In Which The Reviewer Tries To Judge Fairly Without Being A Raving Fanboy…
I think Stephen Lawhead
is our most toured author at this point in the CSFF Tour. I was a big fan of his prior to being involved with the CSFF, so I am quite familiar with his writing. Still, as we feature the second book in his Bright Empires series, The Bone House
, I have to admire how he continues to grow as an author.
I’ve led each post of this tour off with the phrase “In Which…“, a literary device he uses for each of his chapters. It gives a little tease into what will happen in the chapter, and gives a touch of whimsy at times. A small detail, but it marks this series and helps make it more memorable than the standard chapter titles.
He is writing this series channeling 19th century writing style, like some of the books we’re required to read in high school English. He doesn’t write directly, with prose that hits its point and moves on. He describes things with a leisurely style and it comes across to this American brain as very British (I would be interested in any Brit opinion here.) It gives a different flow, and just the style of writing adds to the creation of the setting.
Lawhead is well-traveled, and it shows in his great description of the locations and settings of the book. From an Etruscan tomb to the Egyptian desert and even a Stone Age camp, the reader always experiences the places in the book almost as a character in the book does.
The concept of traveling through multiple dimensions via ley leaping is very intriguing, and it offers a lot for a novelist to play with in terms of a “sandbox.” Lawhead keeps us jumping around with the various characters, and gives some philosophy to think about while we’re being entertained. Becky Miller talks about
how he puts Christian ideas into the story very naturally. I think Lawhead is one of the best authors out there in doing this, so much so that it feels in a different league than most of what I read for Christian fiction blog tours. The book doesn’t feel “Christian”, but it definitely comes through.
Still, I have to admit that The Bone House doesn’t work as well for me as The Skin Map. This isn’t saying it is bad, because it is an enjoyable read. It is still intriguing, but there’s something that it is missing – a solid meal without the secret sauce? Actually, I can identify the aspects that detracted for me.
1. Plot twists – Done right, plot twists keep the reader turning pages. In the second book, Lawhead doubles back and covers some past ground, filling in the history for certain characters. The series is already challenging with the time/dimensional jumps. When he discusses a character who died at the end of book one as living in book two, it threw me. He ties it up in the end, but it still confused me. There’s other examples of this, enough to be distracting.
2. Heroic heroes – Kit Livingstone is the main protagonist of the book, although others help carry the story. Still, he is the main one, and is just isn’t very…heroic. He is pretty passive, going with the flow of what happens, and is a bit of a dunce. He’s lucky to be alive, and as such, he isn’t impressive in The Bone House. I saw growth in him in the first book that seemed to evaporate in the second.
Overall, these complaints shouldn’t detract from the thought-provoking work Lawhead is doing. He’s one of the best writers in the CBA, and he should get attention for the Bright Empires series in the wider market as well. The Bone House came across to me as a satisfying sequel that got to third base, but didn’t knock it out of the park. A triple is still good, right? I’ll be looking forward to the next book, The Spirit Well, next year to see where/when this goes!
I’m sure there are different opinions from my CSFF tribe. Our intrepid leader Becky Miller keeps track of all of the posts, so go check them out. That’s where I’m going. And maybe we’ll cross paths on a ley leap sometime/someplace.
Legal mumbo-jumbo: This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits. (comment boldly borrowed from Fred Warren, cause he wrote it so well)