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"I was always taught if something moves and you don't know what it is . . . It's probably trying to kill you," Wiley. –Snared: Escape the Above
Escape to the Above
by Adam Jay Epstein
Wily has spent the twelve years of his life underground learning how to be a trapsmith. Wily makes traps to keep invaders from the cavern mage’s treasure. Even though Wily wonders what life in the Above would be like, he knows he can never leave.
Then a group of treasure hunters appears—an elf, a moss giant, a warrior with a magic arm. They want the caver mage’s treasure, including Wily himself. With the help of Wily, the group can invade every other dungeon and flee the Infernal King’s realm. Wily is about to go on an adventure, which will lead to a battle against the Infernal King, who uses gearfolk to terrorize and imprison the innocent. But is there any way this diverse group can work together and escape the Infernal King’s gearfolk?
A fun fantasy, Snared: Escape to the Above starts strong from the start. Wily’s underground world comes alive. When Wily leaves the cave he has lived in, seeing Wily’s perception of everyday things, such as a butterfly, is interesting and brings humor. Although Wily and his group must flee from horrors, the violence is not graphically described. Through Wily’s experience, he learns that “a prison doesn’t need cages to make you feel trapped. If you take away a person’s choices, they could be in the most beautiful place in the world and still be caged.”
Advanced elementary and junior high readers will enjoy the quirky characters and the interesting traps that Wily encounters. Although the plot is a bit predictable and the Infernal King is defeated too easily, readers will enjoy the adventure along the way. Full of humor and lessons about friendship and doing what is right, Snared: Escape to the Above will please adventure-seeking readers.
- When invaders go into an underground cavern looking for treasure, they must go through various traps. Hobgoblets attack a knight from behind, but “the furious hobgoblets were both knocked unconscious by the flat side of a sword . . . The third hobgoblet was struck in the back of the head by the blunt end of the weapon.”
- When a group of treasure hunters meets the cavern mage, he tries to stop them from taking his trapsmith. The mage throws magical bolts, but they do not hit anyone. Then he “snatched a quill . . . and used it to scribble ancient hieroglyphs in the air. A small tornado formed around the symbols, sweeping them up and churning them like dirty undershirts in the laundry cauldron. The blast of air struck the moss giant—and did nothing at all.” There is a fight that takes place over three pages.
- When guards try to stop the group from leaving the underground cavern, the moss giant, “swiftly grabbed the guards in his large earthen hands and smashed their heads together. They both slid to the ground, unconscious.”
- The king sends snagglecarts to round up citizens and put them in prison, even though they have done nothing wrong. Wiley watches a “dragon-size snagglecarts was rolling toward the mother and children with its mechanical mouth open, hungry for more prisoners. . . the gearfolk prodded the mother and two daughters, forcing them to walk up the ramp and into the jaws of the snagglecart.” A person wrapped in a cloak attacks the snagglecarts and gearfolk and “the front of the snagglecart exploded into a twisted mess of metal.” The humans are able to escape.
- When the gearfolk try to capture Wiley and his friends, they fight back. A bounty hunter “Grabbed a wooden billy club from his rob and charged the gearfolk. The gearfolk was about to scream again when his head was knocked off by a trident. Someone is hit in the chest with a “crackling black energy,” but was uninjured. The battle takes place over a chapter, but Wiley and his friends escape unharmed. A baby crab dragon grabs the knight, “a giant claw clamped down on his leg, squeezing so tightly it was bending the metal armor around the knight’s thigh . . . The baby crab dragon made a playful click before lifting Pryvyd up and smacking him against the ground again.” Wiley is able to talk to the crab dragon, who then lets the knight go.
- Wiley and his friends try to sneak into the king’s dungeon, but they were captured in a never-scape that was “submerged into ankle-high water.” The never-scape was slowly being submerged in water, but one of Wiley’s friends is able to help them escape.
- At the end of the story, there is a battle between Wiley’s friends and the gearfolk, mechanical soldiers, and the cavern mage. The battle is not described in gory detail, and no one is injured.
Drugs and Alcohol
- When invaders go into the underground cavern looking for treasure, the “ale cellar reeked of stale mushrooms and alcohol. Gigantic wooden barrels lined the walls, each big enough to store ten thousand swigs of ale.”
- When a fairy is caught spying, someone said, “Damn rust fairies are all over the city.”
- A knight has an enchanted floating arm that helps him in battle.
- When going into a destroyed forest, ghosts appear. “Out of the mist, a stampede of spectral elk burst forth, beating their hooves against the ground. Their twisted antlers and hooves glowing a pale green like a bat’s eye while their chests were a deep emerald like the moss on Moshul’s knuckles.” When the Elk struck Wiley, he feels pain but is physically uninjured.