The Spirit Well by Stephen Lawhead is the 3rd book (out of 5 planned books) in Bright Empires series. Mr. Lawhead includes a short summary at the beginning of the book, but your understanding will be quite a bit better if you read the series in order, starting with The Skin Map and The Bone House. Once again, we enter the world where Ley Lines can take people from one time and place to another. We take up the adventures of Kit, Wilhelmina, Lord Burleigh, the Flinders-Petrie clan, and even meet some new ley-travelers as we go along the journey. Kit wanders out of his encounter with the Spirit Well into more modern times. Mina keeps searching for Kit and Cosimo only to meet Kit in very odd circumstances – before she (presumably a future version of herself) rescues Kit and Cosimo. We learn a little more of Lord Burleigh and how he started his ley-line travels. We also learn more about the descendants of Arthur Flinders-Petrie.
The most interesting people introduced in this book to me were Cassandra Clarke, an archaeologist who accidentally discovers ley travels, and the Zetetic Society. The Society is made up of other ley-line travelers who are dedicated to finding whatever Arthur Flinders-Petrie discovered in his adventures. They know that it’s something important and want to find it before Lord Burleigh. They know that Lord Burleigh would abuse the Spirit Well for his own purposes. The society recognizes a higher power and wants to serve the good purpose they detect in it. Stephen Lawhead isn’t always overt about the Christian themes he puts into his books and he doesn’t make a huge deal about it here, either, other than to note the “Habiru” in ancient Egypt and references to God when the Zetetic Society meets to induct Cassandra.
When I started reading this, I had assumed that this was the final book in the series so was a little surprised when I got to the end of the book. The ending was either a really ironic ending or it was a cliff-hanger. I was pleased to realize that there will be 5 books in this series and the 4th is scheduled to be published later in 2013.
My Take: I really enjoyed this book. While I felt that The Skin Map got off to a somewhat slow start, the series quickly picked up after that to make for an interesting read. We jump from character to character, time to time, and place to place, but the stories are all interconnected. The characters all have their own motivations for exploring the ley-lines and they all make sense in this context. I wouldn’t recommend this for most younger readers, but figure that late teenage years and up might do well with the series. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Mr. Lawhead’s writings or who enjoys time-travel fantasy.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book with no expectations on the part of the publisher. The opinions in this review are my own and were not influenced by anyone else.