"I only get one life story. I don't want mine to be safe. I want it to be worth writing a book about."
If there's one thing Sam Miracle is good at, it's dying. A lot. Lucky for him, a time-traveling priest named Father Tiempo keeps snatching him back from death in the hopes he'll survive his next attempt at life. Unlucky for him, the constant dying-and-time-traveling has messed with his mind, to the point where he's learned not to accept anything as real except his life at an Arizona reformatory camp where his arms are shattered, painful, and unbendable.
But then the power-hungry villain who's been killing him through time finds Sam Miracle's safe haven in Arizona and shatters that, too. Now, with the help of Father Tiempo and a girl named Glory, Sam will have to remember his past (all of them), save his sister, and find a way to use his arms again so he can participate in a prophesied shootout. Lucky for him, a Navajo healer has a pair of snakes that just might do the trick.
If there's one thing N.D. Wilson is good at, it's dreaming up a plethora of unique, creative, and convoluted elements to round out the world of his stories. Unfortunately, he can often overshoot the mark and try to do too much at once. Legend of Sam Miracle tends toward this trap, combining disparate elements without fully explaining the logic of the world they inhabit. This is a time travel novel, but it's not the kind of time travel that has equations or rules. It's never fully explained; you just kind of have to go with it.
That's not to say it isn't all good fun. Navajo priests and old West showdowns and time travel and talking to animals and snake arms and the Earp brothers and a reformatory camp reminiscent of Holes all make an appearance. Previous Wilson books have covered Kansas, Florida, Wisconsin and Michigan, and this one shifts to an Arizona flavor.
Of all the books N.D. Wilson has written thus far (with the exception of Leepike Ridge), Legend of Sam Miracle rates the tamest on the creepiness/horror scale. There is lots of violence, of course, with the aforementioned repeated deaths. There's no gratuitous blood and gore (though it appears) and there's no outright horror elements (unless snake arms creep you out.) That's not to say the villain isn't scary. He's just about as frightening, violent, and unpredictable as any other Wilson villain, but this one is a little less so (although at one point he threatens to throw the girl into a grave and bury her alive while she screams. You know, as villains do.)
Wilson draws a pretty obvious parallel here to his (admittedly Miltonian) interpretation of the story of Eden. The characters discuss the duty of the strong to die for the weak, to stand up against evil even when it's not the smart thing to do. Should Sam die to save his sister, even though that means he won't be able to save the world? It's a question that's asked, though not answered, in this book, and it's certainly one that will be explored in the following installments in the Outlaws of Time series.
Review by Lauren Shearer
Lauren Shearer writes words for fun and profit. She also makes films, but everyone knows you can't make a profit doing that. Her other hobby is consistently volunteering way too much of her time. You can read more of her reviews here
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