N.D. Wilson’s third book in the Ashtown Burials series, Empire of Bones came out last year. The first two The Dragon’s Tooth and The Drowned Vault combine the best of steampunk fiction with an Indiana Jones meets Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).
It is still technically Junior Fiction, but while the hero is a young boy and his sister, there are numerous other characters that span the age range cousins, cooks, other explorers(including Gilgamesh and Vlad Tepes aka immortals who act badly ) Well, Mr. Wilson threads just about every myth and concept together into a brilliant coming of age story. There are moments of hilarity and some good guys turn out to be bad, and some bad guys turn out to be grey, and no one ends up the same. It is this quote from an Irish mowhawked monk that sums it up for me ~”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,…”
So the publisher says this is a book for 8-12 year olds. And I do agree with that. But while stories like this remind me of why I love epic fantasy adventure, it is not a warm and fuzzy novel. The first book “Tooth” in the series has our heroes (Cyrus and Antigone) living in a rundown motel living off waffles when a stranger on a bike arrives and hands Cyrus an object that could end the world, and oh by the way tells them they are descendants of legendary Order of the Brendan explorers (think archaeologists who can use magical objects) get shipped off to a boarding school, but have to live in the basement with a boy and deadly spiders. In the second book “Vault” our two siblings are on the run from everyone including the head of the Order of the Dragon (Tepes, not the vampire, the historical baddie who killed thousands) and a Dr. Frankenstein character (the Phoenix)who likes to genetically modify people and can make them living zombies… you get the idea. The series starts off slow, but by book three we are running full speed with War (with a side of apocalypse) on the horizon.