Monday, November 1, 2010

CSFF Blog Tour: The Skin Map Day Two

In yesterday's post I mentioned two protagonists in addition to Kit and Wilhelmina: Arthur Flinders-Petrie and Lord Archelaeus Burleigh, Earl of Sutherland. In the grand scheme of ley lines and world jumping, Kit and Wilhelmina are minor figures, amateurs, interlopers. The real movers and shakers are Flinders-Petrie and Burleigh.

Flinders-Petrie is a pioneer in the use of ley lines. Through trial and error, he has learned to navigate the lines to go where he wants when he wants. He has documented his findings as a map tattooed on his torso. After his death, the map is removed and preserved as a thin piece of parchment, the skin map of the novel's title. We enter Flinders-Petrie's story as he arrives in Maccau, China to have a new tattoo added to the map. This addition records directions to the Well of Souls, which Flinders-Petrie describes as "the ultimate prize, . . . the greatest treasure ever known" (p. 132). To Wu Chen Hu--the tattooist who has recorded all the maps in his unique, vivid blue ink--the designs are "a tightly controlled swash of abstract ciphers. . . , elegant in their own way as the Pinyin script was elegant, but utterly devoid of any comprehensible meaning" (p. 132). Burleigh makes his first appearance, interrupting the tattoo session to invite Flinders-Petrie to dinner to discuss mutual business interests. Chen Hu is suspicious of Burleigh but remains reticent. Dinner turns out to be a trap. Burleigh knows about Flinders-Petrie's discoveries and requests that he and Flinders-Petrie form a partnership. When Flinders-Petrie refuses, Burleigh decides to acquire the map by force. Only the intervention of Chen Hu and his daughter Xian-Li save Flinders-Petrie from being killed and skinned.

The Foundation Stone above the
Well of Souls.
Burleigh is the novel's charming but ruthless villain. He's also an atheist, flatly stating, when Cosimo invokes God in a plea for mercy, that God does not exist, "only chaos, chance, and the immutable laws of nature" (p. 337). Burleigh claims to give people choices, usually cooperate or die in some dastardly manner. As with Flinders-Petrie, we know nothing of Burleigh's past. He possesses considerable wealth, some of it obtained from selling antiquities on the black market, and employs a small army of henchmen whom Cosimo calls Burley men. All the other protagonists cross paths with him at some point in the novel and none of the meetings conclude pleasantly. What motivates Burleigh? Avarice? He has more than enough money. Burleigh's aim is the Well of Souls.

So, what is the Well of Souls? According to Wikipedia, the "Well of Souls is a natural cave located immediately beneath the Foundation Stone, under the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem." When Burleigh presses Cosimo for an answer, Cosimo calls it a myth with Jewish, Arab, and Egyptian versions, but none agree on its nature or location. Cosimo continues:

Some tales have it that the well is an earthly place, an underground region where the souls of the dead congregate to await the coming Judgement. Others hold it to be a heavenly place where the souls of those not yet born await their call to life in this world (p. 336).

But in Lawhead's universe, it appears to be something more. Flinders-Petrie tells an Egyptian priest that the Well of Souls is beyond Sirius--the Dog Star--and that he will take his wife Xian-Li--who has just died of an acute fever--to the Well of Souls in a last attempt to heal her or, more accurately, bring her back from the dead. Lawhead does not give us a difinitive answer.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of The Skin Map from the publisher.

To learn more about the author, visit his website at

To learn what the other CSFF bloggers are saying, follow the links below:

Red Bissell
Thomas Clayton Booher
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
George Duncan
April Erwin
Tori Greene
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Becca Johnson

Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Shannon McDermott
Allen McGraw
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Kathleen Smith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Donna Swanson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Elizabeth Williams
Dave Wilson

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