Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Skin Map-Stephen Lawhead

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 see 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 plot, in essence, was interesting.  Who doesn’t enjoy a strange twist of suspense, mystery, science fiction and fantasy?  I certainly do.  It wasn’t the plot that bugged me as much as it was how it was carried out.  The plot got quite confusing at points and to put it bluntly, dry.  I think the synopsis and hype of the book made it out to be more then it was.  The plot didn’t really start up, or actually get somewhere until page 150, and even then, not much.  A good fifth of the book must have been spent on the development of a coffee-shop, granted, in Old Prague.  But still, a coffee-shop.  At other points it felt as if the author was confused himself.  He sets us up for a third of the book saying it’s all about the Skin Map but then twists it saying the old “It’s much bigger then you know” but then turned it back to the Skin Map again.  Quite annoying if you ask me.

Characters:  The characters were believable and relatable.  One part of the book where I thought the author did quite well at.  He gave a perfect amount of time before switching point of views, giving me enough pages to connect to Kit in a personal way.  Cosimo and other characters came with time, but all fictional characters do.  One I liked especially was Etzel Englebert a little German fellow from Old Prague.  A baker, no less.  His light-hearted nature and good spirits are contagious.

Writing Quality:  This is where the book falls apart.  Stephen Lawhead has all the mechanics of writing down-but he’s missing the key part of novels, at least in this instance.  And that key is keeping things interesting.  The plot was grabbing but the writing felt long and tedious.  It took more then a little effort to read some parts.

Conclusion:  The book’s plot was great.  Characters?  Awesome.  But because of that one key element that was missing, the book just was lost on me.  I don’t think I’ll be picking it up to read it again.  It also didn’t contain any good Christian elements.  It wasn't a terrible secular book, though.  It was clean of anything bad (except for possibly a few cuss words in England) but it was also clean of anything about Christ and such.  From what I’ve read about the novel I don’t think it will get much better in this aspect, either.  But I do have hopes in many areas.  I will continue reading it when the next novel comes out.
My Rating: 3 Pens
Genre: Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
First in five part series
Where to buy: Amazon, Christianbook, Borders
Page number: 203.