Book Review: "The Skin Map" by Stephen R. Lawhead

Kit Livingstone's great-grandfather has re-appeared with an unbelievable story--the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legends but truly are pathways to other worlds. So few people know how to use them, though, that doing so is fraught with danger.

But one explorer knew more than most. Because of his fear of being unable to find his way home, he developed an intricate code and tattooed his map onto his skin. But the map has since been lost and rival factions are in desperate competition to recover it. What none of them yet realize is that the skin map itself is not the prize at the end of this race . . .
but merely the first goal of a vast and marvelous quest to regain Paradise.

Enter the ultimate treasure hunt--with a map made of skin, a playing field of alternate realities, and a prize that is the greatest mystery of all.

I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. As most of you know, I'm not a big fantasy fan but this book did not read like a fantasy at all. It was more like reading a historical fiction book. I think the biggest plus for the book was that even though things took place in an alternate universe, the alternate universe was a world where everything was just like our world except for a few things. It's not that I can't imagine places like Narnia or Middle Earth but usually when I do read fantasy the author is usually not that good with explaining how the new world and our world coincide together.

As I said, this book read more like a historical fiction than fantasy. Everything was recognizable and the fantasy elements were not so out there that I couldn't actually see them taking place. All the historical elements were there, just subtle changes to reflect that things are not the same in this other world. The time travel aspect was fascinating as well as the moving between worlds. I really enjoyed all the characters throughout the book. While I did feel that Kit could have been a bit more dimensional, I loved his relationship with his great grandfather and all the different characters that they met. I really loved how Arthur feel in love with a Chinese girl. Yay for interracial relationships in Christian fiction!

While Kit's story as well as Arthur's were both very interesting, my favorite sections of the book dealt with Mina. I loved her idea of running the very first coffeehouse ever in world history and it becoming a success. It was great to see her use 21st century ideas but at the same time not being too radical with them. That was another great aspect of the book. The modern characters quickly adapted to the time frame and didn't keep acting like they were out of place.

Overall this is an EXCELLENT book. Honestly even if you don't like fantasy books at all, you should still give this book a try. The ending is leaving me hanging and I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series. Even though this is published by Thomas Nelson, there's pretty much no references to religion at all in the book and it's not the focus of the story at all. I haven't read other books by Lawhead before but if they are anything like this, I will definitely have to get a hold of his backlist. HIGHLY recommended.

The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead is published by Thomas Nelson (2010)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


  1. I don't know how much you like historical fiction, but I read a novel of his called Byzantium last summer that I really enjoyed. I've pasted below the Publisher's Weekly review from Amazon. The paperback is out of print now, but you can get copies from if you use that.

    From Publislhers Weekly:
    The bestselling author of the Pendragon Cycle now tells the story of Aidan, a 10th-century Irish monk sent to take the Book of Kells to the Byzantine Emperor in Constantinople. Separated from his fellow pilgrims, Aidan undergoes various exotic adventures, including capture by and life with Vikings, political intrigue in the Byzantine court, enslavement in a caliph's mine and loss of his all-important faith in God. Lawhead is a Christian writer, and here the Christian themes are integral and well developed; he also shows a keen and sympathetic eye for the values and cultures of non-Christians. Marketed as fantasy, the novel contains little overt supernatural content, although prayer is vital and dreams can be seen as omens. Still, the narrative has the excitement of a good fantasy novel, a vivid historical setting and a lengthy, credible and satisfying plot?just the elements, in fact, that have made Lawhead a commercial success time and again.

  2. I loved the Skin Map too! If you haven't already found him on facebook you should check his page out:


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