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.