THE SKIN MAP By Stephen R. Lawhead [Review]

The Skin Map

Stephen R. Lawhead has been turning out fantasy novels for years, and his various series are discovered by new readers every year. For those readers who have gone through everything and have waited patiently for something new, your patience has been rewarded with THE SKIN MAP, the first book in his Bright Empires series.

Kit Livingstone lives a humdrum life, boring and without a speck of a hint of excitement until he runs into his dead great-grandfather in an ally. When things like that happen, you know your life is about to change, and Kit’s takes a major turn. Humdrum flies out the window along with normal, mundane and everyday. He and his fairly annoying girlfriend are catapulted into the thick of things.

Lawhead uses the concept of ley Lines, mystical lines of energy on the landscape, as one of the underlying themes of the book. These lines are what allow travelers to move through time, space and across dimensional barriers. One Traveler, concerned about being lost in the spiderweb of lines, had a map made and tattooed on his body. It is the hunt for this “Skin Map” that forms the focus of the book. Of course, there are a lot of people looking for that map, and most of them are less than savory characters. Along the way, the book splits out into several characters’ stories and at times it can be confusing.

The Skin Map is a bit of a departure for Lawhead. It’s not pure fantasy, it bounces from fantasy to thriller and back again. His research is, as always, good, and the sense of time and place is solid, so there is a real feeling of being “there” in the book. The action builds well and never feels forced.

Fans of Lawhead’s other works might be a little disappointed with The Skin Map, it’s not his usual pure fantasy fare, but give it a chance, it is written with everything that he brings to his other books. If you are new to Lawhead, The Skin Map is a good book, certainly full of interesting twists and turns and enough to keep any reader interested until the end.

And yet…

I am not sure how I feel about The Skin Map. I like Kit, he’s an interesting character and one I would like to know better, and the concept of the ley lines appeals to that paranormal side of me, the settings are lush and well drawn. But… I can’t really pin it down. It’s a good book, it’s a solid book, I never got that “please let it end” feeling, but when it was over I felt a little let down and not really in a good way. Maybe because it is so patently a set up for a series, so it was most definitely unfinished. I wish I could pin it down, I liked it well enough, but… I’m just not sure. Is it good? Yes. But I am not sure I like that feeling of almost being blackmailed into having to read the second book.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Thomas Nelson | Pages: 448 | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon

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  • Joel

    It definitely sounds like your torn down the middle about it. I just finished it as well and thought it was a great read from Lawhead even though it was a bit of a departure from his usual writing. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one. Hopefully the second one will feel less like blackmail and more like an adventure! In the meantime make sure to check out his Facebook page for updates on the series. http://on.fb.me/cYTDHs