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“Wily was quite good at escaping from trap-filled dungeons, but escaping the pressure of being the Prince of Panthasos was turning out to be much more difficult.” –Lair of the Beast
Lair of the Beast
by Adam Jay Epstein
Wily Snare spent most of his life below ground creating clever tricks to ensnare treasure-seekers. Once he escaped from the dungeon, he was able to befriend a group of adventurers. Stalag, the mage who once kept Wily locked away, wants revenge. He plans to build an army of stone soldiers and take over Wily’s kingdom.
Even though Wily has sworn to keep his kingdom safe, he isn’t prepared for the pressures that come with being a prince. In order to stop Stalag, Wily will need the help of all of his friends. They must travel to find an oracle, find passage into the Below, and fight frightening beasts. The only way that Wily and his friends will succeed is if they work together to quell a creature that is as big as a castle and more dangerous than the deadliest dungeon.
Wily Snare is an imperfect protagonist that genuinely cares about the people of his kingdom. Even though Wily knows how to be a great trapsmith, he has no idea how to be a good king. Wily is afraid of failure, but others remind him that “You don’t need to be perfect. You can’t get everything right. In fact, most things you will get wrong. And that’s okay. That’s part of life.” Despite his fears, Willy uses his brains to get out of difficult situations. Readers will be able to cheer for Wily as he fights beasts, guides his companions, and fights for his kingdom.
Snared: Lair of the Beast is the second book in a fantasy adventure series. Reading the first book in the series, Snared: Escape to the Above, is essential because most of the characters appear in the first book and the second installment does not explain important events that took place in book 1. Wily and his misfit treasure-seeking friends are interesting and are willing to face danger to help others. Even though Wily and his friends face many different types of magical creatures, the battle scenes are not scary. Readers will enjoy seeing how the oracle’s prophecy comes true, as well as how Wily uses his mind to defeat evil.
Advanced elementary and junior high readers will enjoy the quirky characters and the interesting monsters that Wily encounters. The story continually reinforces the idea that everyone makes mistakes. In the end, Wily doesn’t need to prove that he is perfect, he just needs to do the best that he can. Snared: Lair of the Beast is an entertaining fantasy that teaches a positive message about friendship, forgiveness, and perseverance.
- Someone sings the following song: “My sister kissed a troll down by the river. She thought that a kiss would break a cursed spell. But the troll was just a troll down by the river. Still, she married him and now they’re doing well.”
- Wily and his companions enter an underground chamber. They meet a monster who shows them a map. “As he put his tiny eyes up to the etched map, Odette smashed him in the face with the back of the shield. The boarcus collapsed to the floor.”
- When Wiley is stealing treasure, he “looked up to see faceless humanoids emerging from the slime around the small island on which he was standing. The bodies and outstretched arms dripped with viscous green ooze. One of the strange creatures lunged at Wily.” Wily and his companions run from the humanoids, because “legend says they can melt metal with a single touch.” As they run, they meet a quill grizzler, who “shot a series of sharp needles at the fleeing adventurers. . . the quill grizzler grabs Wily, who “felt the quill grizzler’s claws snap closed around him. The fanged bear lifted him off his feet and began to squeeze. The pressure was intense . . .” Wily and his companions are able to escape uninjured. The chase scene is described over seven pages.
- Two golem’s try to capture Wily and his companions. When Moshul, a moss golem, charges, “the bearded stone golem swung his arm. The back of his hand struck Moshul in the chest. Wily watched as the moss golem was knocked to the ground as easily as a straw man. . . The bearded golem reached out and grabbed Moshul by the shoulder. He lifted him into the air and threw him—off the side of the mountain.” Moshul is not injured.
- After Moshul is thrown off a mountain, “Pryvyd and Odette, both rage-filled, charged them. The quartz-fingered golem punched Pryvyd’s shield so hard that every metal spike that had been sticking out from it was snapped clean off. Pryvyd tumbled backward, his brass armor clattering and clanging.” Wily and his companions flee.
- Slither trolls invade a town. “The slither troll was about to swing the rake at the terrified woman when Righteous flew across and blocked the blow with a sword.” In order to defeat the trolls, Wily creates a slingshot and his companions throw tomatoes. “The soft projectiles soared through the air and struck the trolls on their legs and bellies. The trolls both let out pained yelps. ‘Oh that burns!’ one screamed. ‘Ouch. Ouch. Ouchie.’” The trolls run away. The scene takes place over four pages.
- A monsoonondom is a “giant furry beast with long tusks that spark like lightning bolts. Their footsteps churn the wind into a fury. A shake of their fur causes torrential downpours.” Wily and his companions flee from a monsoonondom, but before they get away “the powerful gusts blowing off the beast knocked her [Wily’s mother] off her feet and into a tree.” A group of animals and people made a barricade, but the monsoonondom “hit the moss golem straight in the back. Moshul was knocked off his feet and Roveeka went flying off his shoulders. But Moshul caught her in his mud hands before she struck the ground.” Wily’s mother is injured. The scene takes place over six pages.
- Wily tries to quell a manticorn, which is a two-headed beast with six clawed legs. “it had the body and tail of a giant panther. . . One head resembled an eagle with a giant horn sticking out from between its eyes. The other looked as if it had been taken from a goat, except that it had dagger-sharp fangs where its teeth should be.” Wiley jumps on the manticorn’s back, and “the manticorn shook its back with such force that Wily went flying into a bolder on the edge of the Web’s jagged cliff. All the air went out of him, and when he was finally able to breathe again and looked up, the manticorn was practically on top of him.” Someone helps Wily, who is uninjured.
- A group of people throws arrows at Moshul, the moss golem. “Pryvyd blocked one with his shield while Righteous plucked another from the air. Moshul was struck with four in his chest and a fifth in his arm. The moss golem stumbled backward. . .” When the group finds out that Moshul was not a stone golem, they stop shooting arrows.
- While in an underground chamber, Wily and his companions see a mold-ogre. Wily “walked straight up to the mold-ogre and kicked one of its big hairy toes.” Wily discovers that the mold-ogre is not real.
- When an elf tries to keep Wily and his friend Valor prisoners, “Valor seized the opportunity to give the haggard elf a kick to the stomach, sending her tumbling backward.” The two are able to escape.
- While in the underground tunnels, Wily and his friend are attacked by “ants the size of wolves. . . They snapped their pincers as their antennae waved wildly in the air.” When Wily tries to escape, “the first group of ants skittered toward Wily, attempting to bite his legs and waist. Balor came to his defense, slicking the air with her wooden hand claws. Her right-hand blade slicked off the antennae of three of the ambush ants. With her other hand, she punched the head of a snapping ant.” When Valor smacks another ant, the “ants bit down on Valor’s ankle, breaking the skin. Wily grabbed a hammer from his tool belt and smashed the ant attacking Valor on the side of the head. The ant crumpled as another took its place.” Wily’s others companions find them and help defeat the ants. The ant battle is described over four pages.
- In a battle against good and evil, two golems attack. Before they could hit anyone, “the lair beast swung its spiked tail in a wide arc. The ball at the end hit the quartz-gingered golem in the chest, sending chips of stone flying as he was knocked off his feet.” During the battle, a giant Infernal Golem appears. The lair beast “flapped toward the sun before diving, heading straight for the Infernal Golem. . . The Infernal Golem grabbed the lair beast by the tail, plucking it out of the air. Then, with what seemed like no little effort at all, he tossed the mighty lair beast back into the sky. . .” The golems are defeated when they sink in the mud, but no one else is injured. The battle is described over ten pages.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Someone calls a person an idiot.
- Darn is used once.
- A knight has an enchanted floating arm that helps him in battle.
- People can create golems out of stone or earth and bring them alive by magic.
- The group passes the Archway of Many Eyes; the archway has eyes that send an alert when it sees someone.
- Someone cast a spell to make oglodyte minions look like children.
- A levitating skull tells jokes.
- Wily and his companions go to see the Oracle of Oak, who uses acorns to predict the future. When Wily asks her questions, she “swept her hand around a bowl of acorns, stirring them as if cooling a bowl of soup. She stared at the patterns that were forming.” The oracle makes predictions based on the patterns.
- When inside a mountain, Wily sees a cavern mage who “lifted her frail hands and pointed at the mouth of the tunnel. Suddenly, a pair of giant spectral hands formed. They grabbed the rock walls and pulled them wider as easily as if the walls were made out of clay, adding several feet on either side.”
- Someone cast a spell that makes a cave cricket grow until it was so big a man could ride it.