Title: The Bone House (Bright Empires, #2)
Author: Stephen R. Lawhead
It’s a mind-baffling attempt, trying to figure out how to review this book… But I shall give it a shot so that I can capture some of my thoughts as they are at this point in the saga, before launching into reading book 3, The Spirit Well.
The Bone House picks up more or less where book 1 in The Bright Empires series, The Skin Map, left off — I say more or less, since the time aspect makes such statements more complicated and… fluid than usual, and let’s just say that “chronology” is a word I only dreamed of while reading this book, in the best possible way. 😉 It makes me want to start an elaborate chart to map out the character threads, timelines, eras, and locations… That would be FUN! And mind-boggling, but hey.
This series (of which The Bone House is but the second part out of five) is a wonderful mental exercise, which I’m enjoying immensely. 🙂 The myriad of character threads, localities, times periods, and relative time lines to each other, not to mention the way the story leaps between characters from chapter to chapter with abandon — it all calls for a very elastic mind! Like I said, excellent mental exercise. 😀
Not to mention that it makes me think and want to ask questions and to LEARN things. Which is just a lovely side-effect of this exciting timey-adventure (with many breath-taking parts, twists, and fascinating timey things which I LOVE), which I couldn’t put down. I’ve never read anything quite like this series!
Let me just put it this way: If most novels are the equivalent of a jog for the mind, the Bright Empires series is like parkour… in zero gravity… through multiple universes. 😉
This delightful second book, which I enjoyed as much as The Skin Map, carries us through time and geography to Egypt, England, Prague… to the Etruscans, and even people of the Stone Age… as well as the 1200s, 1600s, 1800s, and naturally includes characters from our own 21st century.
Each place, each person or group of people we meet, is steeped in the fascinating and rich tones of cultures old and new, strange and familiar, and all equally skillfully penned. I felt entirely drawn into each place, and the details were fabulous and so gorgeously written. I just felt THERE the entire time. The bits of other languages scattered throughout — Latin, German, some prehistoric dialect — lent an even further air of rich immersion. I just LOVED being so fully inside these places!
Also, the part with the “River City Clan” as Kit dubs them, in the Stone Age, was one of my favorite parts! I don’t want to give anything away, but I simply loved how they were portrayed, in such a unique and intriguing way. They felt… right somehow; not bumbling backward cavemen of the cliche mentality moderns hold, but solid, close to the earth, with their own wisdom and close connection with each other, which we seem to have forgotten in this, our own “civilized” age. It was… refreshing to consider another perspective, to see these simple folk who are more complex than one might think. I also really loved the part with En-Ul — it was fantastic. Love, love, love. I guess the whole cavemen thing and how Lawhead did it surprised me, in a good way. I just… really really liked it. 🙂
Time would fail me (in more ways than one) to discuss each facet of this book with all the different places and things that happened, plus I don’t want to give it away and spoil the joy of discovering it yourself… So I think I will say a few words about the wonderful characters and then dash off to read the next book… 😉
As a general note, I ADORED how the characters in this book were mostly… nice people. That may sound strange, but it was refreshing to me to read about characters who are actually decent folks, with the good old ways of hospitality and cordiality even to strangers. Again, something this modern age may lack? There was by no means any shortage of suspense (goodness, no! ALL the suspense!) but it shows that there are more subtle ways of keeping us on the edge of our seat in books than through every person the main characters meet being awful people who are out to mess up their lives. …I mean, there are obviously villains to do that still (in a serious way! O_O Eep to Burleigh and company… *shivers*) but the world(s) seemed to be inhabited by REAL people, not caricatures full of “flaws” and suspicion and general ill-will toward the heroes. And maybe no one else understands what I’m trying to say, or cares, but to me it was important, and again, it was a different take, which I really liked. 🙂 I like when things make me think and make me feel welcomed, and when I can truly ENJOY them, which is definitely true of these books.
While thinking about villains (if I can call them all such… hmm… I shall look forward to more developments!), let me just say that even being in their points of view was really interesting; if slightly disturbing… There were a lot of different points of view, even among the heroes, and though some readers might not appreciate so many different viewpoints flipping back and forth throughout the book, yet I found the many perspectives quite bracing and intriguing, personally!
All the character-threads were so neat and I can’t wait to follow them further through the rest of the series! Arthur Flinders-Petrie and his line, Lady Haven Fayth (what’s her deal??) and even Archelaeus Burleigh himself, in his own shadowy way… Eep. Side characters such as Xian-Li, Etzel, Dr. Thomas Young, Giles, and all the rest, are still a delight to meet, follow, and learn more about… So real and varied. I just love them all! (All right, not such a fan of Snipe. O_O He scares me a little… I’m not sure what to think of some of the characters yet…)
My favorite main characters, though, are still Kit and Wilhelmina and their two different storylines. 🙂 Kit is still such an enjoyable chap to read about — I don’t even know why, he’s just… amiable and British, in whose mind it’s something between fun and amusing to be in — and I greatly enjoyed his escapades, even when he did blunder a little… but, well, we can’t all be Minas. 😉 Even if we wish to be… Wilhelmina is AMAZING, by the way. I loved her in The Skin Map already, but she takes another step in The Bone House, into a new role as one of my favorite characters ever. I basically want to be her. Or, barring that, at least be more like her. (She’s also the only female character in a book that I’ve felt that way about since I was very young. This is big news.) I don’t think I can even begin to accurately describe her in this small space, but she’s brave and warmhearted and smart and confident and friendly and enterprising and she has that charming lively way with words and… I just feel like if she’s around, everything might be okay, you know? It’s a feeling I can’t quite put my finger on, but she’s definitely a favorite character, and one I’d like to be more like myself. She’s really fitting in fabulously in 1600s Prague, like a duck to water, and has come so far from the beginning of the first book — and so has Kit, at that, in his own way. Anyway, I can’t wait to read more about all of these characters!
Even the little things add fabulous touches to this book: clever and/or amusing chapter titles; the helpful (and witty) list of characters and the “Previously” summary at the beginning which did wonders to refresh my memory of the happenings in book 1 (I wish I’d re-read The Skin Map before embarking on The Bone House, since it was over a year between readings for me, but the summary was very helpful and I think I did okay); and the essay at the end which was fascinating… Even little things like Etzel’s muffins (I want some now!) and such thoughts from Mina as: Plus, of course, she would have chocolate. A girl after my own heart. 😉
(One final note: it’s “clean” and age appropriate for teens. 🙂 I’d class it as Young Adult, content wise, though adults will enjoy it as well. So, all you young people who care about such things, this series is not actually Adult, even if the main characters are in their twenties. I think young adults will love reading these. I may have left the ranks of teenagerdom somewhat recently, but I’m still a teen at heart and there was nothing that bothered me. :))
I think I can safely say that I greatly enjoyed The Bone House (in fact, I can’t think of a single complaint I have about it!). Another excellent read from a masterful author. I have a feeling that, as only part two out of five, this far-reaching and intricate tapestry has only begun, and I can’t wait to follow the ever-more-tangled threads into the next part!
Onward, to The Spirit Well!
Kit Livingstone met his great-grandfather Cosimo in a rainy alley in London where he discovered the truth about 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 the ley lines have left their own world behind to travel across time and space — down avenues of Egyptian sphinxes, to an Etruscan tufa tomb, into a Bohemian coffee shop, and across a Stone Age landscape where universes collide — in this, the second quest to unlock the mystery of “The Bone House.”
The Bright Empires series — from acclaimed author Stephen R. 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.
Genre/Category: Historical Fiction / Fantasy / Sci-fi / Time Travel / Contemporary (ish; linked to our time) etc.
Age Group: Young Adult — Adults will enjoy too!
Pages: 385 hardcover
Series?: Book 2 in the Bright Empires series. (Book 1: The Skin Map — read my review here.) Followed by The Spirit Well, The Shadow Lamp, The Fatal Tree.
When Read: August 8-16, 2016
Favorite Character: Wilhelmina! And Kit… and Arthur… etc.
Other Notes: Please do be sure to pick up a copy of The Skin Map before delving into this one! These are definitely not standalones and it would be a shame to get lost and miss the amazingness of the series by starting on book 2 instead of at the beginning. Plus, of course, The Skin Map is amazing, so. 😉
Thanks for reading!
Dream away in those pages . . .
~ The Page Dreamer