07 June, 2011

Review - The Skin Map (Bright Empires 1) by Stephen R. Lawhead

Kit is your average Londoner dealing with an average Londoner's complications, more specifically, the metro system. One problem leads to the next and on his way to his girlfriend's, he finds himself in a dark alley, Stane Way, but this dark alley's not as mysterious or treacherous as you may think, Kit ends up finding his great-grandfather for the first time...who's not looking as old as he probably should be.

Thus begins the adventure for the Skin Map, which contains directions through the ley lines that can transport a person from one location to another and even through different times.

There are two main storylines that we follow, at least at first. One takes us with Kit and his adventures with his great-grandfather and the other follows Kit's girlfriend Wilhelmina, who uses her 21st century know-how to influence her new situation as she finds herself by the side of the road in 17th century Bohemia.

While I enjoyed The Skin Map [US] [UK], it's not without it's faults. I guess this is where I should explain my rating system a bit because it really applies with this book. I'd say a perfectly executed and well-written book will get a 3 out of 5 stars. There's really nothing wrong with a 3 star book. More than that, it's got to do things that impress me, such as great characterization, a unique plot or magic system, etc.

The Skin Map is a great example of the perfect 3 star book. It's well done, I can't really say there's anything wrong with it. But then again, that's kind of the problem. The Skin Map is very formulaic. Everything's in it's spot, nice and tidy and there's not much in terms of surprises.

This aspect also hinders the sense of danger that's hinted at when the antagonists enter the picture. I can't say I was ever really worried when they were around even though I was told they were bad news.

The Skin Map is also not a gritty book, full of blood and violence. I like this every now and then - I've grown a bit wary of the trend where everyone is a terrible person who's only looking out for their own interests. This was a nice change.

Why Read The Skin Map?

Overall, I had a fun time reading The Skin Map. It's a light, straight-forward, romp through the 17th century and other parts of history. The sense of place is great, but don't expect many surprises. If you want well-crafted, this is it.

3 out of 5 Stars (Liked it)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher


redhead said...

I've read so much good stuff by Lawhead that it's too bad this book is getting such so-so reviews (here and at a lot of other sites). I guess I'll catch up with his Robin Hood series and the Merlin series, and then maybe, if I've got nothing else to read, give this one a try.

do you think Skin Map might read better when taken with future books in the series?

Bryce L. said...

Possibly, but I don't think so. It's relatively stand alone. I think I'll read the next installment and I still want to read his Robin Hood and Merlin series. I'm mostly just curious as to whether he's this formulaic (in a bad sense) with anything else he writes.

Kat Hooper said...

I agree, Redhead. Some of Lawhead's other stuff is really great, so I'm sorry to read the unenthusiastic reviews for this one.

The Robin Hood series is terrific. I also enjoyed The Song of Albion.