Sam Miracle failed to kill the Vulture when he had the chance. Now he and the Lost Boys are stuck in time while Peter Eagle attempts to learn the skills that will one day make him Father Tiempo. But when Peter is injured, Sam’s best friend Glory will be the one who has to learn to wield the sands of time and help Sam take down the Vulture for good.
“Take up the life that is yours. Walk the lonely winding roads to the deaths that are yours. Live with open hands.”
I admit I am a little confused that this book wrapped up the Vulture arc. Book One left me with the impression that Sam and his friends were about to embark on a Horcrux-like quest to find one of the Vulture’s six other gardens so that they could defeat him. I assumed that this would take several books. Instead, I found that this book moves from focusing on Sam to focusing on Glory and has the duo end the Vulture without their having to find another time garden at all. This was all very unexpected and my state throughout reading was largely one of bafflement.
I have seen other readers remark that they find N. D. Wilson’s fantasies challenging and do not understand them. I find N. D. Wilson’s works sophisticated and believe that they possess more depth than many middle-grade books being written today. However, I have never been confused by Wilson’s work until now. Perhaps I was reading too fast, but I really felt that I did not understand the dynamics of time travel or the ways in which the characters were manipulating time to slow down, speed up, hide, and so forth. I just decided to take it on faith that it all made sense and followed the action without trying to figure out how it was all working.
This book really focuses on Glory, and that is a relief. Wilson has always impressed me with his remarkable diversity of female characters. They are strong, all in different ways. But that did not come across for me in Book One. Here, however, we get two lovely depictions of womanhood: Millie, who loves to cook and rule over her household domain, and Glory, who loves to adventure and fight. They are very different, but both valuable and valued. And Glory? She is way cooler than Sam, whose main ability is as a sharpshooter, but only because he has snakes attached to his arms. That is, Sam does not really possess skills; he is merely magically enhanced. Glory earns her skills.
(As an aside, there is a third female character whose name I forget. And I cannot figure out why she is included in this book. Her main function is to follow the heroes around and get in the way because she thinks they are cool. Typically characters appear in MG and YA books to forward the plot in some way, so I am not sure what is happening here. Is her presence some sort of statement? An indication that “ordinary” people can be in stories, too? An experiment to see what will happen if random characters show up and do nothing? I have no idea, but am welcome to hear other interpretations.)
The main attraction of this book, however, is really the prose. Wilson has a talent for writing breathtaking and provocative lines. Take this example from Empire of Bones: “Cowards live for the sake of living, but for heroes, life is a weapon, a thing to be spent, a gift to be given to the weak and the lost and the weary, even to the foolish and the cowardly.” Wilson writes stories that encourage readers to be good people. He is inspirational. And that is a rare and precious thing.
I really did not like enjoy the first book in this trilogy, The Legend of Sam Miracle. I thought Sam was a boring protagonist and Glory all but a nonentity. I did not initially plan to read the sequel. However, the writing in this book, along with Glory’s glorious transformation, makes me hopeful that the third installment will be worth reading.