Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Legend of Sam Miracle

The Legend of Sam Miracle
by N.D. Wilson
Recommended Ages: 12+

Sam Miracle is a frequently spaced-out foster kid who lives with eleven "Ranch Brothers" at the St. Anthony of the Desert Destitute Youth Ranch, somewhere in Arizona. He has arms that don't bend at the elbow, due to an accident that shattered the bones, and a tendency to wander off while daydreaming, turning up hours later sunburned and dehydrated. One day a gunslinging visitor tries to kill him in front of his foster parents, shooting him right through the body of their strong-willed daughter Glory. Luckily, the two kids are snatched from the brink of death by a time-traveling priest named Father Tiempo, who has been guiding Sam through a long series of do-overs in a life-or-death mission to stop the villainous Vulture, a.k.a. El Buitre, from conquering the future.

Sam has been plucked off the cusp of oblivion so many times, he has a hard time keeping his memories straight. But apparently, his real life started during the era of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. And it would have continued then, too, if his existence hadn't threatened the Vulture's project of grinding all history beneath his boot-heel. Now El Buitre is afraid to move forward past the week he has foreseen Sam Miracle will kill him. But he has Sam in a stalemate, holding his sister Millie hostage in a chamber of torture, death, and rebirth outside time. And now, thanks to Father Tiempo's most desparate gambit ever, Sam is on his last life. No more resets. He either gets the Vulture - and Millie, per preference - or he falls, and the world falls with him.

I've given away more than enough of this strange, original, exciting adventure through time. If you squint at the cover art, you'll pick up a couple more things - like the fact Sam takes Glory along with him, and she has a magical hourglass thingy that somehow defends them against the Vulture's time-meddling powers, and he ends up with a couple of snakes grafted into his arms. I mean, seriously: the kid, destined to live out the destiny of his favorite character from a dog-eared old western novel called The Legend of the Poncho, gets snake arms. How cool is that? The story has it all: monstrous villains, timey-wimey sci-fi weirdness, a touch of southwestern U.S. mystique (and I like the southwestern U.S.), a sneaky thread of religious allegory, humbling emotional dilemmas, self-sacrificing friendship, a motorcycle with a sidecar, some serious gunfights, and more, more, more.

I am a longtime appreciator of the work of N.D. Wilson. If you've ever tuned into either the "100 Cupboards" or the "Ashtown Burials" series, you know what I mean. This inaugural book in the new "Outlaws of Time" series is as different from them as it can be, without lacking any of the good stuff. A follow-up book, The Song of Glory and Ghost, is scheduled for release April 18, 2017. Fair disclosure: Both books are in my hands thanks to Wilson's wife, who had the publicity department at Harper Collins Children's mail them to me. Another fair disclosure: I have a mediocre record of reading books sent me for free in time to write a pre-publication review. That my proof copy of Glory and Ghost is at the top of my reading list is not because it's a freebie, but because it's the book I am most excited to read right now.

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