The Drowned Vault (Ashtown Burials II) by N.D. Wilson

Finally got my hands on the second volume, The Drowned Vault, in this new ND Wilson Ashtown Burials series.

Blurb:

It’s been almost a year since Cyrus and Antigone Smith earned their places as Journeymen at Ashtown, home of an ancient order of explorers that has long guarded the world’s secrets and treasures. While their studies go well, Cy and Tigs are not well liked since losing the Dragon’s Tooth to the nefarious Dr. Phoenix. The Tooth is the only object in the world capable of killing the long-lived transmortals, and Phoenix has been tracking them down one-by-one, and murdering them.

The surviving transmortals, led by legendary warrior Gilgamesh of Uruk, descend on Ashtown in force, demanding justice. Cy and Tigs find themselves on the run in a desperate search to locate Phoenix and regain the Tooth. In the process, they uncover an evil even more dangerous than Phoenix, one that has been waiting for centuries to emerge.

Quick Take: Another exciting and action packed adventure. Like the first volume, this one layers in the back-story and weaves in plot developments even as the action pushes forward. It is a little complex and dense at times but if you love a mix of mythology, fantasy and YA adventure this is a fun read.

For more details see below.

I am a bit torn on this book.  On the one hand, if you read the first book in the series this one further develops the characters and adds in a lot of action.  You get a deeper sense of the conflict and history involved and the mythology of the series.

On the other hand, in classic Wilson style the writing is great but the story is often complex, messy and so layered as to risk confusion.  And at times the action seems at the expense of clarity.  Kirkus offers a fair critique:

Like many second books in a series, this is definitely for those who have read the first–and even they may find themselves disappointed. The discoveries that engaged readers as they uncovered the world of Ashtown in the first book grow old as the plot perpetually bombards the two children with ever-greater foes and danger. The children’s cutesy nicknames, Rus-rus and Tigs, seem irritatingly inappropriate and jarring under the circumstances. Some of the more engaging characters from the previous book are less integral to the plot this time around, and the presence of historical figures such as Captain John Smith and Ponce de León are not as convincing, though the mythological references still succeed. Wilson feels as though he’s trying to keep the stakes high and to top what has come before, which can be tedious for readers who are not attached to the outcome. Fearful evil survives to threaten the world, promising further adventures in a future volume. For die-hard fans only

I think this is fair but perhaps a tad harsh.  I found the first book more clean and there was an excitement that came from discovering this new world Wilson was introducing us to.  But I am intrigued by the the details Wilson is adding in this second book (transmortals, etc.) and want to see how he builds the larger the story.

In some ways, Wilson is an acquired taste.  His writing can be messy and complex with lots of loose ends and overlapping threads.  I think it works for the most part but can see how others might not be fans of the style or structure.

And I think there are some great additions to this second book.  Arache and the spiders? Creepy and cool at the same time.  Gilgamesh is a great antagonist to go with Phoenix. And Wilson is slowly filling in the back story in a way that weaves together the history of the Smith family and of the Order while at the same time connecting this to history and mythology.  Reminds in places of the The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flammel in this way.

Clearly Wilson is not for everyone, but this is an action packed adventure with some very creative twists and strong writing. The series is ideally suited to those who love a mix of mythology, fantasy and YA adventure.  And of course, fans of Wilson and The Dragon’s Tooth will definitely want to continue the series (and will once again be frustrated at the end at having to wait for the next book in the series).

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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