Monday, November 9, 2020

Escape to the Above

Escape to the Above
by Adam Jay Epstein
Recommended Ages: 10+

Wily Snare has been lied to all his life. Brought up thinking he's a hobgoblet (one of the creatures, along with gwarves and oglodytes, that guard Carrion Tomb), he believes sunlight will melt the flesh off his bones – as evidenced by the burn mark on his arm. He also thinks that, in his role as trapsmith, he is doing tomb raiders a favor by giving their lives purpose, toiling in the mines. But then a team of treasure seekers slips past all his clever traps and plunders the treasure room, forcing the crypt wizard Stalag to give up one more thing: Wily himself. Apparently, an oracle told them that to accomplish their mission – to escape the mechanized tyranny of the Infernal King – they need Stalag's trapsmith.

Taking along his adopted hobgoblet sister Roveeka, Wily joins the unlikely team of Odette, an acrobatic elf whose mood swings follow the sun; Pryvyd, a knight who has forsaken his vows; Righteous, Pryvyd's detached arm that has ideas of its own; and Moshul, a golum covered in moss, mushrooms and insect nests, sort of a walking ecosystem who speaks in sign language. Their plan is to use Wily's trapsmithing skills to raid tombs and crypts all over the kingdom, until they raise enough money to buy passage across the sea. But as Wily learns more and more about who he really is – from accepting that he's a human to realizing that his mother and father are still out there – their mission changes toward saving the world.

This fast-paced book places a remarkable young character in the middle of a whimsical and dangerous fantasy world. Its magic has moods that vary from sad and grim to exuberant. It is full of weird creatures, goofy personalities, menacing machines and ingenious inventions – from a cackling skull who offers "a riddle for your life" to a mechanical flying machine to a mysterious hero who conceals his or her identity under a rainbow-colored collection of scarves. It has dragons, giant slugs and squid, bone soldiers, a floating city, a castle on wheels, tests of cleverness and courage and, best of all, the enchantment of finding family where you never would have looked.

This is the first book of the "Snared" series, continued in Lair of the Beast and Voyage on the Eversteel Sea. Adam Jay Epstein is also the co-author, with Andrew Jacobson, of four "Familiars" books and at least a couple "Starbounders" books, all for younger readers.

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