Monday Review: The Spirit Well by Stephen R Lawhead


I’m about to do something quite irritating. I’m about to properly start my blog here by reviewing Book 3 of the Bright Empires Series. Wait, don’t go! Bear with me one moment, for you can still see what I thought of the first two volumes through the magic of hyperlinks: Book One: The Skin Map and Book Two: The Bone House.

So, now you know where to get some useful back story, on with the review.

In summary, our heroes – Kit Livingstone and his erstwhile girlfriend Mina – and their nemesis Archaleous Burleigh are still running around on ley lines trying to put together the Skin Map. And into the already multi-threaded story is added deeper backstory of the Flinders-Petrie clan, and a whole new protagonist, Cassandra Clarke.

With all these threads it has the potential to become a little confusing, and indeed some of the character arcs are less interesting than others – thankfully Kit finds his way out of the Stone Age and back into the main story during this book. (That’s not really a spoiler.)

In this book, for me it was the new sub-plot, Cassandra’s story, that I found most interesting. Cass herself was nothing special, but it is she who meets the Zetetic Society, a strange possibly-religious group lurking in 1930s Damascus and advertising their existence by way of posters that not everyone can see.

Through the Zetetic Society some interesting references to God, faith, and religion as a whole are brought into the story, and while there is reference to Saint Paul being something of a guide to the Society, and bible verses are quoted, it’s debatable whether this is really a Christian group or more of a cult. On the other hand, it could just be a plot device. Incidentally, 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.

The Spirit Well is the mid-point of a huge, mind-bending, dimension-hopping epic, with elements of time travel, fantasy adventure, historical fiction and Lara Croft, slowly baked in the author’s head for 15 years before he felt able to commit the work to paper. Over those years Stephen Lawhead has become a master storyteller, and as such even something this complex seems like an easy read.

When’s Book 4 out?

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