall, I would say I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and history as well as the idea of time travel and being able to mess with historical events.

Many thanks to Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program for providing this book for our review. They required nothing but an honest review, and they didn't request a rave or anything else. I, however, do request that you take a look at Jenelle's books here and here.

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