I have immensely enjoyed listening to Stephen Lawhead’s newest book, The Skin Map, in audio format, which is presently my preferred method of digesting books.
The Skin Map is the first in a series of five - Bright Empires. The premise of the story is something like time travel, but more sophisticated. Obviously, it is fantasy, and yet it seems perfectly logical as you become caught up in the story.
The main character, Kit, is a young man from London, who, while hurrying about the city, takes a shortcut that begins the adventure. Amidst a sudden, raging storm, he becomes disoriented. When the storm subsides, he is in an altogether different place (and time). As it happens, his great grandfather is there and begins Kit’s education about ley lines, the “portals” to alternate universes. Apparently, Kit has a talent for "traveling" that seems to be genetic.
There are at least four story lines interwoven into the story. My favorite is about Kit’s girlfriend, who accidentally ends up in 17th century Austria. As the story begins, their relationship has simply become a habit, with neither of them very happy in it. Kit is trying to prove to her that he is not lying about his time travel by taking her along when they become separated, each “landing” in a different time and place. As things turn out, she loves her new place in the world where she feels her life has purpose.
The book is named for the map that is the object of everyone’s quest. The map was originally the work of a tattoo artist, and the owner of the tattoos had his skin preserved (really!) so that future adventurers would have reference points for their travels.
Places of interest and intrigue in The Skin Map include England, Austria, Egypt, and China with glimpses into the history of the people and culture of those lands, making it a little bit like a historical novel.
Mr. Lawhead says that the idea for his Bright Empires series has been rolling around in his head for fifteen years, and I, for one, am glad that he has finally taken the plunge, and will eagerly await subsequent books.
Stephen Lawhead has written many novels and series, and is one of my favorite authors. To learn more about him, check out his website: http://www.stephenlawhead.com/
The audio version of The Skin Map is narrated by Simon Bubb.