The Skin Map, by Stephen R. Lawhead. Unabridged audio.
Stephen R. Lawhead is one of my favorite fantasy authors, but he has dipped into science fiction before, which is the genre where this series (this is the first book of Bright Empires) belongs.Kit Livingstone is an ordinary fellow, with an ordinary life, an ordinary job, and an ordinary girlfriend. Until he is visited by his long-lost great-grandfather Cosimo. His long-dead great-grandfather Cosimo. With Cosimo's help, Kit finds that he can travel along ancient ley-lines to other times and/or other dimensions, and is recruited to the search for the one complete map of the lines. This is a parchment made from the skin of a man who learned about the ley-lines, and then tattooed them onto his body. It turns out that Cosimo and Kit are not alone in this quest to the find the skin map, and then the race is on.
In the past, Kit in joined in his quest by the enigmatic and flirtatious Lady Fayth, while his girlfriend Wilhelmina struggles to survive on her own in 17th century Prague, as the apprentice to a baker. All of these characters get caught up in an omniverse of intersecting realities as they chase down the secret of the skin map.This is just the first in a series of books, so the story does not come to a satisfying conclusion in terms of the overall plot, although branches of the intersecting realities do merge towards the end to give the story a nice launching-point into the next book.
Lawhead is strong in his characterizations, and the relationships between Kit and his compatriots all seem realistic. There are moments where credulity is strained between characters, especially in Wilhelmina's story, but this is a typical issue with time-travel stories -- I just don't think that people would be so blasé about meeting others from hundreds of years in the future. But again, that is a constant worry in this type of tale, and Lawhead does the best he can with that issue. The action is strong, the plot is intriguing, and the dangers that our crew of heroes face in future stories will bring me back to book #2 in the series.
source: public library