Warning: this post may give a little bit of plot away. But I’ve done my best not to make it too spoilery.
In one of BRIGHT EMPIRES’ most mysterious scenes, Kit Livingstone sat inside a hut made of neolithic bones, watching an ancient man named En Ul “dream time.” What exactly En Ul was doing remains one of the central mysteries of the series. All Kit knows is that it mattered, not only to the Old One and his Stone Age tribe, but to everyone.
In THE FATAL TREE, with the fate of the multiverse in the hands of Kit and his ley-leaping companions, it at last becomes clear: En Ul was willing, and the creative power of his free will was in some way shaping the future–just as the creative power of Kit’s will, and Cass’s, and Mina’s, and even Burleigh’s must continue to shape it.
Stephen Lawhead is a “Christian writer” in the sense that his worldview informs his stories, but he does not technically write “Christian fiction,” and I’m grateful for that. Nevertheless, his exploration of reality through fiction often yields profound insights, maybe never more than in this last book of the BRIGHT EMPIRES series.
Man is not God, the story of Arthur Flinders-Petrie clearly tells us. As the Etruscan priest-king Turms recognizes (in one of the story’s most unexpected and poignant scenes), some things truly should not be, and Heaven decrees fate in a wisdom that is beyond ours. And yet, man’s will is a gift granted by an omnipresent, all-wise Creator who is himself creation’s life force, and it is right that man’s will should create, and influence, and shape.
Many mysteries in BRIGHT EMPIRES do not come clear until this last book, and one of those mysteries is the series’ central theme: After all, this has been a journey not only through the multiverse, across times and places and dimensions, but through the will of mankind to learn and to teach, to change and to be changed, to save and to kill, to surrender and to convert. Hearkening back to the first “Fatal Tree,” that tree in the garden of Eden where Adam chose a future for all his descendants, THE FATAL TREE takes us back to the great mystery of our lives: the mystery of free will in fight or in surrender to a Higher Power that gives life to us all.