Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE SKIN MAP by Stephen R. Lawhead

Stephen R. Lawhead embarks on a new and entertaining old school fantasy trilogy with some interesting new twists that include string theory and multiple earths. I enjoy the quest aspects of The Skin Map, his first book in his Bright Empires trilogy, the large casts of characters all set out to chart their own courses, the unrelenting eye to detail, and the hybridization of scientific thought. Of course, Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory would poke holes in things, but for me it’s a wonderful concoction.

The Skin Map’s title drew me to the book. I kept flashing back to the old Geena Davis movie, Cutthroat Island, where the treasure map was tattooed on the guy’s head. Well, the map in this case isn’t far removed from that, but I’ll leave that surprise up to you to discover as you turn the pages.

I will say that Lawhead’s book is immediately immersive and leaves you wanting more. I’ve already bought the second book – The Bone House – and queued it up in my ereader, though I’ll have to wait for the third book because it hasn’t been published yet.

I didn’t immediately warm up to the main character, Kit Livingston, but I’m convinced that was by design. Kit is one of those characters that’s going to come of age in this trilogy, and it’s going to be a journey that sucks the reader into it.

The story is broken down like an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, presenting multiple characters on multiple voyages that touch in places over and over again. The tale is a well structured puzzle, and more than once I couldn’t help but thinking, I should have seen this coming. The whole is much more than the sum of the pieces, and I’m really excited about seeing where it all goes.

I loved Cosimo, Kit’s great-grandfather, almost from the start. As I said, Kit took some time. Kit’s girlfriend Wilhelmina took even longer to warm up to, but her story is – weirdly enough – the one that I grew more and more excited about first. Watching her struggle in the past, a true fish out of water, was awesome. I couldn’t believe Lawhead had me hanging on what she was going to survive in business and in her life, but I think that particular plotline touches elegantly on what’s going on in the real world where so many people have had everything they’ve known yanked out from under them.

This is a big book, and I have to admit that I approached it with some trepidation because my time can get severely limited. And a good book can leach away a good night’s sleep or a chance to do something from the to-do list. However, the overall feeling I got from the read was a fired-up, can-do attitude because I felt I’d shared the road with great friends on a great road trip. This is good fantasy.

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