The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead
Ridiculously simplified summary: First in a series. Kit, a hapless young man, is dragged into the world of magical ley lines, which take travelers through time and place, and to parallel dimensions. Along the way, Kit's girlfriend is literally lost. Of infinite importance is The Skin Map, a guide to the numerous pathways between worlds...which must not fall into the wrong hands.
Content: Several fights and a few deaths. Nothing that struck me as terribly gruesome, though I'd known what was coming beforehand. Very light talk about God (not so much Christianity). Maybe the sweetest example:
"To our success!" cried Etzel gladly. "May it please God.""May it please God," echoed Mina softly, almost to herself. And something in her stirred at the thought.
Compelling: 7 out of 10. Like the other books I've read in the series, there are some storylines I loved (I found the book worth reading just for Wilhelmina and Etzel). Others, not so much. Since I knew the ultimate outcome of some of the storylines, they weren't as interesting as they might have been otherwise.
Characters: 7 out of 10. Pretty much exactly like in The Bone House. Lady Fayth was interesting, though if I hadn't read later books I'm not sure I would have liked her. Wilhelmina and Etzel...I thought Etzel did bring up things being God's will and such a bit gratuitously by the end, but I still could just hug him, and it was so much fun to see Mina's progression. Lord Burleigh was nicely scary. As for the main character, Kit, I still found him rather dull.
Writing/editing: 7 out of 10. Overall solid writing and I didn't notice any outright errors. The use of unusual dialogue tags (things like "Kit allowed" instead of "Kit said") was here in full force, which made it especially difficult to read the long conversations. I had a bit of difficulty following the fight scenes, and found some of the descriptions of the foreign places they visit overly long and dull. But then, my main interest is the concept of space/time travel, and seeing how people interact in these worlds...not watching fights and reading descriptions longer than my Kindle screen.
Plausibility/believability: 4 out of 5. Lots of details about each locale (I occasionally found it to be too much). The place Mina ends up, and who rescues her, could arguably be considered too convenient, though I found it more Providential than anything else.
Positive: 3 out of 5. Not really a happy ending in any way, though it's a series, and there's a hint of hope at the end.
Gut reaction: 3 out of 5. I have no idea if I would've maintained interest in the series based on this book. By book 3 I was hooked, though. Reading this one out of order was fun because you could see what was set up here and then explained later. I can't fathom the amount of planning this series must have taken.
Bonus points: 5 out of 5.
Recommended for: Fans of time-travel fiction, not necessarily Christian.
Total Rating: 3.6 out of 5 stars
*I borrowed this book free from my local library.