It’s been a couple months since I reviewed a book with the CSFF Blog Tour. This month I’m back and with the next book in Stephen Lawhead’s The Bright Empire series. Exactly a year ago I review The Skin Map, the first book in this series. Today I will be taking a look at The Bone House, the second book.
A quick recap: in this series, Stephen Lawhead explores the idea of ley travel. Here is what I wrote last year: Ley Lines: unexplainable forces of energy around our world that allow a person to jump through time and dimensions. Kit Livingstone possesses the gift to make these jumps. But jumping can be dangerous. You never know if you’ll end up in a tiger filled jungle or on the battlefield. You need a map to help you know where to go.
Such a map exists, tattooed onto the body of a man who has mapped out these times and dimensions. This map is priceless and sought by everyone who knows of its existence. Some of those searching for it are willing to do anything to obtain it, even murder.
Stephen Lawhead goes another step and throws in a couple dimensions in The Bone House. He explores the idea of multiverses (worlds like ours, but different, depending on history and choices made). So the characters are not only jumping to different time periods, they are jumping to different worlds.
I found The Bone House a bit complicated to read because the very nature of the story requires the reader to keep track of different time periods and different worlds. However, Stephen did a good job navigating and most of the time I did not feel lost.
He also did an excellent job with description. He carefully painted each time period and world change, giving description to the food, clothing, and general feel to where the character was at that moment.
However, there were two things I did not like about The Bone House. One: all the characters. Actually, I did like the characters; each one was unique and interesting. But I was never with one person long enough to actually start caring about him/her. And if I don’t connect with a character, then I don’t feel submerged in the story.
Secondly: God was hardly there. Now I’m not saying The Bone House needed to be preachy or overtly about God. After all, the book of Esther in the Bible never mentions God. But you know by the context of the story that He is an integral part of it. I saw none of that with The Bone House. It was no different than any other speculative books I see on the bookshelf. It had a great premise and good writing. But what I wanted to see is where is God’s sovereignty in ley lines and multiverses?
When I began reading The Bone House, I thought something like that would be tackled. Or addressed. Or even debated. Instead, I read about a lot of characters on lots of adventures. But hardly any mention of God. And I was disappointed.
In fact, there were things that made me pause: a detailed account of an entrail reading and a world of cavemen. Now as a writer, I know Stephen was writing from the viewpoint of those time periods and customs and religions. But why were these emphasized and hardly anything written about God? Why not at least have one character bring up the question about God and ley lines and multiverses?
It’s a fascinating question and one I’ve thought about myself. After all, God is not only the God of our time, but He even knows what could have been. As I thought about that while reading The Bone House, I found myself even more in awe about how much more God knows and understands than I do. So to read a Christian speculative book without even asking where God is in all of this was disappointing.
Perhaps God will show up in the third book. I have a year to wait.
Do I recommend The Bone House? Good writing, good plot, interesting characters. However, as a book toted as Christian speculative fiction, I think it missed out on exploring some great questions. But don’t take my word for it, go read it yourself :). And check out what these other CSFF Bloggers had to say!
*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.