“The ultimate treasure hunt in a playing field of alternate realities.”
The Skin Map is the beginning of a new five-book series by master storyteller Stephen Lawhead. In the speculative novel realm, it most closely aligns with time travel combined with fantasy.
Kit Livingston lives a rather mundane life in London. He has a girlfriend, Wilhelmina, whom he’s keeping around for now because it takes too much effort to find a girl he likes better. One day he’s taking a shortcut through an unfamiliar alley and meets a man who claims to be his great-grandfather. If this were true, the old man would be 124…and long dead. Yet the things Cosimo knows convince Kit that it’s true, especially when he shows Kit what is really at the end of the alley: a ley line leading to a variety of different alternate realities, like a corridor might have doors to different rooms leading off of it.
Kit gets home, deciding he wants nothing to do with his kooky ancestor, but he has to convince Wilhelmina he was late for their date for a real reason, so he takes her to the alley. When he arrives in the other dimension, he finds she has not arrived with him, so he and Cosimo, along with a friend, set out to find Wilhelmina while dodging the bad guys who want Cosimo’s piece of the skin map.
The skin map? It’s a series of equations that the original time traveler, Arthur Flinders-Petrie, had tattooed on his torso, which will unveil the secrets of the multiverse. Upon this man’s death, his skin had been divided into five parts to make it harder for the map to fall into the wrong hands. Now everyone is searching for all the parts they don’t have.
Lawhead’s imagination shines in full force in this novel, but the construction of the story itself leaves something to be desired. Wilhelmina is one of the point-of-view characters, and her unauthorized jump lands her near 1600s Prague, where she teams up with a really nice man to open a bakery, which she conveniently knows all about from London. There is little to no conflict in Wilhelmina’s scenes, compared to Kit and Cosimo who are dodging the bad guys with every breath they take. This makes the ending come out of nowhere and feel quite unsatisfactory.
Still, there is a lot of adventure taking place in ancient Egypt, Victorian England, China, Prague, and a few other places in a variety of time periods. These characters do get around!
Stephen Lawhead is an internationally acclaimed author of mythic history and imaginative fiction. In addition to his twenty-four novels, he has written nine children’s books. Many of his titles been published in foreign languages. He has won numerous industry awards, and in 2003 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by the University of Nebraska. Lawhead makes his home in Oxford, England.
This novel was provided to me free of charge by the publisher, but, as always, the opinions are mine alone. While I will likely read more of this series, I won’t go out of my way to find it.
Perhaps the opinions of my fellow tourists are different. Check them out!
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Katie Hart says
I actually liked Wilhelmina’s parts best, probably because I connected with her as a character while I never really warmed up to Kit. I was cheering on her successes in Prague while I felt like Kit was floundering far too much. So I felt the ending was very fitting. I’m hoping Kit will rise to the occasion in book two.
I liked Wilhelmina’s scenes at first, too, until I realized that her life was too darn comfy! Yes, it was an absolute counterpoint to what Kit was going through, but to me, it felt too opposite. And honestly, the ending did come from nowhere. It made absolutely no sense to me that she could have lucked into this situation with NO CONFLICT just in time to save the day. Seriously???!!!
Rebecca LuElla Miller says
I’ve noticed a number of people saying Wilhelmina was their favorite character. I wonder if that isn’t in part to how unlikeable Kit was at first. I wonder if readers had some sympathy for poor, under-wanted Mina. Just a theory.
Could be. She sure landed on her feet!