Escape From the Past: The Duke’s Wrath
When fifteen-year-old nerd and gamer Max Anderson thinks he’s sneaking a preview of an unpublished video game, he doesn’t realise that 1) he’s been chosen as a beta, an experimental test player; 2) he’s playing the ultimate history game, actually transporting him into the past: anywhere and anytime, and 3) survival is optional: to return home he must decipher the game’s rules and complete its missions—if he lives long enough. To fail means to stay in the past—forever. Now Max is trapped in mediaeval Germany, unprepared and clueless. It is 1471 and he quickly learns that being an outcast may cost him his head, especially after rescuing a beautiful peasant girl from a deadly infection and thus provoking sinister Duke Ott. Overnight he is dragged into a hornets’ nest of feuding lords who will stop at nothing to bring down the conjuring stranger in their midst.
This is the first in a trilogy, according to the author’s website, and it is an excellent introduction. Max Anderson, a cranky, arrogant, self-centred teenage American boy (is that a stereotype?) living in Germany gets a super-secret game from his friend, and decides to go straight into the expert level. He finds himself sucked into the past (although he takes half the book to decide he really is there, and not being played with by the game) and bound up with the dirt, filth, abject poverty, virtual slavery, and class distinction involved in the age of the Teutonic Knights. The nice twist is that he is familiar with his surroundings, except that the ruined castle is brand new, etc.; he could have just stepped out of his own door.
He gets caught up in some seriously nasty stuff, suitable for teens but no younger, and finds out just how liberal and friendly our world is, compared with the restrictions of the 15th century. It’s an exciting story, full of period detail, although I found it difficult to believe that Max could tell a local peasant anything about foraging for food in the woods, among other things. There are some stylistic things I disliked intensely, and I’d advise European readers to skim the first couple of pages, since it seems to be written for young American readers with a xenophobic view of the world. But once the adventure takes hold, it is an excellent romp in the past.
Praise for the Book
“Fast-paced compelling YA debut.”
Giselle Green, #1 bestselling author of A Sister’s Gift”
“A wonderfully crafted romp to the time of lords, ladies, and knights.”
Lee Ann Ward, author and former Senior Editor of Champagne Books
“Escape from the Past is chock-full of the tiny details that make a story feel realistic and immersive, from the leather ribbons used to fasten shoes to the slimy gruel that formed the bulk of the peasants’ diet….those who love historical fiction or medieval fantasy will certainly enjoy Escape from the Past.”
Mike Mullin, author of the Ashfall trilogy
Annette Oppenlander writes historical fiction for teens. When she isn’t in front of her computer, she loves indulging her dog, Mocha, and travelling around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories. Annette holds dual US-German citizenship.
“Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a number, it turns into a story.”
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