So all those fantasy dungeons filled with treasure, traps, and treacherous creatures… who put them together?
Snared: Escape to the Above by Adam Jay Epstein. Read by Nick Mondelli. Dreamscape Media, 2018.
12-year-old Wily Snare is a trap smith in a dungeon run by a very unsympathetic wizard. Though Wily hates that he’s forced to call the guy, “Father”, and really wishes he knew anything about his real parents, he’s been well trained and is an expert at keeping all the traps in the dungeon going, working with the skeletons and spiders, and even designing new traps. He wishes his spine had the graceful curve of the other hobgoblins, and constantly dreams of ways to escape the dungeon, so it’s clear that the evil wizard has been deliberately keeping him in the dark in more ways than one. Still, he finds satisfaction in his work and affection with the found family of his adopted hob sister.
Then an adventuring team comes through that actually manages to make it through his traps. There’s a knight with a detached magic arm, an acrobatic elf woman, and a large moss golem. They’ve come not just for the wizard’s significant treasure, but also for Wily, who they believe is clever enough to help them navigate through other dungeons. They’re only partly motivated by greed – the Infernal King is using his giant clockwork devices to terrorize the kingdom and kidnap people, so the team wants enough loot to escape the country….
What starts as a clever premise continues as a well-thought-out adventure. Though some of the elements are well-worn, this was still an enjoyable journey. I especially appreciated the relative diversity of the team, and that Wily refuses to give up on his hobgoblin sister even as he’s searching for his birth family. I listened on audio through hoopla. Initially, I found the narrator’s pace annoyingly slow and had to increase the playback speed, not something I usually do. He’s perfectly expressive, though, and his pace picked up over the course of the book so that I was able to dial the speed back to normal. The story wraps up nicely, but leaves plenty of room for sequels.