Monday, October 22, 2012

CSFF Blog Tour: The Spirit Well Day One

The Spirit WellThis month's selection for the CSFF tour is Stephen R. Lawhead's The Spirit Well, the third installment in the Bright Empires series. According to Lawhead's essay “On the Road Again” at the back of the book, he is planning five books for the Bright Empires series. I like the essays Lawhead places at the end of each novel. In this one, he talks about traveling old roads and pilgrimage.

Placing my feet exactly where countless others have placed theirs, often over many millennia, I can easily imagine emerging at the other end of the passage a different person, in a different time (pp. 373-74).

That's precisely what happens to the characters in this series.

The Spirit Well is very much a “middle book.” There aren't many resolutions to problems posed in the previous books. Rather, Lawhead presents some new characters and fills in the details behind some of the characters's stories. We learn about Mina's initial experiments with ley travel and how she met her teacher, Brother Lazarus, a monk at a monastery in Spain. Lawhead tells us the story of Arthur Flinders-Petrie's death in Egypt, how the skin map came to be, and why it was separated and scattered. We don't see much of Archelaeus Burleigh in this book.

The Street Called Straight, Damascus,
c. 1890-1900.
Among the new characters are Cassandra Clarke, Rosemary Peelstick, and Brendan Hanno. Cassandra is a paleontologist working a dig in Arizona. She stumbles into ley travel with the “help” of a Native American who immediately returns her to the present and cautions her that the Ghost Road is not for her. Cassandra experiments with the Ghost Road on her own and eventually lands in Damascus, Syria. There she comes across the Zetetic Society and two of its members: Rosemary and Brendan, who try to convince her to join their effort to trace Arthur Flinders-Petrie's discoveries. Brendan tells her that they don't know exactly what Flinders-Petrie discovered but that they think it has something to do with the manipulation of time, perhaps a way to select the desired course of the future. Brendan and Rosemary mention Cosimo and Sir Henry as Zetetic Society members. They also paint the society's mission in broad terms as a struggle between good and evil, a struggle to save the omniverse from a future of ever-expanding evil and suffering. I don't recall Cosimo or Sir Henry mentioning the Zetetic Society in the previous books, which leads me to wonder if this organization is a late edition to Lawhead's plans.

The Spirit Well contains much theorizing about ley travel and the nature of the multidimensional omniverse. In a discussion that I still haven't wrapped my head around, Mina tells Kit that she does not have any memory of rescuing him in Egypt because it hasn't happened for her yet. I won't attempt to explain that one. Mina and Kit also conclude that each person has a single consciousness and that consciousness cannot be split among different worlds. In other words, there is no chance of meeting oneself. The soul is indivisible.

Finally, has anyone else noticed that the overwhelming majority of major characters who die do so in Egypt? Cosimo dies there. Sir Henry dies there. Arthur dies there. If you're a character in The Bright Empires series, don't go to Egypt.

The Spirit Well is a wonderful addition to an engrossing series. I'm already looking forward to book four The Shadow Lamp. If you haven't read the first two books, you must read them before dipping your toes in The Spirit Well or else you'll be as disoriented as Kit and Mina on their first ley jumps.

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

To learn more about Stephen R. Lawhead, visit his website at or his Facebook page at

To read what other CSFF bloggers are saying, follow the links below.
Jim Armstrong
Julie Bihn
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart
Thomas Clayton Booher
Thomas Fletcher Booher
Beckie Burnham
Brenda Castro
Karri Compton
Theresa Dunlap
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Jeremy Harder
Bruce Hennigan
Timothy Hicks
Janeen Ippolito
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emileigh Latham
Rebekah Loper
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Anna Mittower
Joan Nienhuis
Lyn Perry
Nathan Reimer
Chawna Schroeder
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler


  1. Great series! Great review! But actually, in book one, The Skin Map, Lawhead does mention the Zetetic Society: Cosimo tells Kit about it and they have a little conversation:

    ...‘Ah! Yes, the Questors. I suppose they are best described as a loose confederation of colleagues, all of whom belong to the Zetetic Society.’
    ‘You guys have a society?’
    ‘For obvious reasons, it is an extremely secretive organization,’ Cosimo told him. ‘Very small and informal.’ ..... (Chapter 10, pg. 116-117).

    It is all there, but I agree you've got to read it closely.
    Good blog!

    1. Thanks for stopping, Chris. I wondered if there wasn't some brief mention of the society that I didn't recall. Thanks for pointing it out.

  2. I'm looking forward to the next one, too, Jeff. This one is by far my favorite, and I think it might be because both Mina and Kit have grown as people. I like them now, see something heroic in each. And Cassie was likable from the start, I thought.


    1. Yes, this volume certainly filled in Mina's story and Cassie, with all her skepticism, is a good addition to the mix.

  3. Hadn't noticed the connection between Egypt and character death, but your warning is timely! Thanks for a great review.

    1. Thanks for reading. I'm interested to see if the Egypt connection carries through the next books.

  4. "If you're a character in The Bright Empires series, don't go to Egypt." Too funny!

    1. It is a land known for its tombs so maybe the connection is appropriate.

  5. I think it's a fair bet that we'll visit Egypt again. Remember, the Mina of the present story time at the end of the book had not yet rescued Kit from the pyramid. I have to believe we'll see how things unfold that take her to Egypt in time to free Kit of the past. (And I suspect that anyone who has not read the book will have no idea what I just said@ ;-)


    1. I'm still having trouble grasping that memory thing, and I've read all the books.