Publisher's Note:  

Kit Livingston's great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm. He reveals an unbelievable story: that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds. To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily inhabit only a tiny part.

One explorer knew more than most. Braving every danger, he toured both time and space on voyages of heroic discovery. Ever on his guard, and fearful of becoming lost in the cosmos, he developed an intricate code--a roadmap of symbols--that he tattooed onto his own body. This Skin Map has since been lost in time. Now the race is on to recover all the pieces and discover its secrets.

But the Skin Map itself is not the ultimate goal. It is merely the beginning of a vast and marvelous quest for a prize beyond imagining.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Thomas Nelson

The Skin Map

by Stephen Lawhead

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Overall Review:  

What if ley lines—mysterious lines of electromagnetic energy along which ancient Britons built their monuments—were more than just a scientific puzzle?  What if, in fact, British ley lines held the secret to instantaneous travel through space and time?  Such is the premise of The Skin Map, Stephen Lawhead's rollicking adventure story and the first of his "Bright Empires" series.  Kit Livingstone's very normal (even mundane!) British life is shaken up when he receives a visit from his long-dead great-grandfather, Cosimo, in a stormy alley one day.  Cosimo informs Kit that Kit has a special ability—an innate knack for ley-line travel. Before he can do much protesting, Kit is swept up in a throughly confusing, thoroughly compelling adventure through time and space.  

Although The Skin Map is technically science fiction, I came away from it feeling like it was "science fiction for people who don't read science fiction."  Rather than being bogged down with aliens, other worlds, and technical explanations, The Skin Map reads like a perfectly-paced adventure story that just happens to take place in several different centuries.  Beneath the adventure story, however, are some fascinating and fairly deep philosophical and theological themes that lend depth and richness to the novel.  I loved the complexity of Lawhead's plot; just when I thought I'd figured out how all the different threads of his story connected, the book ended on a cliffhanger!  I will definitely be eagerly anticipating the sequel.  The Skin Map is perfect for those who enjoy British culture, a good adventure, globe-trotting, time travel, or spirited and witty characters.

Content Analysis:  

There are a few religious exclamations, all used in context.

There is violence throughout the novel, very much in keeping with a time travel/adventure-type story. Several characters are menaced and later beaten by a pair of thugs with a leashed wildcat (they threaten to set the cat loose, and at one point do, but nobody is ever hurt). One character is severely beaten (one of the villains has a knife) and on the verge of being killed when he is rescued. One character receives tattoos; the tattoo process is described as being intensely painful. A few references are made to a map that is made of human skin—nothing violent is ever described, but the image made me a little squeamish!

There is mild to moderate sexual content, in the form of one character's physical attraction to another (he never thinks anything especially inappropriate, but does notice how beautiful she is and fixate on physical characteristics such as lips and skin). Mature themes consist of violent events, death by illness, and general adventure-type peril. 

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Reviewed By CindyB
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