Series: BRIGHT EMPIRES #3
Author: Stephen R.Lawhead
Genre: Adult Alternate Reality (Sci-fi)
Excerpt from Chapter 1, “In Which Friday Takes a
Holiday,” of The Spirit Well:
Cassandra Clarke dug bones for a living. She spent every summer of her professional life hunkered down in trenches of various depths with a trowel in one hand and a whisk broom in the other, excavating the skeletal remains of creatures long dead, many of which were known only to science and some known to no one at all. Although digging was in her blood—her mother was Alison Brett Clarke, palaeontologist of Turkana Boy renown—Cassandra did not plan to spend her entire life in plexiglas goggles with dust in her hair and a damp handkerchief over her nose. Her ambition was far greater than crating up fossils to be carefully catalogued and then locked away in some musty museum basement.
Her father—the astrophysicist J. Anthony Clarke III, whose theory on the origin of the universe through quantum fluctuations in a plasma field won him a Nobel Prize nomination—enjoyed telling people that his precocious daughter was born with her feet in the dirt and her head in the stars. Those who heard that quip assumed it was a reference to her parentage and the fact that she spent so much time scrabbling around in holes in the ground. True enough, but it was also a sly allusion to his beloved Cassie’s penchant for fanciful invention.
Travelers through multiple dimensions seek a map made of skin and the key to its secrets.
Craft: The Spirit Well finally finds the cadence that seemed to be largely missing in The Skin Map and The Bone House.
Though not a fast read (but then what Lawhead novel is?), The Spirit Well deftly weaves current plot with large chunks of back story, with language detailed and complex. The huge cast of characters, which is daringly increased in this novel, is possibly more easily tracked than in previous books, especially as many of the primary characters come into their own. Each story thread holds tension that propels the reader through diverse and vividly rendered settings.
That all said, I felt some let down upon finishing the story, for in the final analysis the main plot didn’t go much of anywhere at all. However, this is the middle of the series, so I am hopeful that this is a temporary pause, set-up for a plot that’s about to rocket forward.
Content: Like the other Lawhead books which I’ve read, The Spirit Well presents a mixed bag as it seems to wander along the theological edges.
On one hand, a greater awareness of God and thought-provoking discussions surface within these pages. Several characters grapple, directly and indirectly, with the control and guidance of God as they realize more and more that coincidences don’t truly exist: We are where we are at the time we are for a purpose.
However, on the other hand, an uneasy feeling plagued me at several points during the book. I cannot say with absolute certainty that any claim made is erroneous—that would require further digging and a knowledge beyond my own. But erroneous or not, their presentation felt incomplete at best with the possibility of unbiblical interpretations. (For examples, see page 249 and the final paragraphs of page 305.)
Beyond this, there is some violence, including one intense murder, and “supernatural” elements are attributed to unidentified forces of nature (e.g. ley lines) or some spiritual/non-human force (e.g. resurrection by the Spirit Well).
Summary: While I enjoyed the writing of The Spirit Well more than the previous two books, I am also concerned over some of the content that surfaced here. As a result, I recommend approaching The Spirit Well with caution and great discernment, cross-checking the novel’s claims at all times with Scripture.
Ratings: Craft—5, Content—2, Overall—3.5 out of 5 stars
In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.