Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Spirit Well

The Spirit Well is book three in Stephen Lawhead's Bright Empires series currently scheduled to have five books. I reviewed book one, The Skin Maphere and book two, The Bone Househere. The titles of these books are great, and, as I've said before, I  love a good title. Book four is called The Shadow Lamp. Hmm... shadows... I have this thing for shadows.

As I mentioned in the review for The Skin Map, I started out not really liking the main character, Kit, of this series. He was... well, wishy-washy, at best. He spent a lot of that book whining and complaining and, honestly, by the end of it, I was pretty sick of him. If it hadn't been by Lawhead, I may not have continued on.

But I'm glad that I did, because Kit really grew into himself as a character in the second book, which probably had a lot to do with the tragic ending of the first. In the second book, we see Kit take control of himself and strengthen his will and resolve. He becomes a character that takes action rather than just trailing along behind. Of course, he doesn't really know what he's doing, but he means to do it well.

The third book gives us a Kit that becomes strong in body and mind, too. In many ways, he has no choice in the matter considering he gets trapped in a stone age past (but, remember, this isn't time travel) with a clan of cave men. By the end of his time there, he doesn't want to leave. It's interesting character growth and I really enjoyed those sections of the book.

The book, on the whole, centers on character growth and story growth. The plot doesn't really advance, but we do see it filled out and some of the missing pieces from the first two books filled in. There's also a new character, which seems a little late to me for her to be coming in in book three, but we'll see how that plays out. She seems to be important and much of the book centered on her journey to get her up to the same point as the rest of the characters. She's not the only new character, but the rest are characters related to the Arthur story line, so they weren't like bringing in a whole new plot thread.

So, overall, the book kept me engrossed, and I really want to know where Lawhead is going with all of this. There are hints of a larger "quest," "quest" being used in the sense of (King) Arthur's Quest for the Holy Grail, and, in some ways, this is a parallel type story to that. There are definitely Grail Quest overtones, at any rate, not to mention the use of "Arthur" as one of the character names. And, then, there is that Lawhead has actually written one of the best Arthurian series I've ever read, so, I suppose, it would be difficult to escape those things. To say the least, I am looking forward to the fourth book (as soon as it's out in paperback).

One thing, though, these are not in any way individual books within a larger story line. You can't grab book three and expect to understand what's going on, nor can you read the first book and expect a satisfactory ending. There is just one story, here, being told across multiple books. So far, it's a good story.


  1. Never read anything by Lawhead. My tbr pile is ridiculous right now. But, all that said, I'll keep the name bouncing around my head for 'just in cases-ies'

  2. I'm not thrilled about a book that won't stand alone. I guess if you started at the beginning and kept up with it faithfully it might work okay, but I prefer a book that holds its own without coercing the reader to read everything to get satisfaction. That's probably why I don't usually keep up with TV shows that continue from one week to the next.

    Tossing It Out

  3. I have the first three books in this series, but I haven't read any of them yet. I love Lawhead, though, so I fully intend to read them one of these days.

  4. I'm with Rusty. My TBR pile is like 85 books. I love my Kindle, I love my friends who publish books, I buy them all. Right now I'm reading four books simultaneously because they all just came out and I've been eagerly awaiting them and I can't commit to just one...sigh.
    Tina @ Life is Good

    P.S I'm with Lee, IMO, the key to writing a good series is that the book CAN stand alone, but fits nicely into the series as well. Get 'em hooked, then they'll want to read the whole series.

  5. This is a good review Andrew. Character driven work appeals to me as I like to see how people change with new experience.

    As a reader of Fantasy novels, I'm used to having to begin with book 1 and read my way through. I don't think each book has to stand on it's own.

  6. TAS: It's been very interesting so far. I just hope it ends well.

    Alex: Usually the best place, too.

    Rusty: I'd say start with Taliesen, especially if you like Arthurian stuff.

    Lee: Well, as you can see, I like them. I grew up reading fantasy of this sort, so it doesn't bother me at all.

    M.J.: Lawhead is one of my favorites. And I had noted that about you, too.

    Huntress: It's a good series.

    Tina: I know all about the too large TBR pile, but Lawhead always makes it to the front of the stack.

    And I think it really depends upon what you're writing as to how you should do it. Of course, it all goes back to Tolkien and the artificial separation of LotR into three books.

    Anne: I think the dynamic of Kit in this series has been very interesting. I'm pretty sure I have not had any other protagonist that I've had more "meh" feelings for than how I felt about Kit at the end of the first book, but there has been a lot of character growth that you just don't see from most authors.

  7. It must be good for you to commit to reading on. Glad you gave Kip a chance and that he's turning out well for you.

  8. Nicki: It is at this point, yes. Like I said, if it hadn't been Lawhead, I probably wouldn't have gone past the first book, but that's what reader trust will do for you as an author.

  9. Ya that can be tricky to do: create a character who grows, yet make him likable enough to want to spend a whole story with him.

  10. Pk: It's unfortunate that most authors just skip the character growth entirely.

  11. It does speak well for the series that you're still inclined to read more.

  12. TAS: Oh, yeah, he totally has me roped in. Lawhead has some really great books, though, so that's not surprising.

  13. Hmm, don't know if I will easily tolerate a whiny character all the way through book 1. I guess it might be worth a shot though. ;)

  14. Trisha: I think he gets better enough to make it worth it.