It’s Not My Cup of Tea

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 the race to get the Skin Map is just a smoke screen for the real prize. He does not foreshadow this plot change in any way and only the villains know the true goal even at the end of the book. Finally, when the hero’s situation at the end is hopeless, one of the characters in a subplot rescues him quite melodramatically (think cavalry coming over the hill). The plot disappointed me.

Issue number two: the style. Mr. Lawhead wrote this book in the style of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and George Eliot. Since I like A Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice, and Adam Bede, I anticipated adding another author to this list. The style didn’t work. I kept waiting for the ebb and flow of the characters’ lives to draw me in and capture me with the events of their lives. That never occurred. Almost everything felt flat and uninteresting. (One of the subplots was better than the main plot.)

Issue number three: the characters. I’ve alluded to this in the other two issues. Even in a melodrama, the heroes are heroic. In The Skin Map, the heroes bumble into and out of one dire situation after another, never getting anything right and losing at every turn of the plot. The villains are appropriately villainous, but all of the characters appear to be vague and moved around rather like the pieces on a board game.

The technical aspects of the audio edition met my expectations. I listened to it on a 900-mile road trip, which was just about right for this 11-hour book. The reader’s pacing and style are good. If you buy this book, be prepared for English accent and pronunciation.