Book: The Shadow Lamp by Stephen R. Lawhead (Facebook)
Ridiculously simplified summary: Fourth in a series. A group of adventurers seeks to use magical ley lines--portals between times, places, and dimensions--to prevent the world's destruction.
Content: To shamelessly steal from Rebecca LuElla Miller, "Of the four Bright Empires books I’ve read, this is the only one that has what I consider didactic sections. Interestingly the “preachiness” has less to do with God than it does science."
That said there is some reference to Christianity at last here...including some ideas about God and Jesus that, unless I am misunderstanding, seem to me to be rather controversial for a Christian book. Thomas Fletcher Booher both articulated my concerns better than I could have, and took the issues seriously enough that it reassures me that my concerns are valid.
There is some violence, but nothing that overly disturbed me. (Though I haven't yet tried sleeping after reading the brunt of the violence, so...)
Compelling: 6 out of 10. This book didn't grab my interest like the earlier ones did, but as I mentioned yesterday, that could be because of it being less of a mystery. That said, still I felt like there was a lack of action overall for the first big chunk of the book. Things picked up for me about midway through, and there were some really good dramatic scenes closer to the end, though I thought parts of the end also felt almost rushed, after the slower pace of the beginning. Or maybe it's the fact that it's only in the last 100 pages or so of the 4th book in a 5-book series that the main problem is actually revealed. Book 5 should be pretty darned interesting, dealing with all that.
Characters: 8 out of 10. For the most part, the characters were the same as they'd been in the previous books, with plenty of spunky women and sweet, chivalrous men, which is a combination I find hard to turn down. I almost feel like there's a little coasting on the goodwill established in previous books, but that's probably because there are a lot of events that have to transpire in this book and the characters are established, not any actual flaws.
Writing/editing: 6 out of 10. There were some excellent and elegant descriptions, and some nice lines, such as "with the calm acceptance of the condemned who at last understand that time is short and life fleeting and that nothing matters except that which is eternal." The dialogue tags again drove me completely batty during long strings of dialogue. Over the span of two pages are both "'Fair enough,' allowed Kit" and "'Partly,' allowed Kit." I realize that's Lawhead's style in this series--he's been nothing if not consistent in using them through all these books! But during parts when the action isn't rolling along, I get completely derailed by these kinds of tags.
Plausibility/believability: 3 out of 5. I felt like the science became less plausible here--I have trouble with the scientific insistence that (minor spoiler) if the universe isn't expanding as quickly as it always did, that it definitely must be doomed to contract into nothingness.
Positive: 3 out of 5. This one is darker than books 2 and 3, I thought.
I found the implications about Christianity rather disturbing, particularly the possible implication about Jesus' relation to the Spirit Well (which isn't certainly wrong) and even worse, the idea that anything humans could do could undo all of God's creation.
Of course, these are all speculation by scientists that could very well prove to be wrong. The epilogue was an incredible way to show Christian love.
Gut reaction: 4 out of 5. I'd call the ending a twist ending. (Though to me, the descriptions at the end read almost like literary fiction, describing a scene in incredible detail with a deeper meaning--they reminded me of my English classes in college, which I didn't enjoy.) The epilogue helped salvage any lingering ill will overall.
At any rate, I'm looking forward to reading the end of the series for sure. I'm just hoping that book starts quicker than this one.
Bonus points: 5 out of 5.
Recommended for: Fans of Christian science fantasy that doesn't mind point of view shifts.
Total Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Here are the tour participants!
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rachel Starr Thomson
*In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book.