CSFF Blog Tour: The Fatal Tree by Stephen Lawhead


Yes, I’m back on the tour again, because this week we are taking a look at the fifth and final volume in Stephen Lawhead’s Bright Empires series, The Fatal Tree. But before we get to that, as I have actually read all four books in the series so far, how about a quick precis of what has gone before, as summarised from my reviews?



Parts of The Skin Map take place in locations I know; things like leylines, prehistoric monuments and English mythology have long fascinated me, and when you mix these things up with a little time and inter-dimensional travel, you’re going to have a book that I’ll at least take a look at in Waterstones. And the opening line would pretty much make the sale:

‘Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared. At least, he would have brought an umbrella.’

The Bone House seemed to start off quite slowly, but the main plot soon kicked in and wouldn’t let me go. Alongside the main storyline of Kit Livingstone’s quest for the skin map, we get some unobtrusive back story; the story of Mina’s transformation from annoying girlfriend to dimension-hopping Lara Croft fills the gaping hole that left her looking like a Deus ex machina at the end of The Skin Map, and other threads start to add a greater depth to the multiverse Lawhead has created. Some of the later sections with stone age Kit seemed a little longer than necessary, but didn’t stop me enjoying the story.

In The Spirit Well it was the new sub-plot, Cassandra’s story, that I found most interesting. Cass herself is nothing special, but it is she who meets the Zetetic Society, a strange possibly-religious group lurking in 1930s Damascus through whom some interesting references to God, faith, and religion as a whole are brought into the story. Mina has also fallen in with some ostensibly more traditional monks, but it is Cass and the Zetetic Society that give us the first real sign of a deeper spirituality behind the story. Thankfully, Kit also finds his way out of the stone age and back into the main story.

I couldn’t help thinking that The Shadow Lamp was the calm before the storm. The action seemed to be at much slower pace than in earlier books, although the bigger picture was definitely gaining momentum and there was a sense that the players will soon be taking their places for a final showdown. There’s also some quite lengthy exposition going on toward the end which could easily put a lot of readers off, but as a science fiction reader and writer, I found the conversations about the relationship between religion, science and the end of the universe quite interesting. Some story elements were more ‘Christian’, although I’d say if there was anything ‘preachy’ in the story it was about science, not Christianity.

And we’ll reconvene here on Wednesday for a review of the fifth and final instalment; in the meantime, click on some of the links on the sidebar and see what my fellow tourists have to say about The Fatal Tree and the Bright Empires series.

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3 Responses to CSFF Blog Tour: The Fatal Tree by Stephen Lawhead

  1. I actually thought the pace picked UP in The Shadow Lamp, but then, I love the science-and-theology threads of the series–definitely my favourite parts besides that Lara Croft transformation (fabulous description). Looking forward to your further thoughts on the series!

  2. Pingback: The Fatal Tree by Stephen Lawhead – CSFF Blog Tour, Day 1 | A Christian Worldview of Fiction

  3. Steve Trower says:

    I guess in a series like this one there’s plenty of room for people to get different things (and want different things) out of the story 🙂

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