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The Skin Map (Bright Empires #1)

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,247 Ratings  ·  484 Reviews
It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intersecting realities. To unravel the future of the future.

Kit Livingstone's great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm. He reveals an unbelievable story: that the ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of lege
Audio CD, 13 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Thomas Nelson Publishers (first published January 1st 2010)
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Annette Meh. I wouldn't categorize it as Christian and I am one. Many of Lawhead's other books have strong religious themes: this one does Not. Some of the…moreMeh. I wouldn't categorize it as Christian and I am one. Many of Lawhead's other books have strong religious themes: this one does Not. Some of the characters from the 16th and 17th centuries attend church and speak respectfully or gratefully of "Providence," but that is quite as far as it goes. Frankly I would barely classify this book as one with a basically Christian worldview.
I think the literary world has a great deal of trouble with an author who is Christian and/or occasionally writes Christian-themed stuff. They stick him in a "Christian" category and don't let him out, no matter how justly he deserves release / booting. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 30, 2012 Werner rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of adventure-oriented science fiction
Note, Nov. 30, 2012 --I'm adding this note to correct an error in the review. The Bright Empires series is NOT to be a trilogy; Lawhead is projecting five volumes for it in all. My bad! :-)

In the 1920s, landscape photographer and amateur antiquarian Alfred Watkins became convinced that large numbers of pre-Roman sites in Great Britain (megaliths, mounds, hill forts, wells, causeways, sacred sites, etc.) were deliberately laid out along straight lines, for which he coined the term "ley lines," ru
Aug 01, 2011 seak rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, arc-review
Kit is your average Londoner dealing with an average Londoner's complications, more specifically, the metro system. One problem leads to the next and on his way to his girlfriend's, he finds himself in a dark alley, Stane Way, but this dark alley's not as mysterious or treacherous as you may think, Kit ends up finding his great-grandfather for the first time...who's not looking as old as he probably should be.

Thus begins the adventure for the Skin Map, which contains directions through the ley l
Lynnda Ell
May 06, 2012 Lynnda Ell rated it it was ok
It’s much harder to write a negative review than a positive one. However, I’ve put off writing this one long enough. Thomas Nelson sent me a free copy of the unabridged audio edition of The Skin Map with the understanding that I would write an honest evaluation of it, so here it is…

Issue number one: the plot. The Skin Map begins with both heroes and villains searching for a hidden map of the locations for moving around in time and space. About halfway through the book, Stephen Lawhead decides th
Mike (the Paladin)
Oct 02, 2012 Mike (the Paladin) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Okay 3.5. I'm to some extent a Lawhead fan. He's written some books I've liked greatly though he's capable (sometimes) of writing some very dry prose. It happens.

I saw this book, read the synopsis and noted it as one I wanted to read some years ago.

And then forgot it.

I saw it mentioned here, a few days ago, said "oh yeah, I remember wanting to read that". It was in audio on the library's web sight so I downloaded it. I must say it's not what I expected from the synopsis I read. It's much more...
Sep 14, 2010 Mindy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a fantastic journey that was hard to put down. It combines science, history, mystery, and alternate realities. The first sentence of the first chapter draws you in:

"Had he but known that before the day was over he would discover the hidden dimensions of the universe, Kit might have been better prepared. At least he would have brought an umbrella."

The day that Kit meets his great-grandfather, his world is turned upside down. Or inside out. Or maybe sideways. Lawhead is able to weav
Adam Collings
The Skin Map is not your average stand-alone novel. It is the first instalment of a vast story arc. The story begins simply, with an everyday twenty-first century Londoner, Kit Livingstone. Upon a mysterious meeting with his long-dead great-grandfather he is pulled into a world of mysteries, dangers and alternate realities.

The book covers a number of parallel stories about multiple characters. Neither of these stories is brought to conclusion in the Skin Map, they are all left hanging for the ne
This book was simply an alright read. It was not bad, but I can't say that I really enjoyed it either. The writing was a bit dry for a fair share of the book and several parts of the books seem a muddled at time. But the concept is an interesting one. Then again, I am a sucker for time-travel stories.

It starts off with Kit meeting his (great?) grandfather and finds himself in another place and time. At first skeptical, upon returning home he knows it to be real. But when he tries to prove it ti
Brenten Gilbert
my history with Stephen Lawhead isn’t the best… a long time ago, (when i was but a wee lad) i bought three Lawhead books from a book club… Taliesin, Merlin, and Arthur… i had heard that he was a good author and i guessed based on the titles, that i’d be interested in the books… unfortunately, i could never get into them and i doubt i made it past the first three chapters of the first book, despite trying several times… and, as it turns out, those books are part of a larger series, the Pendragon ...more
May 23, 2011 Seth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Kit Livingstone is a dissatisfied twentysomething in a hum-drum relationship and stuck in a dead-end job in a London cube farm. Until, that is, he mysteriously encounters his long-missing great-grandfather in a dark alley. The old man reveals to Kit the wondrous secrets of “ley lines“—invisible strings of unexplained energy that criss-cross the planet.

If one knows how to navigate them, these lines open up portals to other times and parallel universes. After accidentally losing his girlfriend in
Jan 03, 2014 Melanie rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, review-copy
I have become a increasingly tired, or perhaps suspicious of books intended for a series. I guess I feel I have been burnt enough times with either a promising series that ends flat, or like it was with the Skin Map- by Stephen Lawhead, where the author sort of assumes the readers will hang on for the long haul without truly endearing us to the characters, or giving us enough of the story to keep the reader wanting more.
I must say that Lawheads writing is quite good. (I especially love reading
Stephen Lawhead certainly can tell a tale. The many and obvious errors in this manuscript could/should have been caught with just one more proofreading. Nevertheless, Lawhead engages the reader and keeps his attention through to the end. There is a fine tangle of plot and timelines, which only gets worse as the story progresses.

Unfortunately, the "end" is something of a cliffhanger. There is not resolution so much as a commitment by the protagonist to pursue to an end. Frustrating, in a good way
Anne Hamilton
Jan 30, 2015 Anne Hamilton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, names

A terrific story. I would have rated it higher but the time aspect was so confusing. It was difficult to be sure on occasion - especially in the scenes with Lord Burleigh, whether there had been a change of century or not.

Spoiler alert:

Cosimo Christopher Livingstone, naturally known as 'Kit', is riding the London Underground to visit his girlfriend when a line closure forces him off the direct route. A fair bit of frustration and wandering later, he winds up taking an obscure street called Stan
Deborah O'Carroll
I'm giving THE SKIN MAP 5 stars . . . with one reservation (which is what this review is for, naturally).

This is going to be just a little bit hard to review. I won this book in a giveaway from Robert Treskillard (a masterful author in his own right), and read it over the course of three days when I was sick, and it helped pass the time marvelously.

For most of the book, THE SKIN MAP was a resounding 5-stars. I enjoyed it so very very much and it was brilliant and unique and fascinating and aweso
Jeannie Mancini
Oct 12, 2010 Jeannie Mancini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead
(4 Star Review for Amazon, Goodreads,

Time Leaping Along the Ley Lines

Stephen Lawhead’s new book Skin Map, the first in an upcoming series called Bright Empires, is a bit of a deviation from his usual style of fiction. I think it’s important to up front, not compare it to his other works and normal literary style, in order to not get disappointed. This is a light, fun, sci-fi adventure story, not a lot of deep substance or description. Once in that fra
Douglas Hayes
Oct 20, 2011 Douglas Hayes rated it really liked it
My first book to read on Kindle!!!

Lawhead is a master of drawing you into the story HE wants to tell. Very often, I think, we come to a story with how we think it will go - and feel pleasantly surprise or sorrowfully disappointed by the journey. I've learned, with Lawhead, to allow him to tell his story, and I'm never disappointed.

The very idea of a map made of human skill is a thought most revolting. But with this story I am now convinced that, given the enormous importance of the map for the
Bill Tillman
The beginning of a great new series, very different from previous Lawhead books I have read. Much to discouver, many secrets hidden or lost. Read it!
May 10, 2014 Elizabeth_ rated it really liked it
Stephen R. Lawhead an acclaimed author of mythic history and imaginative fiction.

Kit lives in modern day London and is on his way to Wilhelmina, whom he has had a relationship with for an extended period. There seems to be no romance or feelings of immortal love between them. Somewhere he crosses a ley line, which is one of many branches of deep earth energy, and he finds himself in the past. He meets up with his grandfather, who left one day to buy a loaf of bread, but never returned. Disbeliev
Rachel Thomson
Nov 14, 2011 Rachel Thomson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kit Livingstone, like so many heroes of so many stories, is living a vaguely dissatisfying life when we first meet him attempting to navigate the London transit system on his way to meet Wilhelmina Klug, described in book blurbs as Kit’s “unpleasant girlfriend.” But it doesn’t take long for the unexpected to charge in, starting when Kit meets the last person he would have expected to meet even if he’d been entertaining expectations of meeting anyone: his great-grandfather Cosimo, who disappeared ...more
C.J. Darlington
Wow. This was my first Lawhead to read, and it caught my interest right away. I'm already salivating for the next in the series. Mixes adventure, sci-fi and time travel into a wonderful concoction of fiction.

My review from 2010:

Sci-fi or fantasy? Adventure or suspense? The Skin Map is one of those special books that crosses genres. In a way, it's all of the above, which makes for a delightful reading stew. A novel that's been cooking in Stephen Lawhead's mind for over fifteen years, it was well
Jan 08, 2011 Carmen rated it it was ok
Stephen Lawhead has started a new fantasy series called Bright Empires, beginning with the book The Skin Map. I read this quite quickly and will probably take the next one out of the library when it is released, but it isn't that memorable. Compared to the last book I read, characterization is virtually non-existent and the story flies. Of course, this is not meant to be classic literature, so it is like comparing a big turkey dinner to a McDonald's cheeseburger. Both fulfill your hunger, but in ...more
Luanne Ollivier
Dec 12, 2011 Luanne Ollivier rated it liked it
Stephen Lawhead is an author whose name I was familiar with, but hadn't yet sampled. When I received an offer to listen to his book The Skin Map (A Bright Empires novel) it was the tag line that convinced me to say yes.

"It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure. Chasing a map tattooed on human skin. Across an omniverse of intersecting realities. To unravel the future of the future."

Kit Livingstone is on his way to visit his girlfriend Wilhemina. Somewhere along the way, he takes a short
Sep 08, 2010 Jenelle rated it really liked it
When I heard Stephen Lawhead was writing a new book, I was thrilled. When I learned the title of the new book was The Skin Map, I was confused. It didn’t sound very ... well... Lawhead-y. However, as I began reading this beginning to a brand new series, I swiftly became engrossed in the story.

Filled with descriptions that beguile all five senses and all the beauty and charm of the language I have come to expect from Lawhead, this book is a fascinating blend of fantasy and sci-fi. In the world of
May 29, 2011 Sara rated it it was amazing
The Skin Map
By: Stephen R. Lawhead

I requested this book because it looked like an interesting read. I looked forward to reading it. I started reading this book and it was a little different than I had imagined. Even though I was looking forward to something a little different I was not disappointed. The Skin Map is full of mystery and very sci-fi. The twists and turns through out this book will take you on an adventure of a lifetime. You will not want to put this book down. The main character, K
Nora St Laurent
Jul 08, 2015 Nora St Laurent rated it it was amazing
Kit Livingstone and his girlfriend (only because he didn’t have the time to find another) Wilhelmina are watching life pass them by. Until one day Kit is in the middle of a day where everything is going wrong, he starts to walk because the transit system is not working and is caught up in a storm. When things settle he runs into a man who says he’s his great-grand father. How could that be? He’d never met this man before. He turns to flee when Cosimo tells him, “I need your help with a project. ...more
Marie Friesen
The story opens on Kit, a 27 year-old professional headed to his girlfriend's place on a pleasant Sunday outing. (Now, I didn't think anything could dampen my enthusiasm for visiting London one day, but Kit's misadventure through England's most notoriously convoluted transit system came uncomfortably close.) Happily, though, the Tube is soon exchanged for ley travel--much bigger and more adventurous, certainly more dangerous, and arguably easier to navigate! Throw in a hot commodity, a nefarious ...more
Sep 06, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it
The Skin Map is the first novel in the Bright Empires fantasy series. Stephen R Lawhead is widely known for many of his other series; including the Pendragon series, the Celtic Crusades, and the Song of Albion. While the novel's underlying messages are serious in terms of discovering the secret of life, saving numerous lives, and finding true paradise, the novel reads very light, fun, and is incredibly engaging!

Kit is down on his luck in present-day London, when out of the blue he is visited by
May 13, 2013 Hazel rated it really liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. Though I really liked it, the pacing was off at times with the different storylines. There are several stories to follow: Kit, Mina, Burleigh, Flinders-Petrie & Sir Henry/Cosimo. Not to mention all the tertiary characters these people meet in their travels. At the beginning of the book I found Mina's story to be the msot interesting. Then Flinders-Petrie's story fascinated me. And that's where I was left at the end of the book.

As a main character Kit i
Mar 01, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, sci-fi, 2011
When I ordered this book, I wasn't entirely sure I'd like it. I'm not a fan of time travel novels, so I wasn't sure it I would like "The Skin Map". However, the story is compelling and the worlds visited are intriguing and well detailed.

I would classify this book as a "page turner" because the story and pacing are quite good and the author writes in a very easy to read style. There is plenty of action and twists and turns to keep your nose in this book.

I particularly liked the theory of time t
David Mullen
Mar 07, 2011 David Mullen rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I liked this book, and would have said that I really liked it, but it ended in such an awkward spot that I withheld a fourth star. However, it shows a lot of promise. dmullen

ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY Kit Livingstone has led a terribly humdrum life. Even his girlfriend is dull. But soon all that changes when, with the help of his deceased great-grandfather, Kit is catapulted into worlds unknown in The Skin Map, the first book of the Bright Empires series by prolific writer Stephen R. Lawhead. Dynami
Mallory Heart Recommends  [#VoteCthulhu Why Choose the Lesser Evil?]
Bright Empires #1
A stunning tour through contemporary England, history, alternate dimensions, time and space travel, ley lines and tellurian energy, and perhaps even quantum physics, “The Skin Map” is but the first in a wonderful trilogy that continues with 2011’s “The Bone House” and 2012’s “The Spirit Well.” Stephen Lawhead evinces a remarkable creative imagination as he pipes us along the paths of Kit and Wilhelmina, Kit’s great-grandfather Cosimo, and Cosimo’s colleague in discovery, Si
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Stephen R. Lawhead: The Skin Map --Common read 42 30 Jun 15, 2013 06:22PM  
Join us for the hunt 2 27 Oct 13, 2011 09:17AM  
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Stephen R. Lawhead is an internationally acclaimed author of mythic history and imaginative fiction. His works include Byzantium, Patrick, and the series The Pendragon Cycle, The Celtic Crusades, and The Song of Albion.

Also see his fanpage at Myspace:

Stephen was born in 1950, in Nebraska in the USA. Most of his early life was spent in America where he earned
More about Stephen R. Lawhead...

Other Books in the Series

Bright Empires (5 books)
  • The Bone House (Bright Empires, #2)
  • The Spirit Well (Bright Empires, #3)
  • The Shadow Lamp (Bright Empires, #4)
  • The Fatal Tree (Bright Empires, #5)

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“Then again, what Cosimo had said was right: he was nothing but an overworked drone in a cube farm, a minor cog in the dreary machinery of a third-rate mortgage mill, overlooked, unloved, a sidelined player in the big game,” 0 likes
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