PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 04, 2012
he Spirit Well
he Spirit Wellcontinues the journey of Kit, Wilhelmina, Douglas, Burleigh, and a host of returning (and new characters) as they each search for the scattered fragments of Authur’s skin map. As the story opens, Kit is still with the cavemen and has discovered that’s he’s quite content to remain in this time, safe within the confines of the River City Clan. Mina, having searched tirelessly for Kit has decided to depart her comfortable life in Prague to avoid an undesirable meeting with Burleigh. Burleigh continues his search for the skin map, but has become quite obsessed with determining Mina’s role in his quest. A new character, Cassandra, stumbles into ley travel and quite accidentally finds herself in the company of other travels who have a clear objective as they too search for the skin map. Amidst all the searchers for the skin map, the tragic story of how the map came into being is more fully fleshed out along with the beginnings of an explanation for how it was eventually divided and scattered. Given all these tantalizing storylines, it stands to reason that The Spirit Well is an edge of your seat adventure. Unfortunately that’s not the case. Instead, the plot becomes rather cumbersome and this book seems to do little to progress the overall story.
I have a feeling I’ll better appreciate The Spirit Well after the series is concluded as I see potential for all the various plots and characters. As it stands though, I wasn’t particularly caught up in the story. The Bone House finished in a dramatic fashion and the climax for that book was particularly griping. However, this book starts with a new character, Cassandra, in a new location. But the time spent with Cassandra is quite short initially and it’s almost ½ through the book before she’s picked up again. By the end of the book, I’m still not completely sure she’s a necessary character. This leads me to the conclusion that much like other parts of The Spirit Well, their inclusion in the story will make more sense in hindsight than they do at this time.
Without a doubt, great lengths were taken to make this story as immersive as possible. Lawhead does a wonderful job of creating each location and the characters that play into those scenes. For the most part, the attention to detail is a positive aspect of this book. However, there are times in which the pacing feels very slow and the plot a bit plodding. Part of this is the balance between past events and current events with characters disappearing for long periods of time. For example, Burleigh is virtually non-existent in this book, though he is a major villain. His absence keeps the suspense to a minimal. Though Douglas makes an appearance, his actions do not seem to affect anyone else. This lack of interaction keeps the story from having much tension and though a lot of information is presented, the quest for the skin map is not really advanced.
While there are some very noteworthy spiritual themes in this book, unfortunately, the one which stands out most is a point of view I disagree with. I was able to enjoy Kit’s time with the River City Clan in The Bone House, though I gathered the people were supposed to be cavemen. I actually thought Lawhead did a great job of giving them an intelligence that some in modern society would not attribute to them. However, all that is crushed in this book when they are referred to as a less evolved human being or as primitive humans. The idea that man evolved clashes mightily with my world views and as a result, the ‘magic’ created in The Bone House by these characters was quickly snatched away.
I thoroughly enjoyed the background information on the how and why the skin map was created as well as how it came to be parceled out and hidden in various locations. The set up and execution of this part of the story is a long time coming, but it is delivered quite nicely and in a very fulfilling manner.
While The Spirit Well is not my favorite book in The Bright Empire series, at some level I think it will prove very necessary to the remainder of the books. However, while the environment is carefully constructed it was a bit tiring to read at times. With two books left in the series, there is a lot of ground still left to cover. I look forward to reading the next chapter in this saga soon.