Monday, October 24, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour - October, 2011, Day One

The Bone House, by Stephen R. Lawhead

Warning: This is a complete spoiler.

If one tended to think the first book of the Bright Empires Series (The Skin Map) was convoluted, he will undoubtedly think the same of the second book, The Bone House. Like The Skin Map, the explanation for this tortuous route through the novel in part is due to the nature of ley travel, if it were true, of course. In fact, the way the book is laid out, vacillating between alternate space and time locales as it does, the reader gains a sense of what the world of ley travel would actually be like. I found it both distracting and tantalizing at the same time. I would not change it.

The best way to relate the story may be to follow threads separately, which requires one to move in a non-sequential manner through the chapters. Here is my attempt to do that.

Kit Livingston

Kit and Giles (Lord Henry’s coachman) are rescued by Wilhelmina from the tomb of Anen in Egypt. (Wilhelmina was Kit’s former girlfriend in the here and now, whom Kit unwittingly sent into 17th Century Prague via a ley jump that went horribly wrong as related in The Skin Map). Wilhelmina (also known as Mina) directs Kit to split up; he is to ley travel to Luxor, Egypt of another time and pick up a package at the Winter Palace Hotel. Kit departs not knowing where Wilhelmina and Giles have gone. Mina promises to catch up with Kit.

Kit arrives at Luxor, finds the hotel and obtains the package. A note, handwritten by Wilhelmina directs him not to open the package but to take it to Dr. Thomas Young who, in Wilhelmina’s own words, is ‘the last man in the world who knows everything.’ An old Egyptian guides Kit to Dr. Young’s work site. Kit presents the package to Young who opens it to find articles that prove Wilhelmina’s claim to be a traveler from another time.

Wilhelmina and Giles

Before ever ley traveling to Egypt, Wilhelmina learned the art through trial and error and a device built by the emperor’s assistant alchemist (whom Wilhelmina has befriended) who said it was for ‘astral exploration.’ Wilhelmina called it the ‘ley lamp.’ It was a stone with blue lights and a dial; the blue lights lit up and became brighter as she neared an active ley line. In time, Wilhelmina became very good and accurate in ley travel.

After leaving Kit in Egypt, Wilhelmina and Giles ley travel to Edinburgh, Scotland where she visits Dr. Thomas Young and speaks of the tomb of Anen, which the doctor, the world’s leading authority on Egypt, informs there is no such tomb. Wilhelmina reveals the scholar will yet discover it; she knows – she is from his future.

After apparently informing Dr. Young of Kit’s pending visit, she and Giles ley travel back to Prague and her coffee house, and to her good friend and baker, Etzel. There she learns from a downcast Gustavus Rosenkreuz (the assistant alchemist) that he is directed to drop all his work for the sake of building another device for astral exploration; this one is better. Again, Gustavus promises to make a device for Wilhelmina.

Wilhelmina and Giles ley travel to Egypt and the site of Dr. Young’s excavation of Anen’s tomb. Kit assists Wilhelmina’s inspection of the tomb where they discover figures indicating Arthur Flinders-Petrie, known as The Man Who Is Map, i.e., the one who had the symbols that aided in mapping ley travel tattooed onto his upper torso. They also discern that the skin map must have been divided up in such a way as not to destroy any of its symbols. Having seen all this, Wilhelmina, Giles, and Kit return to Prague, 1607, where Wilhelmina’s coffee house and importing ventures are flourishing.

Wilhelmina, Kit, and Giles

While in the coffee house, Haven Fayth (Lord Henry Fayth’s niece, who seemingly betrayed Kit and Giles at Anen’s tomb and departed with Lord Burleigh) comes in. Lady Fayth sternly warns them to leave as Burleigh is in town (he is the one who has instigated the building of the ‘astral exploration’ device). There is distrust toward her, but Wilhelmina deems it wise for Kit and Giles to hide upstairs and later to leave in stealth, accompanied by Wilhelmina. However, Burley men discover their attempt to escape, alerting Lord Burleigh and giving chase. Wilhelmina gives Kit the ley lamp and sends both him and Giles running to escape by a ley line not far away. Kit escapes on Burleigh’s horse (who has been thrown off) and barely makes it to the ley line and escapes. Burleigh has wounded Giles with a gunshot. Wilhelmina, with the help of Lady Fayth, retrieves Giles from Burleigh and nurses him at the coffee house. Her intent is to send him ‘home.’

Kit Livingston (again)

After his escape from Lord Burleigh, Kit finds himself in a prehistoric era and encounters ‘primitives,’ i.e., cave dwellers, who take him into their company. Over time, Kit realizes he has lost the opportunity to make it back by ley travel and becomes a part of the primitive community. Kit masters a small vocabulary of their language and can communicate in a crude way. Kit also discerns that the primitives are able to communicate in some manner of telepathy. Kit meets the cheiftain En-Ul and amazingly is able to telepathically communicate with him. He learns of the bone house, and accompanies En-Ul to participate in a ritual within the structure. While there, the ley lamp becomes active, Kit falls through the floor into a pit and ley travels to a luxuriant paradise. There he comes across a pool of light and witnesses The Man Who Is Map carrying his dead wife into the pool; when they come out, she is alive, and Kit realizes they are at ‘The Well of Souls.’

Lord Archelaeus Burleigh

Gemma Burley gave birth to Archibald Burley the illegitimate son of aristocratic Vernon Ashmole. Spurned by Ashmole, Gemma is forced to raise Archie on her own. Archie is noticed by Granville Gower who takes Burley in to mentor in the antiquities trade. Over time, Archie learns the trade, makes money and learns that a title of high standing will bring great reward. His mentor dies and Archie goes into the business in earnest. He changes his name to Lord Archeleaus Burleigh, Earl of Sutherland. Upon returning from one of his extended travels, he is found to have given himself totally to scholarly pursuits.

Lord Burleigh meets up with Sir Edward Fayth (Lord Henry Fayth's brother) and his daughter Lady Haven Fayth. Haven has no trust in Burleigh, but through a series of unusual events comes to accompany Lord Burleigh on many of his ley travels, in particular to Prague and the royal court of Rudolph II.

Lord Burleigh is behind the development of the device for astral exploration, knowing that the court of Rudolph (who himself is eccentric or perhaps mad) provides the necessary expertise for its construction.

Douglas Flinders-Petrie

Douglas is the great, great grandson of The Man Who Is Map and has plans of his own. With the assistance of a dimwitted assistant named Snipe, Douglas steals a book written in ciphers from the London Museum.

Douglas takes great pains to learn to speak midieval Latin and acquire costumes that would disguise him as a friar of that era. He and Snipe ley jump and meet Roger Bacon who believes he is a visiting monk from another locale. Douglas reveals the stolen book to the Doctor who examines it to announce that the glyphs are of his own making. The book is the Book of Forbidden Secrets. Over three days he translates the work and makes copies of the most important parts. This he keeps safe in his austere dwelling.

Douglas also shows the Doctor the skin map (which he had stolen from Henry Fayth). The Doctor reveals that the symbols are coordinates and provides a sample of the key needed to interpret the symbols. This he does by jotting down several symbols with their coordinate. Douglas acquires this and bids farewell. Meeting Snipe afterwards, he instructs his aid to steal the translation work in the Doctor’s quarters.

Arthur Flinders-Petrie

Arthur Flinders-Petrie (aka The Man Who Is Map and great, great grandfather of Douglas) arrives in ancient Egypt with his Chinese wife who is pregnant. Arthur finds Turms, an Egyptian prophet, priest, and king, who through ritual assures them that the baby is healthy and will be born alive. At a naming ceremony, Arthur inadvertently gives his son the name, Benedict, instead of the intended name of Benjamin. Benedict sticks.

Arthur and his wife return to England. After time, Arthur returns to ancient Egypt with Benedict who is to begin an apprenticeship that is not identified.

Stephen R. Lawhead's Web Page
List of CSFF Blog Tour Participants
The Bone House on Amazon

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for kindly providing a copy of The Bone House for review on the October, 2011 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour.

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