Book review of THE SPIRIT WELL by Stephen Lawhead — Day 1

Welcome to the 2012 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour. of Stephen Lawhead‘s latest installment of his daring BRIGHT EMPIRES series of novels: THE SPIRIT WELL.

If you’re not familiar with the series, and want to read it, make sure you start with book 1: THE SKIN MAP, and then proceed through book 2: THE BONE HOUSE to make sure you fully understand and appreciate the intricacies of the plot line.

If you start with book 3 without having read the others, that is fine, but make sure you don’t post any negative reviews, then … the fault will be your own if you didn’t enjoy the novel! This is one of my pet-peeves, so don’t do it or I’ll hunt you down and eat your blog. ;)


So, with that preamble finished, here’s the description of the plot from the back cover:


But what if the true treasure isn’t the map at all…what if the map marks something far greater? Something one world cannot contain? Those who desire to unlock that mystery are in a race to possess the secret … for good or evil.

Kit Livingstone is mastering the ability to travel across realities using ley lines and has forges a link from the Bone House, a sacred lodge made of animal bones, to the fabled Spirit Well, a place of profound power.

His friend, Mina is undercover in a Spanish monastery high in the Pyrenes, learning all she can from a monk named Brother Lazarus. Still determined to find Kit, she is beginning to experience a greater destiny than she can fathom.

Cassandra Clarke is overseeing an archaeological dig in Arizona when a chance encounter transports her to 1950’s Damascus. There she finds herself unwillingly drawn to the Seekers … the last living remnants of the Zetetic Society who need her help to track down the missing Cosimo Livingstone and his grandson Kit.

But there are darker forces at work in the universe whose agents always seem to be one step ahead of the rest … and they’re all desperate to gain the ultimate prize in this treasure hunt where the stakes increase at every turn. At the heart of the mystery lies the Spirit Well.

Okay, enough overview, here’s my day one analysis of the novel.


First of all, what genre is THE SPIRIT WELL? Since Stephen Lawhead has been writing mythic history for so long, we often forget he wrote two Science Fiction novels way back in 1988 (Empyrion I: The Search for Fierra and Empyrion II: The Siege of Dome).

With that in mind, I’d say that THE BRIGHT EMPIRES is a Philisophical Science-Fiction Treasure Hunt, which is a bit of a new direction for him.

THE SPIRIT WELL deals a lot more with the “what-ifs” of the science of inter-dimensional travel and explores deeply the philosophy and implications of such in the lives of the characters in the novel.

In that sense, THE SPIRIT WELL is NOT to be read with the expectation of lots of action and adventure…this is a thinking sort of novel, and though suspense is building and building toward an action-packed ending, we’re not there yet, and one must be patient for the awesome payoff that will happen.

Another way of saying this is that I think Lawhead has some amazing things up his sleeve, and the reader will do well to stick with the series.

Do not judge this series until it is over, folks!


Cassandra Clarke an archaeologist from Arizona, she ends up traveling by accident to 1950s Damascus and having to make a decision about whether to give her life to the cause of finding the ultimate prize in the universe.
Kit Livingstone the grandson of Cosimo Livingstone, he is stuck, quite happily, in the past and has found what he thinks of as the ultimate prize … the portal to the famed Spirit Well. But is he correct, or there another prize, an even deeper mystery?
Wilhelmina Klug Kit’s friend and companion, they finally meet again, but in the process discover a time-travel mystery when Mina can’t remember having saved Kit from book one.
Archelaeus Burleigh the arch-villain and a scoundrel. We learn more about his past and nefarious designs.
Lady Haven Fayth the daughter of Sir Henry Fayth, she takes it upon herself to attempt to foil Burleigh’s plans…but is she just getting herself in deeper trouble?
Arthur Flinders-Petrie the “man who is map”, we learn the final secrets of his life and death, as well more about his son, Benedict, his grandson, Charles, and his great-grandson, Douglas.


I was expecting the novel to end with Burleigh making a reappearance and stealing the show, but this does not happen. Instead, we learn, finally, the truth about Douglas Flinders-Petrie and whether or not he is a good guy, or a bad guy.

When the full impact of what Lawhead reveals hits you, prepare to catch your breath, close your eyes, and bemoan the fact that you must wait an entire year for book four in the series: THE SHADOW LAMP!


I heartily recommend THE SPIRIT WELL to all lovers of science-fiction and fantasy. This novel has some “back to the future” elements to it, so be prepared to have your mind bent 180 degrees as you read this most excellent third novel in THE BRIGHT EMPIRES series.

And make sure you come back tomorrow for DAY TWO of THE SPIRIT WELL Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour, in which I interview Archelaeus Burleigh, the Earl of Sutherland!


Also, feel free to read my reviews of the first two books in the series:


Jim Armstrong
Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Jeff Chapman
Karri Compton
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Jeremy Harder
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Joan Nienhuis
Lyn Perry
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

5 thoughts on “Book review of THE SPIRIT WELL by Stephen Lawhead — Day 1

  1. I’m glad the tour participants are making it clear that this series needs to be read as a series. I mean who would start Lord of the Ring with The Two Towers? It might be possible to catch up and to figure things out, but for much of the book things would be murky and hard to sort.

    I personally felt The Spirit Well is the best of the three so far, but I would never suggest that’s where people should start.


  2. Rebecca, it was interesting that Bruce Hennigan (I think it was him) found book three not a bad jumping in place, especially since it covers so much background material.

    Still, I personally would want to read them in order. Also, for every fan that does read them in order, that helps the whole series be successful, and that is a good thing.

    And to Tim and Phyllis, thanks for stopping by! :) :)

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