The Skin Map is not your average stand-alone novel. It is the first instalment of a vast story arc. The story begins simply, with an everyday twenty-first century Londoner, Kit Livingstone. Upon a mysterious meeting with his long-dead great-grandfather he is pulled into a world of mysteries, dangers and alternate realities.
The book covers a number of parallel stories about multiple characters. Neither of these stories is brought to conclusion in the Skin Map, they are all left hanging for the next instalment. This makes reading the book an experience more like watching a TV serial such as Babylon 5 or Lost. Some may be put off by this but I enjoy that sort of thing.
Stephen R. Lawhead has always been a masterful world builder, and this book gives him multiple opportunities to immerse readers in everything from renaissance Prague to ancient Egypt. This book is a culmination of everything Lawhead does best, combining fantasy and science fiction with historical fiction.
I did find that with the constant universe-hopping, that I was sometimes disoriented. I wasn’t always sure what time period a given segment was set in. Neither was I always sure which ‘reality’ a scene would take place in. This however didn’t overly get in the way of the story.
If you’re put off by non-chronological story-telling then this may not be the book for you, but I for one loved it and can’t wait to read the next one.