Saturday, May 28, 2016

Book Review: Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle (N.D. Wilson)


Sam Miracle, a boy whose bones have fused together, escapes into his own world of imagination, filled with adventure and action. A place where his arms can bend, a place where they are fast.

When strange time-traveling outlaws come looking for him, Sam’s stories become very, very real. His stories were real, memories of his past selves. And with the help of a time-traveling priest and a spunky girl named Gloria Spalding, Sam has one last chance to stop the Vulture from roaming through time and doing whatever he so pleases with it.

Outlaws of Time takes readers all through time as Sam Miracle and Gloria Spalding are chased through time. Sam’s arms become bendy, but they take on a life of their own… quite literally. Just when you think there’s time to breathe, the villains arrive with guns blazing and force the heroes to keep running. The chaos that follows on Sam’s heels forces him to really think and understand – and accept – the role he is meant to fill, however dark or painful it is.

Sam is a hero with a lot of growing to do, and it makes the story interesting. He’s confused and unsure of himself and of the purpose everyone seems to think he must fulfill, and sometimes it scares him. When his arms are grafted with snakes, he reacts in a way I would expect (in a way I would react if I had snakes for arms). He freaks out, and he has a hard time adjusting and coping with this change in his life. It makes him realistic as we watch him panic and try to regain some scrap of control over his life. But these events make Sam’s character develop as the story goes on. He slowly begins to understand, and he adds his own goals to the ones others have set for him. He finds a determination inside him that makes him stronger.

Glory is the one who keeps Sam going. She helps him remember and to stay focused. But she has her own growing she needs to do. She tries to live her favorite book, The Legend of Poncho, but their danger is not a book. It was interesting to see her mindset focused on that, and how Father Tiempo, a man who offers much guidance and wisdom in the early chapters, tries to correct this view. Glory (and perhaps to some degree, us) need to live our own lives, and not try to copy our favorite books. Our lives are our story, and it’s important how we live it. I liked how Glory, while maybe not quite a main character like Sam is, has an arc too. She has growing to do.

The villain, El Buitre, or the Vulture, is excellently twisted. He is not at all afraid to do whatever he needs to do to get what he wants, or kill whoever he needs to kill. He’s cunning and devious, and plays with time in order to get his way. His assistant, Mrs. Dervish, is a villain who doesn’t appear very often, but whose abilities make me intrigued. She seems to have played a role in putting El Buitre where he is today (or yesterday, or tomorrow), and I’m curious to know what more she can do. She has the potential to be a very dangerous villain. The pair of them create an evil force to be reckoned with, a force that follows no rules.

The time travel aspect was a little bit confusing (time travel has always been a confusing topic for me, though), but somehow Mr. Wilson’s use of it and how he developed it made it seem simpler to understand. The book seems to expand on the aspect of time, adding a darkness that sits outside of it, and it seems to have a life of its own, where El Buitre walks freely. Time and time travel involves a lot of sand, but the worldbuilding done is both simple, yet with an underlying layer of complexity that I hope is explored more in the next books.

****

Violence/gore: Characters are shot, and some are killed. A little of description of the snake arm grafting is revealed, but it’s not very detailed (from what I remember). One character is tortured. Sam’s past selves and their fates are spoken of, and it’s a lot violent (not described in detail, though).

Profanity: Only referenced.

Sexual content: None.

Other: Nothing that I recall that would be very questionable. There may be characters who drink liquor or smoke, but I’m afraid I don’t recall any instances. Some of the boys at SADDYR have committed a few felonies (but that’s likely the reason they were put in SADDYR anyway).

Have you read Outlaws of Time? What did you think of it? :D

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