Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead

The quest for answers—and ultimate survival—hinges on finding the cosmic link between the Skin Map, the Shadow Lamp, and the Spirit Well.

The search for the map of blue symbols began in a rainy alley in London but has since expanded through space and time and includes more seekers.
Kit, Mina, Gianni, Cass, Haven, and Giles have gathered in Mina’s 16th-century coffee house and are united in their determination to find a path back to the Spirit Well. Yet, with their shadow lamps destroyed and key pieces of the map still missing, the journey will be far more difficult than they imagine. And when one of their own disappears with Sir Henry’s cryptic Green Book, they no longer know who to trust.
At the same time, the Zetetic Society has uncovered a terrifying secret which, if proven, will rock the very foundations of Creation. The quest for answers is no longer limited to recovering an unknown treasure. The fate of the universe depends on unraveling the riddle of the Skin Map.

The Shadow Lamp by Stephen R Lawhead is the fourth book in the Bright Empires Series and leaves you no closer to knowing what is going to happen in the epic conclusion (The Fatal Tree: Book 5, releasing in September 2014). I have read Lawhead's Song of Albion series and his King Raven series, but none of these compare to the complexity and confusion that I find myself in when reading the Bright Empire Series. And I still cannot decide if I like the confusion or the series yet. I only the final novel left to read, so I guess I will have to decide when the series concludes. On one hand, I think that the complexity of multiple storylines, scores of characters, locations, and eras, that are continued in The Shadow Lamp fits with the concept of countless ley lines connecting time and space that characterizes this series. On the other hand, the fractured storyline makes the novel hard to connect with and causes me to struggle to read it for at least the first third of each novel.

However, I do think as the series continues that more of the storylines are becoming connected and makes the story easier to follow. Book 2, The Bone House, and Book 3, The Spirit Well, were the hardest to stick with because there was an increase in storylines and characters added to the story. In The Shadow Lamp, these stories begin to converge and characters start working together in the same place (though the time and setting change often). I think the last novel will finally converge the remaining characters as the end of universe comes close. Many of the plot lines of this novel ended on a climatic or interested note, so it will be intriguing to see how the author deals with these developments in the conclusion of the series. In addition, new relationships develop between characters in this novel which interested me, and I look forward to seeing how these turn out.

More of the theories behind the ley lines, the Spirit Well, and the Skin Map and why the universe appears to be slowing are explained in The Shadow Lamp, and I found this very helpful and intriquing. While I found the theories concerning the relationship between past and present time, humans, and God to be very interesting, I did not like how the characters believed that the future existed outside of God's control in order for humans to actually have some type of "God-given" effect in their future. That made no sense and is not true. I did find their theory about Jesus' resurrection completely changing the past, present, and future in a way that God intended to be interesting though obviously not completely accurate since they seemed to be assuming that Jesus was simply a man raised from the dead instead of the Son of God. Despite my disagreements with the theology in some areas of the novel, I did enjoy the theories and arguments about the universe, time, and its completion since they caused me to really have to think in order to understand what was being said.

Overall, I enjoyed The Shadow Lamp once I was able to connect to the novel, and I thought it contained a good mix of science, action, a little romance, and dangerous suspense. I look forward to reading the dramatic conclusion,  The Fatal Tree, when it is released later this year. I received this novel for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers and Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

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