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The Skin Map

(Bright Empires #1)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  4,425 ratings  ·  582 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
Hardcover, 403 pages
Published August 30th 2010 by Thomas Nelson (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 ch…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)

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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  4,425 ratings  ·  582 reviews

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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
Apr 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Lynnda Ell
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
Jan 24, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 25, 2012 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...
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a curious book in that I thought I had the majority of Stephen Lawheads books only to find a complete series I knew nothing about.

So as is usual with such a situation I went out and bought it. So here we are with the first in the series of 5 books and I must admit I enjoyed it. There is however a but.

Not a big but - but still a but!

You see the book is still with characters and events that feel familiar. Yes it could be I have read too many similar books and they are starting to "bleed
Sep 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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

"Who's to say the reality we find ourselves in is the best one possible?"

Okay, I wanted to read something outside my wheelhouse of norm. Something atypical in an abstract sort of way to give my imagination brain-cells a workout. Such as fantasy, or alternative fiction, or science fiction. But yet, I wanted a relatively clean read.

Well, boy howdy, The Skin Map certainly meets all the criteria - and then some!

"Drop a stone into a millpond and watch the ripples multiply until the whole pond is dis
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
May 11, 2014 rated it liked it
It's a decent start to the series, but, I still hope the later volumes are an improvement on this one.
May 17, 2011 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
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stephen Lawhead's The Skin Map (the first book in the Bright Empires series.

Kit Livingstone is on his way to meet his girlfriend, Mina when a serious of unfortunate events sends him down a mysterious alley, Stane Way. Here he meets a sudden squall and a man claiming to be his great-grandfather Cosimo Livingstone and he finds himself far from London. Arriving at Mina's flat 8 hours late, he takes her to the lane to prove his wild story only to lose Mina in the transf
Anne Hamilton
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
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
R.E. Houser
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Madeline Rose
Initial Response
I...don't know how to review this. Like, seriously. HOW?!

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 legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds. To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily inhabit only a tiny part.
One exp
Yolanda Smith
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished-in-2019
I would’ve given this book five stars if not for the cliffhanger at the end. Just felt I needed a little more stitching up rather than feeling I’d ended somewhere in the middle. But I will be reading book two as soon as it lands in my mailbox. The author is a fabulous storyteller and master weaver of plot.
Jeannie Mancini
Oct 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Lovely Day
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-10-2020

What a trip this was!!! So much adventure & intrigue & action!

Kit's great grandfather, whom he has never met, shows up one day and tells Kit a story of magical travel to other worlds and times. The catch is, his grandfather claims this to all be true and a part of Kit's destiny.

To appease this old man has gone crazy, he plays along only to discover his great grandfather is not only telling the truth, but also very skilled and knowledgeable in the art of lay-travel when the two take a trip tog
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!
Amanda Deed
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Lawhead is one of my all time favourites. This book took me a long time to get into, but by the end I was completely engrossed and can't wait to read the next part of the series.
Good book. Not amazing, but good. Wilhelmina is kind of the best. I find it ironic that her chapters were my favorites in the book when Kit and Arthur and Cosimo and the rest are the ones off gallivanting through the Omniverse and facing off with bad guys and so forth. Seriously, though, she takes everything in stride so well and instead of being all angsty, she's just like "Whatever, I'm stuck here now; let's open the best storming bakery in the city with this guy I just met, bully my landlord ...more
Christa Kinde
Alternate realities and relative timelines.

Kit becomes lost in modern-day London and stumbles across a man who claims to be his great-grandfather. Cosimo is a questor, due in large part to a knack for ley travel. A knack Kit shares. But he has no interest in learning more and returns to his home and to his drab girlfriend. She's annoyed. He tries to explain. She doesn't believe him. So Kit decides to show Wilhelmina the place where he made the leap to another world. But they're separated. To fi
Jodie Hemersbach
The audio book was excellent! Best reader I have heard to date. I borrowed the audio version of the book for a 2 day (+13 hours) road trip knowing my husband would not likely care to listen to a romance novel. This book was a great surprise. We listened every driving moment.
May 26, 2020 rated it liked it
I guess I would give this 3.5 stars. It intrigued me enough to read the second book.

There are so many different characters in different times and places so it was confusing at times to try to remember who was where and when and what they were doing there.
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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

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)

News & Interviews

Did you set an extremely ambitious Reading Challenge goal back in January? And has this, uh, unprecedented year gotten completely in the way of...
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“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.” 1 likes
“Because all the things you did not do cannot exist for you. Only the path that you chose exists as reality for you.” 0 likes
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