Anyway, to the point: The Shadow Lamp is the fourth quest in Stephen Lawhead’s Bright Empires series; reading it without a prior grounding in the series will significantly reduce your enjoyment of any of the books, and may even break your brain. For that reason, I won’t waste too much time on how the story revolves around travel though time and space by means of ley lines, or who the Burley Men or the Flinders-Petries are. Readers familiar with the series (or at least reviews thereof) will know them, and be glad to know that all are present in abundance in The Shadow Lamp.
As you would expect in the fourth book in a multiverse-spanning epic such as this, we find ourselves venturing ever deeper into the back stories of various characters, and still meeting new ones. We also find ourselves wandering from familiar haunts like ancient Egypt and Mina’s cafe in Prague, to new and exciting adventures at sea; and to his credit Stephen Lawhead brings all these far flung locations equally to life.
I couldn’t help thinking, however, that this book was very much 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 there places for a final showdown. There’s certainly plenty going on, and some of the action sequences are pretty devastating, but on the whole it was just a bit less epic than the opening book and a half of the series.
There is some quite lengthy exposition going on toward the end, which could easily put a lot of readers
to sleep 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. Oh, and of course some story elements are getting increasingly ‘Christian’ now, with the Zetetic Society and Brother Lazarus; although I’d say if there was anything preachy in the story it was about science, not Christianity.
The Shadow Lamp may not be the high point of the Bright Empires series, but it’s well written, epic in scope, and I’m sure will turn out to have revealed a bunch of vital clues as the story reaches its finale next year.
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