Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Fatal Tree: Review

Imagine a universe knit together like a scarf--everything is connected, nothing is coincidental. 

Cut one thread, and the whole universe begins to unravel.

Welcome back to the CSFF tour for Stephen Lawhead's The Fatal Tree! Feel free to stop by the tour's headquarters here for a list of all the other participant's posts.

As I said yesterday, this is the final book in Lawhead's Bright Empires series, a time travel story. More specifically, it's a story about alternate dimensions. Lawhead centers this series on the idea that every decision or every major event in this world creates a new world, where a different decision has created a slightly different reality. In this world, new worlds are constantly appearing, which pushes the edges of the universe outward as ever increasing rates--as scientists have been able to observe.

I've read a variety of time travel stories, but not a large quantity. The Fatal Tree, along with the other Bright Empires books, fits into the genre pretty well, with a few fun twists. There are the ley lines in England, the Sedona vortexes, and the whimsical, but very serious Zetetic Society of ley travelers intent on exploring and decoding the finicky patterns of the ley lines.

In the previous four books, Kit Livingstone gets a crash course in ley lines and inter-dimensional travel, while trying to track down the missing skin map which holds the secret to the omniverse--though no one knows exactly what that secret is. Lord Burleigh, a dark and evil villain, is also after the map. Burleigh's schemes knows no bounds, but Kit, of course, has to avoid messing with history in his ley travels.

Then, in the fourth book, The Shadow Lamp, Kit learns that someone has already changed history. If he and his friends can't undo the damage in time, the universe's expansion will reverse itself and the world will end. All the worlds will end...

I've somehow missed reading Lawhead's books before now, but this series makes for a fast, fun story, especially when you add in the quirks of being able to time travel. After all, I'd love to be able to jump to another dimension and spend four years studying a foreign language as one of the characters does-- before coming back three days later to find nothing important has happened. It would be very convenient, if nothing else, and easier than trying to not meet yourself while using a Time-Turner.

Apart from the search for the Skin Map, though, my favorite parts is the idea of finding a place where you feel at home. At different points in the story, both Kit and his (former) girlfriend Wilhelmina find themselves stuck in strangely new worlds. I won't spoil anything by saying where they end up feeling most at home, but it's an interesting concept and makes me wish even more than usual that I could visit another era. 

Still, if I could change one thing about this story, it would be to add more depth to the characters. I tend to like stories for their characters. I like action too, which Lawhead offers in abundance, but for the first book in particular, the characters felt flat. That book, The Skin Map, ended with a great cliffhanger, but it took me another book or so until I really connected to Kit or Wilhelmina. Even then, Kit doesn't get a lot of development, and only one part of the plot involves major character growth. Incidentally, even that ended up being a bit chaotic and left me mildly confused at the end.

For sci-fi/fantasy fans, Bright Empires is a fascinating genre-bending series, combining elements of both science and myth. It's also a fun adventure read, with a large helping of imaginative extrapolation. None of the books stood out to me individually, but I did like the series as a whole and would recommend them to readers with a taste for fantasy. 

[My thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for sending me an electronic review copy of The Fatal Tree, in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Fatal Tree: Blog Tour

Have you ever wanted to figure out time travel? Do you wonder if life might be more interesting in the Stone Age--or in 19th century England, for that matter?

The Fatal Tree, Bright Empires Series #5   -     By: Stephen Lawhead
Merry Christmas and welcome once again to the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour! This tour, we're reading Stephen R. Lawhead's The Fatal Tree, the final book in his Bright Empires series. In Lawhead's world, time travel is possible, but it's just slightly more complicated than turning a knob on a fancy gizmo.

The story starts in The Skin Map, when Kit Livingstone runs into his great-grandfather in a back alley of London. Livingstone, Sr., introduces Kit to the vagaries of time travel, but it's a business so tricky that only one man has ever mastered--and that individual only succeeded by means of a map tattooed on his skin.

With an arch-villain on the track of the skin map, a girlfriend who doesn't believe why Kit is eight hours late for their date, and his grandfather urging him to take up the family business, Kit is thrown into the crazy life of a time traveler.

I've seen this series mentioned a number of times, including when the previous books were featured on CSFF tours, but never got around to reading the books. So, when I heard that the November.December tour would be for The Fatal Tree, I had some reading to catch up on. I'll post my review for The Fatal Tree tomorrow, along with some thoughts about the series as a whole. For now, though, feel free to check out some of the other tour participants, as well as the author's website:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
Jeff Chapman
Karri Compton
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Jason Joyner
Janeen Ippolito
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Jalynn Patterson
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble
Jojo Sutis
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler

The Fatal Tree - on Amazon
Author's Website - http://www.stephenlawhead.com/

[My thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for sending me an electronic review copy of The Fatal Tree, in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.]