It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intersecting realities. To unravel the future of the future.
Kit Livingstone’s great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm. He reveals an unbelievable story: that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds. To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily inhabit only a tiny part.
One explorer knew more than most. Braving every danger, he toured both time and space on voyages of heroic discovery. Ever on his guard and fearful of becoming lost in the cosmos, he developed an intricate code—a roadmap of symbols—that he tattooed onto his own body. This Skin Map has since been lost in time. Now the race is on to recover all the pieces and discover its secrets.
But the Skin Map itself is not the ultimate goal. It is merely the beginning of a vast and marvelous quest for a prize beyond imagining.
The Bright Empires series—from acclaimed author Stephen R. Lawhead—is a unique blend of epic treasure hunt, ancient history, alternate realities, cutting-edge physics, philosophy, and mystery. The result is a page-turning, adventure like no other.
“Anything but ordinary . . . Dynamic settings are mixed with unpredictable adventures [and] parallel worlds.” —BookPage
About the Author
Stephen R. Lawhead is an internationally acclaimed author of mythic history and imaginative fiction.He is the author of such epics asThe King Raven, Song of Albion, and Dragon King Trilogies.Lawhead makes his home in Oxford, England, with his wife. Twitter: @StephenLawhead Facebook: StephenRLawhead
Read an Excerpt
THE SKIN MAPA Bright Empires Novel
By STEPHEN R. LAWHEAD
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2010 Stephen Lawhead
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn Which Old Ghosts Meet
Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared. At least, he would have brought an umbrella.
Like most Londoners, Kit was a martyr to the daily travails of navigating a city whose complexities were legendary. He knew well the dangers even the most inconsequential foray could involve. Venturing out into the world beyond his doorstep was the urban equivalent of trial by combat and he armed himself as best he could. He had long ago learned his small patch of the great metropolitan sprawl; he knew where the things most needful for survival were to be found and how to get to them. He kept in his head a ready-reference library of street maps, bus routes, and time schedules. He had memorised the pertinent sections of the London Underground tube schematic; he knew the quickest ways to work, and from work to his favourite pubs, the grocers, the cinema, the park where he jogged.
Sadly, knowing all of this was rarely enough.
This morning was a perfect case in point. Only minutes before, he had stepped out the door of his flat in Holloway on a jaunt to accompany his girlfriend on a long-promised shopping trip. Oblivious to the fact that he had already embarked on a journey of no return, he proceeded to the nearest tube station, flapped his Oyster card at the gate, stormed down the stairs as the train came rattling to the platform, and leapt aboard as the beeping doors began to close. He counted off the first two of the four stops to his destination and was just allowing himself to imagine that all was running according to plan when he was informed at the third stop that the line was closed ahead for routine maintenance.
"All passengers must change," crackled a voice through tinny loudspeakers. "This train is terminated."
Joining the grumbling pack, Kit found his way once again to street level, where a special bus had been provided for tube users to continue their journey-but which was artfully hidden at the far side of King's Cross station. The fact that it was Sunday, and that Tottenham Hotspur was playing Arsenal, had completely slipped his mind until he glimpsed the waiting bus and the queue of Tottenham fans stretching halfway down Euston Road. Unwilling to wait, he quickly devised an alternative plan for meeting Wilhelmina: just nip across the road and take the Northern Line from King's Cross to Moorgate, then take the train to Liverpool Street, change to the Central Line, and get off at Bethnal Green; from there it would be a quick bus ride up to Grove Road. A brisk walk through Victoria Park would bring him to Wilhelmina's place on Rutland Road. Easy peasy, he thought as he dived back into the Underground.
Once again, Kit fished his Oyster card from his pocket and waved it at the turnstile. This time, instead of the green arrow, the light on the pad flashed red. Aware of the foot traffic already piling into him from behind, he tapped the card against the sensor again and was awarded with the dreaded "Seek Assistance" display. Terrific. He sighed inwardly and began backing through the queue to the scorn and muttered abuse of his fellow travellers, most of whom were dressed in football jerseys of one kind or another. "Sorry," he grumbled, fighting his way through the press. "Excuse me. Terribly sorry."
He dashed for the nearest ticket booth and, after negotiating an obstacle course of barriers and railings, arrived to discover there was no one around. He rapped on the window and when that failed ran on to the next window where, after a vigorous pounding, he managed to rouse the attendant. "My Oyster card doesn't work," Kit explained.
"It's probably out of money," replied the agent.
"But I just topped it up a couple days ago. Can't you check it?"
The agent took the card and looked at it. He swiped it through a terminal beside the window. "Sorry, mate." He pushed the card back through the slot. "The computer is down."
"Okay, never mind," Kit relented. He started digging in his pockets. "I'll put five pounds on it."
"You can do it online," the agent informed him.
"But I'm here now," Kit pointed out, "in person."
"It's cheaper online."
"That is as may be," Kit agreed. "But I have to travel now-today."
"You can pay at a machine."
"Right," said Kit. Down on the platform below, he could hear the train clattering in and he hurried to the nearest ticket machine-which, after repeated attempts, refused to accept his five-pound note, spitting out the limp bill each time. The next machine along was for credit cards only, and the last of three was out of service. Kit ran back to the booth. "The ticket machine won't take my money," he said, sliding the fiver through the gap in the window. "Can you give me coin? Or another bill?"
The attendant regarded the crumpled bill. "Sorry."
"But I can see the money there," Kit said, frustration mounting. He pointed through the window to a change machine cartridge stacked with rows of coins waiting to be dispensed. "Can't you just reach over and get some money?"
"We're not allowed to take money out of the machine."
"It's automatic, and the comp-"
"I know, I know," grumped Kit, "the computer's down."
"Try one of the other windows."
"But there's nobody at the other windows."
The attendant gazed at him pityingly. "It's Sunday."
"Reduced service on Sunday."
"No kidding!" cried Kit. "Why do you even bother coming to work?"
The attendant shrugged. Directing his gaze past Kit, he called, "Next!"-although there was no one in line.
Accepting temporary defeat, Kit made his way back up to the street. There were numerous shops where he might have changed a five-pound note-if not for the fact that it was Sunday and all were either observing weekend hours or closed for the day. "Typical," sniffed Kit, and decided that it would be easier, and no doubt faster, just to walk the three or so miles to Wilhelmina's. With this thought in mind, he sailed off, dodging traffic and Sunday-morning pedestrians in the sincere belief that he could still reach Mina's on time. He proceeded along Pentonville Road, mapping out a route in his head as he went. He had gone but a few hundred paces when he began to experience the sinking feeling that he had become completely disoriented and was going the wrong way-something that had happened to him before around the no-man's-land of King's Cross. Realizing that he had to head north and west, he turned left onto Grafton Street, tooled along avoiding a barrage of roadwork, and quickly reached the next street north-an odd little lane called Stane Way.
So far, so good, he thought as he charged down the narrow walkway-really, nothing more than an alley providing service access for the shops on the parallel streets. After walking for two minutes, he started looking for the crossing street at the end. Two more minutes passed ... He should have reached the end by now, shouldn't he?
Then it started to rain.
Kit picked up his speed as the rain poured into the alley from low, swirling clouds overhead. He hunched his shoulders, put his head down, and ran. A wind rose out of nowhere and whipped down the length of the blank brick canyon, driving the rain into his eyes.
Pulling his phone from his pocket, he flipped open the screen. No signal.
"Bloody useless," he muttered.
Drenched to the skin, water dripping from the ends of his hair and tip of his nose, he shoved the phone back into his pocket. Enough of this, he decided. Abort mission. He made a swift about-face and, shoes squelching with every step, headed back the way he had come. Good news: the wind ceased almost at once and the rain dwindled away; the storm diminished as quickly as it had arisen.
Dodging one oily puddle after another, he jogged along and had almost regained the alley entrance at Grafton Street when he heard someone calling him-at least, he thought that is what he had heard. But with the spatter of rain from the eaves of the buildings round about, he could not be sure.
He slowed momentarily, and a few steps later he heard the call again-unmistakable this time: "Hello!" came the cry. "Wait!"
Keep moving, said the voice inside his head. As a general rule it kept him from getting tangled in the craziness of London's vagrant community. He glanced over his shoulder to see a white-haired man stumbling toward him out of the damp urban canyon. Where had he come from? Most likely a drunk who had been sleeping it off in a doorway. Roused by the storm, he had seen Kit and recognized an easy mark. Such was life; he prepared to be accosted.
"Sorry, mate," Kit called back over his shoulder as he turned away. "I'm skint."
"No change. Sorry. Got to run."
That was all the vagrant said, but it welded Kit to the spot.
He turned and looked again at the beggar. Tall, and with a full head of thick silvery hair and a neatly trimmed goatee, he was dressed in charity-shop chic: simple white shirt, dark twill trousers, both sturdy, but well-worn. The fact that he stuffed the cuffs of his trousers into his high-top shoes and wore one of those old-timey greatcoats that had a little cape attached to the shoulders made him look like a character out of Sherlock Holmes.
"Look, do I know you?" asked Kit as the fellow hastened nearer.
"I should hope so, my boy," replied the stranger. "One would think a fellow would know his own great-grandfather."
Kit backed away a step.
"Sorry I'm late," continued the old man. "I had to make certain I wasn't followed. It took rather longer than I anticipated. I was beginning to fear I'd missed you altogether."
"So, here we are. All's well that ends well, what?"
"Listen, mate," protested Kit. "I think you've got the wrong guy."
"What a joy it is to meet you at long last, my son," replied the old gentleman, offering his hand. "Pure joy. But of course, we haven't properly met. May I introduce myself? I am Cosimo Livingstone." He made a very slight bow.
"Okay, so what's the joke?" demanded Kit.
"Oh, it is no joke," the old man assured him. "It's quite true."
"No-you're mistaken. I am Cosimo Livingstone," he insisted. "And anyway, how do you know my name?"
"Would you mind very much if we discussed this walking? We really should be moving along."
"This is nuts. I'm not going anywhere with you."
"Ah, well, I think you'll find that you don't have much choice."
"Listen, mate, I don't know how you got hold of my name, but you must have me mixed up with someone else," Kit said, hoping to sound far more composed than he actually felt at the moment. "I don't mean to be rude, but I don't know you and I'm not going anywhere with you."
"Fair enough," replied the stranger. "What would it take to change your mind?"
"Forget it," said Kit, turning away. "I'm out of here."
"What sort of proof would you like? Names, birth dates, family connections-that sort of thing?"
He started off. "I'm not listening."
"Your father is John. Your mother is Harriet. You were born in Weston-super-Mare, but your family soon moved to Manchester, where your father worked as a managerial something or other in the insurance trade and your mother was a school administrator. When you were twelve, your family upped sticks again and resettled in London...."
Kit halted. He stood in the middle of the alley, wrestling with the twin sensations of alarm and disbelief. He turned around slowly.
The old man stood smiling at him. "How am I doing so far?"
Even in the uncertain light of the alley, the family resemblance was unmistakable-the strong nose, the heavy jaw and broad brow, the hair that rippled like waves from the forehead, the broad lips and dark eyes, just like his father's and obnoxious Uncle Leonard's. It was all of a basic design that Kit had seen repeated with greater or lesser variation in family members his entire life.
"Since university-Manchester, Media Studies, whatever that is-you have been working here and there, doing nothing of any real value-"
"Who are you?" demanded Kit. "How do you know these things?"
"But I've already told you," chuckled the old gentleman. "I am your great-grandfather."
"Oh, yeah? Would this be the great-grandfather who went down to the shops for a loaf of bread one morning and never came back? The same who abandoned a wife and three kids in Marylebone in 1893?"
"Dear me, you know about that, do you? Well, lamentably, yes. But it wasn't a loaf of bread; it was milk and sausages." The old man's gaze grew keen. "Tell me, what did you go out for this morning?"
Kit's mouth went dry.
"Hmm?" replied the stranger. "What was it? Tin of beans? Daily paper? This is how it always happens, don't you see?"
"No ...," said Kit, feeling more unhinged by the second.
"It's a family proclivity, you might say. A talent." The older man took a step nearer. "Come with me."
"Why, in the name of everything that's holy, would I go anywhere with you?"
"Because, my dear boy, you are a lonely twenty-seven-year-old bachelor with a worthless education, a boring no-hope job, a stalled love life, and very few prospects for the improvement of your sad lot."
"How dare you! You don't know anything about me."
"But I know everything about you, old chap." The old man took another step closer. "I thought we had already established that."
"Yeah? What else?"
The elder gentleman sighed. "I know that you are an overworked drone in a soul-destroying cube farm where you have been passed over for promotion two times in the last nine months. The last time you don't know about because they didn't even bother telling you."
"I don't believe this."
"You spend too much time alone, too much time watching television, and too little time cultivating the inner man. You live in a squalid little flat in what is referred to as a no-go zone from which your friends, of whom you see less and less, have all fled for the suburbs long ago with wives and sprogs in tow. You are exceedingly unlucky in love, having invested years in a romantic relationship which, as you know only too well, is neither romantic nor much of a relationship. In short, you have all the social prospects of a garden gnome."
Kit had to admit that except for the low crack about his love life, the old geezer was remarkably close to the mark.
"Is that enough?"
"Who are you?"
"I'm the man who has come to rescue you from a life of quiet desperation and regret." He smiled again. "Come, my boy. Let's sit down over a cup of coffee and discuss the matter like gentlemen. I've gone to a very great deal of trouble to find you. At the very least, you could spare me a few minutes out of your busy life."
"Cup of coffee-thirty minutes. What could it hurt?"
Trepidation and curiosity wrestled one another for a moment. Curiosity won. "Okay," he relented. "Twenty minutes."
The two started walking toward the street. "I've got to call my girlfriend and tell her I'll be a little late," Kit said, pulling out his phone. He flipped it open and pressed the speed-dial key for Mina's number. When nothing happened, he glanced at the screen to see the "Network Not Connected" message blinking at him. He waved the phone in the air, then looked again. Still no tiny bars indicating a signal.
"Not working?" asked the older man, watching him with a bemused expression.
"Must be the buildings," mumbled Kit, indicating the close brick walls on either hand. "Blocking the signal."
They continued on, and upon approaching the end of the alley, Kit thought he heard a sound at once so familiar, and yet so strange, it took him a full two seconds to place it. Children laughing? No, not children. Seagulls.
He had little time to wonder about this, for at that moment they stepped from the dim alleyway and into the most dazzling and unusual landscape Kit had ever seen.
Excerpted from THE SKIN MAP by STEPHEN R. LAWHEAD Copyright © 2010 by Stephen Lawhead. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved reading this book. It was something new. very fast paced.
Contrary to my expectations I found 'The Skin Map' by Stephen Lawhead quite entertaining. It revolves round Kit Livingstone and his adventures in search for a map tattooed to the skin - hence the title skin map. This is no ordinary map as it reveals a portal between worlds. The supernatural element in the plot has been superbly woven and once you can understand the concept of the plot, the storyline falls in place. One of the major drawbacks of this genre of fiction is that usually they tend to become boring but Steven Lawhead seems to have done his research well and hence his work is quite interesting. The book is advised to be read at one go or else you might lose track of the plot. Over and above it is a nice work and once you get the hang of the plot it becomes quite unputdownable.
In the very few first pages of this book, I didn't really know what to expect (and wasn't really sure if I really liked it). But boy would that soon change! This is an AMAZING book and Stephen Lawhead is truly a gifted author. From his detailed descriptions to his character development to his humor, he writes a perfect mix for a GREAT book! Heading over to purchase the second book in the series "The Bone House" right now. If you enjoy fantasy/time travel type books, you will love this one.
C. Christopher "Kit" Livingstone is an average 20-something male. He is employed and has a girlfriend, and he isn't happy with either one. Kit's life changes when he meets his great-grandfather and is taught about ley lines that provide for inter-dimensional time travel -- different times and alternate universes. Unfortunately he tries to impress his girlfriend, Wilhelmina "Mina" Klug with ley line travel. Mina gets taken to early 17th century Prague whereas Kit is taken to 17th century England. What follows is a wild adventure of discovery and intrigue. Mina finds her place by becoming a successful merchant as co-owner of a bakery and coffeehouse and even earns a royal warrant. Kit is still floundering while trying to understand the importance of ley lines, the "skin map" that depicts and decodes these ley lines, and his role in decoding the information. This story is told from multiple points of views, namely Kit, Mina, Lord Burleigh and Arthur Flinders-Petrie. The reader travels to Macau, ancient Egypt during the times of the pharaohs, early 20th century Egypt and the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb by Henry Carter and Lord Carnarvon, and alternate 17th century European civilizations. The mystery lies in the ultimate purpose of the ley lines and the search for the Well of Souls, something that only Mr. Flinders-Petrie apparently knew and had coded into symbols tattooed onto his body. There are hints given to myths and mysteries but nothing is ever spelled out. Although Kit's role seems to be pivotal to this story I found all of the other characters much more interesting. Mina is determined to make the best of a bad situation and quickly adapts to living in the 16th century. Mr. Flinders-Petrie is the key and we're allowed a glimpse of his life and travels in Macau and ancient Egypt. I enjoyed reading about the various adventures each person has and even learning about the theories behind the ley lines and their importance in the hypothetical omniverse. The Skin Map is well-written but it moved a little too slow for my tastes, not to mention leaving too many questions to be answered in, presumably, the remaining books. I enjoyed this book but I doubt if I'll be reading any more in this series, it simply wasn't that captivating.
Time travel, traveling between dimensions has always intrigued me. This is a well put together story. My only criticism of it is that the author is British and he writes like Brits speak, especially in the time periods. I've never cared much for British authors for that reason. On the other hand, I enjoyed the story enough that I bought the 2nd book in the series.
Stephen Lawhead is one of my favorite authors and I always look forward to any of his new writings. THE SKIN MAP started off a bit slowly, but the story line is a unique concept and it takes a while to develop the format. Don't rush it. That will spoil the fun. Once into it, though, I was hooked. I certainly look forward to reading the following books in the Bright Empires series.
I only started reading this because it was suggested after reading the Hunger Games... and I loved it! Possibly more than the Hunger Games. Yes it is choppy between chapters and sometimes you have to re-read a page to figure out who and when you are reading, but after a little while you find the rhythm and it no longer feels awkward. I love the story, I love the characters, and I cannot wait for the final book!
When I first read the preview of this book I was interested in reading it, it appealed to me. The one thing I didn’t know was how much I would really enjoy the story. This is one of those books that makes you want to get out of your house and try to explore and experiment if it is really just a story or something more. One of my favourite and more desired “wish-it’d-come-true” aspects since a very long time ago, the time/place travel related in this book makes you feel like a child again, with all the dreams and hopes. I think the story was very well written, with a healthy balance of slow and fast reading moments. I loved the multiple languages and cultures that appeared in the book. There is no real climax in this book, except in the end, which makes you hate (in that hate that shares the same line with love) the book’s ending. Why do you hate this? Because you know you won’t stop thinking about it until you have the next book. Completely in on the Steampunk theme, I will almost certainly reread the book, I will definitely read the sequel and my friends will hear me talk about this book until they’re sick and tired of me. I give it 5 stars.
The idea of time travel has always excited me. Imagine having the ability to go back in time and change a few minor details to make your present somehow livable... It's the stuff fantasies are made of, I know. But there is indeed truth to the saying, 'Reality is stranger than fiction', right? So, we never really know... However, this kind of life-altering adventure doesn't come without a hitch. Stephen R. Lawhead's book, The Skin Map, shows just how time travel can be used for both good and corrupted intentions. From the moment Cosimo Livingstone, his long-estranged great-grandfather appeared in some random alley overridden with ley lines, Kit knew his life would never be the same. He was a non-believer at first, but how much could he really deny after getting transported back in time himself? It became easy enough to believe everything from that point, especially since believing and moving forward was all he had if he ever hoped to find his girlfriend, whom he lost in the middle of a ley line leap. He just wasn't banking on how grave and perilous time traveling could be especially with a group of burley thugs constantly at their heels, tirelessly bullying them to produce a curious thing they called, the skin map. This novel follows the lives of the men and women, good and bad, willingly and not-so-willingly involved in the whole business of the skin map, a whole spread of torso skin that supposedly belonged to one Arthur Flinders-Petrie and that which contained the secrets to ley line travel. I am relatively new to the idea of ley lines. I may have read about them somewhere in the past, but nothing about them having the ability to open portals through time and space. And while it made a good enough concept to get this book started, the fact that it could open avenues to many different plains of reality through various fabrics of time became a little confusing to me in the long run-too many people, too many events, too little brain cells to efficiently keep up with everything. Add to this the fact that nothing was really concluded right down to the very last page. If anything, it just made the story more of a 'woah-what-just-happened' conundrum instead of the 'oh-so-that's-what-happened' resolution. It did have some interesting characters, though. And did good, too, in building up my interest to read the second book, if only to find out how all the loose ends the first book left will get entangled and knotted up right eventually. Not exactly a page-turner, but an entertaining read nevertheless. Just don't expect for any of the mysteries it introduces to be resolved in any way. Apparently, there are two other books to look forward to for that. ^-^
This time-traveling fantasy adventure from Stephen R. Lawhead is an average addition to this literary genre. The idea of a map of overlapping worlds being tattooed upon a man's skin is an uncomfortable central plot point and it is hard to overcome the slow plot and rather two-dimensional characters. Lawhead's writings over the past few years have not shown the brilliance of his Song of Albion Trilogy and the Pendragon Cycle.
Stephen Lawhead¿s new book Skin Map, the first in an upcoming series called Bright Empires, is a bit of a deviation from his usual style of fiction. I think it¿s important to up front, not compare it to his other works and normal literary style, in order to not get disappointed. This is a light, fun, sci-fi adventure story, not a lot of deep substance or description. Once in that frame of mind, readers will enjoy the concept of what Lawhead is trying to create. The book is also definitely an intro book, a sort of outline of the lead characters and their background history. You will learn who they are, what their part in the scheme will be, and where they are located in time and place along the ley line journeys. Do not expect a wrapped up story, this first installment really does leave you hanging, and literally is just the tip of the iceberg with the basic players and a core plot set-up that will evolve with more significance in the coming installments.At first I was disappointed in the simple writing and at times unsophisticated dialog, and because some characters appeared to be locked into one place not moving. But as I got further into the book I realized what the author was attempting, and with that knew I had to be patient for him to invent a starting point that would obviously be followed up with more in-depth scenarios later in the future books. The plot of the Skin Map revolves around Kit Livingstone who is one day out racing to the London train station to meet his girlfriend Mina. Along the way he is stopped by an old man who calls Kit by his real name, Cosimo. Stunned and stopping to a halt, he finds a ragged old man who claims to be his great grandfather, and is fed a ridiculous story of how a person can travel through time and space and into otherworld dimensions. Kit refuses to believe this nonsense as the old man tugs him along a dark alley, when a sudden and violent wind storm surrounds them. Within seconds, Kit finds himself thrown to the ground, in 16th century England. His great grandfather, also named Cosimo, then introduces the world of ley line travel to Kit, leaving Kit rather in denial, yet fascinated. Still unwilling to participate in this hoax, he returns to modern day London, arrives at Mina¿s apartment 8 hours later, and decides to prove to her what just happened to him in order for her to not be angry he was late for their date. As he pulls her down that same mysterious dark alley, the storm comes once again, and although they were holding hands, she ends up in 17th century Prague, and Kit ends up back in old London, frantic that he has apparently lost his girl! Lawhead slowly introduces various characters, letting us know who the good guys and the bad guys are. He begins to weave stories within stories in each place in time that will all come together in future volumes. When you are reading the book you soon realize that all is not going to connect in this first book, and one must be patient. I totally enjoyed the ley line theory, and after getting half way through, started to chose characters I liked and the mini stories within that they got involved in. Visiting 17th Century Prague (Austria then), 16th century London, and both ancient and Victorian Egypt was fun to armchair travel to! At times I did feel this was printed television, and that it did read like a screenplay for a new sci-fi channel T.V. series because of the Quantum Leap/Stargate feel to it. But I found by the end of the book, that it was O.K., and I liked what Lawhead did. I have to say I did enjoy it and am eagerly awaiting book two to see what creative innovation the author will use to entertain me and execute this cool concept of time travel using ley lines, all to find a map made of skin! This was interesting, fun, and different for a Lawhead novel, but it shows promise!
The story opens on Kit, a 27 year-old professional headed to his girlfriend's place on a pleasant Sunday outing. (Now, I didn't think anything could dampen my enthusiasm for visiting London one day, but Kit's misadventure through England's most notoriously convoluted transit system came uncomfortably close.) Happily, though, the Tube is soon exchanged for ley travel--much bigger and more adventurous, certainly more dangerous, and arguably easier to navigate! Throw in a hot commodity, a nefarious creep with his mob of iniquitous brutes, a handful of innocent mistakes, and the reader is swept into a lighthearted odyssey in pursuit of the skin map before it falls into the grasp of said creep.This novel is a pleasure to read, partly due to Lawhead's imaginative storytelling, and partly to his choice of interesting cultural settings. Here in Canada, our entertainment is usually presented through an American lens; so reading The Skin Map from the lead characters' British perspective was a refreshing change. Discovering colourful British slang was also part of the fun. In chapter one, for example, I spiced up my vocabulary with "skint" (having no money), "up sticks" (to relocate), "sprogs" (children) and "old-timey" (old-fashioned).The characters are entertaining, quirky and enjoyable to watch along their journey. If I have one complaint, it would be minimal character development. The leads, namely our amateur ley travelers, don't exhibit any compelling inward struggle given the mind-bending nature of the experience--especially without a map to point the way home. Kit only begins to rise from the page in three dimensions near the story's end. The villain, meanwhile, is also not a dynamic force, as he doesn't appear to have a motive besides pure, self-serving evil.I rate the book as 3 out of 5 stars for two reasons: 1) minimal character development, and 2) the story doesn't give me the feeling of an epic, when compared to some of Stephen Lawhead's other books. Still, I recommend "The Skin Map" to Lawhead fans and anyone else who'd enjoy an easy-to-read adventure through space and time. I look forward to the next Bright Empires novel.A complimentary copy of "The Skin Map" was provided to me by Booksneeze as part of the blogger review program.
Kit Livingstone finds himself involved in a search in which he and his friends and enemies will travel through time and space and parallel worlds to discover their own immortality and the worth of their own soul. I would recommend this series to anyone that loves to imagine and contemplate their worth and their place in the world.
Time travel and high adventure abound in this brand new title from veteran author Stephen R. Lawhead. Lawhead published his first novel in 1981 and has written over 20 novels.The main character Kit Livingstone's great-grandfather appears to him out of the blue with a story of passage to other worlds all held together by an important map. There are other people after the map and the tension mounts in a race for power and control over the map. *Minor spoiler ahead* Kit's girlfriend plays a significant part in the story as she spends a good amount of time starting a new life in a different world and a different time.The Skin Map is a well-paced novel with excellent dialogue, amazing scenery, and an ending that I didn't see coming. I would recommend this title to any fans of historical adventure.There are more books to come in this series and I enjoyed it enough that I will pick up the next novel as soon as it is released (The Bone House - September 2011).4/5 Stars*I received this book as a review copy from Thomas Nelson*
I borrowed this book thinking it was something else. But, after a few chapters I realized that it wasn't the book I intended, but it fit my interests. It started out well, kept my attention, but then it became the first book in a series, with a plot that is all set up and no resoluttion. The writing is competent, the story interesting. I especially liked the character of Wilhelmina and her coffee shop. The story is a bit derivative, there are a number of books with a similar plot.
Stephen Lawhead is an author whose name I was familiar with, but hadn't yet sampled. When I received an offer to listen to his book The Skin Map (A Bright Empires novel) it was the tag line that convinced me to say yes."It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intersecting realities. To unravel the future of the future."Kit Livingstone is on his way to visit his girlfriend Wilhemina. Somewhere along the way, he takes a shortcut through an unfamiliar alley in London, England and ends up.... Well, he's not quite sure where he ends up. But the man who greets him by name says he is his great grandfather Cosimo and he's been hoping Kit would show up. Cosimo spins a fantastic tale of ley lines, time travel and alternate worlds. Kit listens, but decides to head back to his own time. He finally gets to Wilhemina's apartment. She's quite angry at Kit for turning up almost 8 hours late and doesn't believe his reason, so Kit decides to show her instead. He find the alley again and makes the leap into the other world. But....Wilhemina loses her grip on Kit and doesn't make the jump. She is lost...somewhere. Kit rejoins Cosimo and his peers. They are seeking to keep The Skin Map - a tattooed version of the ley lines and their entry points safe. Kit just wants to find Mina.I thought this was a great premise. Although I don't read a lot of sci-fi, the concept of ley lines is indeed fact based and the cause of much speculation in history. The reader, Simon Bubb, was fantastic. He conveyed many different characters, conjuring up separate personalities with his voice. His reading style is even and measured. Bubb is British, but I had no problem understanding his accent. A five for the reader.Although Kit is the main character, I found myself more drawn to Mina. She lands in 17th century Prague. She seems to assimilate much easier than Kit and embraces her new life. I found myself really looking forward to 'her' chapters.Kit seems more unsure of himself and content to follow.I found the book very slow in the beginning. While I appreciated the historic detail Lawhead has infused his story with, it dragged for me after awhile. While I didn't fast forward, I would have been flipping forward if I had a book in hand. Again, the concept is great and I was looking forward to what would be found in these alternate universes. I kept waiting for things to happen - some action. I did get my wish close to the end of the book, but it wasn't a satisfying finish for me. I had the feeling that this first book was simply setting things up for future books in this planned five book series. So, for me a solid listen. I'm curious as to what Lawhead has planned - the second book, The Bone House was released in September 2011, but it's not at the top of my must have list.
Kit starts to develop some character as the misadventures continue. I liked Arthur and his Chinese wife a lot. Burleigh is a good villain to hate. Lots of mystery in this book. Look forward to the next one.
Great writing with a unique concept. The ending was thrown together as though the author had gotten tired of being creative and just wanted to wrap up the book.