Stephen R. Lawhead’s The Spirit Well is Book 3 in the Bright Empires series, and as predicted, it takes the whole series to a new level: it is here that its many storylines begin to come together, that its timelines coalesce, and that its themes truly emerge. Having read this installment, I predict that Bright Empires may become one of those perennial journeys: a long read you can soak into every other winter or so and just enjoy the trip.
The plot is not precisely easy to summarize. Kit Livingstone, having stumbled across the location of the Spirit Well, finds himself accidentally ejected from the prehistoric world where he has become a new man–but there are no accidents in this omniverse, as we are often told, and his stumble reunites him with Wilhelmina, his one-time-girlfriend-turned-ley-traveler, who recently rescued him from certain death in Egypt. Only there is a catch: the Mina he reunites with is still learning ley travel and has not rescued him yet. Meanwhile, at other times and in other places, the Flinders-Petrie line is variously creating and preserving the Skin Map and villainously trying to ferret it out.
Yet to plunge into this mess is Cassandra Clarke, from contemporary Arizona, a young paleontologist who accidentally finds a ley and is transported to Syria in the 1940s. Only there are no accidents–as we’ve said–and Cass promptly finds a group of seekers called the Zetetic Society, who take her under their wing. In their company, Cassandra Clarke comes to understand a great many things about the omniverse–and so, for that matter, do we.
Bright Empires truly is a journey, and once you’ve finishedThe Spirit Well,you may find that you too have stepped into the shoes of a seeker.
As before, Lawhead’s attention to detail–to time and place–is transportive. I have not found the plots fast moving in this series (with time so malleable, suspense is hard to come by), but the journey is pleasant, fascinating, and hair-raising when it needs to be. Best of all, in this book I have finally been gripped by the concept of the omniverse, and I look forward to further exploring it.
Note: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher.