Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle Book Poster Image
Thrilling, time-traveling Old West fantasy adventure.

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age 11+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Time travel is a big part of the story, with plenty of period detail and historic references to 19th- and 20th-century figures and events. One encounter involves the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday in Wild West Tombstone, Arizona. Readers will also pick up a bit of Spanish (and a bit of multilingual punning, as a priest character is named Father Tiempo -- "time" in Spanish) and a few words in the Navajo language.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about doing the right thing, living up to your responsibilities, protecting those who depend on you -- even at the cost of your own life -- and learning to manage your own powerful capabilities. Loyalty, friendship, and family are important bonds here.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The villains here are mean, nasty, evil, murderous, and bent on world domination -- but an unlikely, time-traveling alliance of good guys and girls with strong character and unusual powers stands up against them. Twelve-year-old Sam is haunted by strange dreams and possibly false memories stretching across centuries, but he's determined to save his sister -- who, along with now-dead family members, have been going to heroic lengths to protect him all his life. His newfound friend Glory, his foster parents' feisty daughter with abandonment issues of her own, proves a fearless, resourceful friend and collaborator. Time-shifting Father Tiempo dies many times to keep Sam from the bad guys and foil the evil Vulture's world takeover. Sam's foster brothers in the group home look out for him and try to keep him safe.

Violence & Scariness

Violence is often melodramatically cartoonish but plentiful. Many characters, including Sam himself, suffer violent death many times -- and, since time travel is essential to the tale, often return to do it, or something like it, all over again. ("'You have died more times than I care to count,' Father Tiempo said. 'Shot. Poisoned. Crushed. Stabbed. Drowned. Burned. Most people cross that cold river only once. But most people also only have one chance to get their living right.'") Much of the plot revolves around the Vulture's efforts to cut out Sam's living heart and end the cycle once and for all. In one memorable scene, versions of the same character from different times all die fighting the villain, and their many bodies are strewn around the area. The Vulture and his minions shoot people, derail trains, torture, and kill to get what they want, and Sam's sister is a favorite victim. A character loses his arms, only to have them replaced by rattlesnakes. A character's older sister slaps him when he makes an inappropriate joke.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle, by best-selling author N.D. Wilson, launches what promises to be a wildly imaginative, chaotic, appealing new fantasy adventure series pitting its battered-but-unbowed 12-year-old hero against a time-traveling villain bent on taking control of the future. There's lots of melodramatic Old West-style violence (gunfights, knife fights, blowing up trains) as the cosmic battle moves back and forth between the 19th and 21st centuries. Protagonist Sam, who's been brought back from many deaths along the way, struggles with his destiny, connects with numerous friends, and tries to do the right thing once and for all. Lots of characters make heroic sacrifices; some are killed over and over -- and often return to fight another day.

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written byENL November 23, 2017

By far one of my favorite books ever

Outlaws of Time by N. D. Wilson is by far one my favorite book series ever, up there with The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. I listened to this story on Au... Continue reading

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Sam Miracle, everybody agrees, is more trouble than all the other boys at St. Anthony of the Desert Destitute Youth Ranch put together -- even the one who's already torched a gas station. He's a physical wreck, especially his arms, which are so injured that his elbows no longer bend. Also, he keeps having weird dreams about stagecoaches, train wrecks, outlaws, and gunfights -- and waking up in the desert or in the emergency room. Then a menacing stranger arrives at the ranch, and Sam is plunged into an all-too-familiar Old West scene where, he gradually learns, he's fought and died many times, failing to save his sister from a horrible death and leaving the universe at the mercy of a power-mad villain. Can he get it right this time?

Is it any good?

One battered 12-year-old boy is all that keeps a time-traveling villain from having his way with the world, as fantasy adventure meets the Wild West in an appealing, outlandish series start. Well, it's one battered 12-year-old boy and a few of his friends, from his foster parents' strong-willed daughter to a mysterious Navajo priest. 

OUTLAWS OF TIME: THE LEGEND OF SAM MIRACLE may make readers' heads spin like the tale's time-bending sandstorms as it leaps from century to century, gradually revealing snippets of a cosmic conflict behind a fateful gunfight. But adventure-loving tween boys and girls will cheer resolute Sam, his brave, self-appointed companion, Glory, and their unlikely allies -- and eagerly await the next installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Wild West. Why is it such a popular setting for all kinds of stories? What happens when you add magic and fantasy to the mix?

  • How do you think it would feel to suddenly have special powers you couldn't quite control? What would you do?

  • If a villain took over our universe in the past, how do you think things might be different today?

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