Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Shadow Lamp

Title: The Shadow Lamp
Series: Bright Empires #4
Author: Stephen R. Lawhead
Genre: Adult Sci-Fi Alternate Reality

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—3, Overall—3.8 out of 5 stars

Excerpt from Chapter 1, “In Which Next Steps Are Contemplated”:

Kit stood gazing at the burnt-out ley lamp still sizzling at his feet. The heat from the metal carapace had singed the dry grass, sending tiny tendrils of white smoke drifting up to assault his nostrils with a harsh metallic scent. Overpowered by the energy coursing around and through the enormous tree before them, the devices had expired in a burst of heat and blue light.

“I guess that’s that,” he concluded.

Brother Lazarus bent over Mina’s hand, inspecting the burn.

“We know the ley is here—no doubt about it,” said Kit, taking in the yew’s gargantuan trunk, hard as iron and big as a house, growing right in the middle of the ley. “Now all we have to do is figure out what to do about this whacking great tree.”

“I think that will have to be a problem for another day,” said Wilhelmina, withdrawing her hand and shaking it gently. Raising her eyes, she indicated the circle of sky above the clearing; the clouds now held a dusky tint. “We’re starting to lose the light. What do you want to do now?”

The seekers of the Skin Map and Spirit Well must regroup as their search leads to a terrifying conclusion.

Craft: I have frequently enjoyed Mr. Lawhead’s novels in the past. He is a master storyteller who writes with elegant prose and vivid details which present the worlds he writes about in living color.

In those respects, The Shadow Lamp fulfills expectation. The varied cast wanders through a multitude of times and places, and though the settings are numerous, each is deftly drawn and memorably distinct.

Despite this, I found The Shadow Lamp a difficult novel to get through. The plot lacked momentum. The stakes rose in predictable ways. Characters seem to be driven rather to drive the story, and in the big picture, very little seems to happen except a rearrangement of the cast: The main protagonist and his allies get together and talk about a coming disaster.

In some ways, this lull in plot can be attributed to a necessary calm before the storm, and the fact that this novel hangs together at all demonstrates the master craftsman Mr. Lawhead is. Nonetheless, this regrouping novel stretched my attention and patience, and as a reader I longed for more.

Content: The low key plot has created low key content. The main theme of the series—there are no coincidences in the world—continues to be emphasized. No sexuality, though a light romance thread is growing. There is some violence, mostly confined to battle scenes and one beat-up-a-guy-for-information scene, portray generally with a light hand.

Summary: The Shadow Lamp is a lull-before-the-storm novel. As a result, the plot is minimal and the tension low, but Mr. Lawhead, being a master storyteller, keeps the story plodding ahead. Not the idea book, nor a novel that will become my favorite anytime soon, but it may be worth the reading, depending on the final book in the series.

Ratings: Craft—4, Content—3, Overall—3.8 out of 5 stars

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.


kc said...

I wouldn't really call it low key and low content. The characters have just discovered that their whole universe may soon collapse into itself and annihilate everything! I would say that's pretty important, as well as Kit's discovery of the design on the handkerchief at the end and the kindness Etzel shows to Burleigh at the end. These things are going to be huge and we got to first see them here in this book.

I agree it was a bit slow, but middle books usually are and so I can accept it knowing the conclusion is going to be amazing.

Shannon McDermott said...

Interesting to hear your viewpoint. The people and the things going on in the book interested me. But then, I first became interested in them in the earlier books. Without that foundation, I would have enjoyed this book less.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

My temptation was to suggest this book was an example of a sagging middle to a story.I do think Lawhead moved the story forward, but it wasn't in the same way that The Spirit Well did, for example. That one is my favorite of the series at this point.