Stephen Lawhead’s THE BONE HOUSE — A Full Review

Here we are once again, folks, the CSFF Blog Tour of Stephen R. Lawhead’s THE BONE HOUSE! :)

It is just plain hard to believe that it’s been a year since we reviewed THE SKIN MAP and the treasure hunt I held last year.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an extra copy to give away this year, much less a signed-by-the-author one, sorry!

By the way, the cover that I have is different, and BETTER than the one on the left. I don’t know why they changed it, but the image you see must have been an early draft which they improved.

I really like the ice-blue theme, which is an awesome counter-point to the red-orange theme of the first novel. These book covers are just TOP-NOTCH in my opinion.

If you haven’t read my THE SKIN MAP reviews, here they are:

THE PLOT

Here is the description from Amazon:

Kit Livingstone met his great grandfather Cosimo in a rainy alley in London where he discovered the reality of alternate realities.

Now he’s on the run-and on a quest-trying to understand the impossible mission he inherited from Cosimo: to restore a map that charts the hidden dimensions of the multiverse. Survival depends on staying one step ahead of the savage Burley Men.

The key is the Skin Map-but where it leads and what it means, Kit has no idea. The pieces have been scattered throughout this universe and beyond.

Mina, from her outpost in seventeenth-century Prague, is quickly gaining both the experience and the means to succeed in the quest. Yet so are those with evil intent who, from the shadows, are manipulating great minds of history for their own malign purposes.

Those who know how to use ley lines have left their own world behind to travel across time and space-down avenues of Egyptian sphinxes, to an Etruscan tufa tomb, a Bohemian coffee shop, and a Stone Age landscape where universes collide-in this, the second quest to unlock the mystery of The Bone House.

So, the plot of THE BONE HOUSE is similar to the THE SKIN MAP … we alternate between multiple storylines: Kit’s, Wilhelmina’s, Arthur Flinders-Petrie, Douglas Flinders-Petrie, Lord Burleigh, Lady Faythe, etc.

And all the while, poor, hapless Kit gets himself lost and in great danger. Or is he? You won’t know until the very end of the novel where Lawhead pulls a big surprise.

The complication, here, is that everything gets more complicated. Not only are we jumping around in physical location, but we are also jumping back and forward in time at these locations, AND back and forward in time during the character’s lives. That doesn’t even bring up the fact that these different locations are actually in different dimensions.

It all adds up to a wonderful mystery that you really need to keep your head on straight for?both to unravel it and just keep up with the author.

And that brings up a big point: This novel is not an action-packed thriller. Rather it is truly a mystery set in time and space to solve the riddles of the universe. The back cover says it this way, which is an apt description:

The Bright Empires series ? from acclaimed author Stephen Lawhead ? is a unique blend of epic treasure hunt, ancient history, alternate realities, cutting-edge physics, philosophy, and mystery. The result is a page-turning adventure like no other.

So put on your hat?no, your thinking hat, no, your thinking helmet, power it up?and get ready to chase after the ultimate prize in the multiverse: The Well of Souls.

THE CHARACTERS

Kit Livingstone I used to think of him as the “main” character, but it is obvious that he is just one among many?Wilhelmina almost playing a more important role.
Cosimo Livingstone Kit’s dead great-grandfather. Kit is trying to take up from him the task of finding the Skin Map.
Sir Henry Fayth Cosimo’s dead partner, he is the uncle of…
Lady Fayth Sir Henry’s snobbish, traitorous niece. What is she up to now? Read and see.
Giles A servant of Sir Henry, he joins with Kit to help out in the quest.
Wilhelmina Kit’s former girlfriend, who ends up saving the day in more ways than you can spell apple strudel.
Etzel Wilhelmina’s partner in their bakery, which becomes the scene of a long awaited for confrontation. Just you wait!
Arthur Flinders-Petrie The ultimate time and space traveler, he is the man whom everyone else is after, in one way or another, hint, hint!
Xian-Li The woman whom Arthur marries.
Lord Burleigh Hiss! As the villain of the novel, he is a bit more absent than I expected. Still, he shows up at just the right time. If you’ve seen the book trailer for the first novel, THE SKIN MAP, something happens in this book that is shown at the end of that film. Hint, hint!
Douglas Flinders-Petrie I think this man is the grandson or great-grandson of Arthur. He is after the pieces of the Skin Map, as well as their interpretation. The fascinating thing about him is that I can’t tell if he is up to good or bad.
Charles Flinders-Petrie I think he is the grandson of Arthur, and he only comes in during the epilogue, so I won’t give away his role in the story.
Benedict Flinders-Petrie Arthur and Xian-Li’s son, who almost died before he was born.

THE CRAFT

Lawhead, as always, is at his best here, writing not only authentically, but in a brilliant way. Here’s a sample from page 55:

Just as [Kit] stretched himself out and pulled the blanket over him, the dog-and-donkey chorus began?each setting the others off until the entire Nile valley reverberated with the barking and baying cacophony.

Since sleep seemed to be the last activity any creature was allowed to pursue in this place, Kit lay on his back and stared up at a sky ablaze with far more stars than he had ever seen in any one sky. The Milky Way, never so much as glimpsed in his London, and most often seen elsewhere as a thin dusting of stars, was in the arid atmosphere of Egypt a bright band of luminous cloud. He watched in wonder as the dazzling show slowly wheeled across the gleaming dome of the sky, spinning majestically around the fixed bright point of the Nail of Heaven. And although the moon was late rising, the fulgent starlight radiating from the cloudless heavens cast hard shadows on the earthly landscape below.

Wonderful! Lawhead writes this way not only because he is a fine author who has honed his craft to a soul-cutting edge, but he writes this way because he has visited these places himself.

I can just picture Stephen trying to fall asleep in some remote part of the Nile valley and the donkeys and dogs start howling, and he makes a mental note to share that tidbit with us all.

MY GRIPES (IF THEY CAN BE CALLED THAT)

Let me just say right off that these are very minor points, and not only that, but each gripe contains a real positive nugget as well.

The Bone House Itself

To me, it was an incredible way to end the novel, but I felt that there needed to be more foreshadowing, either about the bone house, or about their quest. Why are they doing all this skin-map-chasing anyway? More time on Kit and Mina’s motivations would have helped a lot.

The positive nugget, however, is that book two ended the way I thought book five might end (and it was exciting).

This means that if what I thought of as the ultimate goal has been achieved in the second book, then perhaps there is a far greater goal that has not even been imagined. The mystery deepens yet more.

The Stone Age

My gripe here is how the people of the stone age look. They are described as true “cave-men” in looks.

Kit even compares them to a cartoon “Thag” he has seen, which I can only assume refers to The Far Side cartoon:

The Far Side - THAG The Cave Man

So what DO stone age people look like? Well, here is an article titled Forensics Put a Face to a Stone Age Boy’s Remains.

This article was published four days ago over at History.com (The History Channel’s website) that uses forensic techniques to recreate a stone age boy’s face:

Stone Age Boy's Face

To put it mildly, if I saw this kid at Wal-Mart, I wouldn’t even blink. Now, to be fair, Lawhead’s cave-men live in another dimension, but I still think it was a bit unscientific to paint them the way he did. However … this is fiction, so take it with a grain of salt.

On the positive side, I do think Lawhead did some cool things here, like giving them telepathy, and making it clear that they are created and each one has a soul.

MY RECOMMENDATION

If you like Stephen Lawhead, then you will love THE BONE HOUSE, as well as THE SKIN MAP. If you like a good mystery / treasure hunt with touches of philosophy and science, then you will adore these books. Recommended for adults on up.

For other reviews, check out the other CSFF Blog Tour Members:

Noah Arsenault
Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Chapman
Carol Bruce Collett
Karri Compton
D. G. D. Davidson
Theresa Dunlap
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Marzabeth
Katie McCurdy
Shannon McDermott
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Rachel Wyant
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3 thoughts on “Stephen Lawhead’s THE BONE HOUSE — A Full Review

  • Robert, another excellent tour post. You are so thorough.

    I like the research you did on the cavemen. Very interesting!

    I liked the telepathy, too, because I’ve thought that Man before the fall would have been remarkably more than what we are now. They lived longer and probably used more of their brain capacity. So the telepathy thing worked well for me.

    Becky

  • Great review. I love the reference to the cavemen. As an apologist, and I didn’t mention this in my review, but the hominids, commonly referred to as “cavemen” and Neanderthals had no evidence of spiritual interest or worship. This began with Homo Sapien Sapien and therefore, these “cavemen” would not have had a religious life. But, that is a minor point.

  • Another great review. It took a while for the Stone Age part to grow on me. Another thing that surprised me is how much I disliked Mina in the first book and how much I grew to like her in this one. I really like Giles and Etzel. I’m curious to see where this all ends up by book five.

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