Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Escape the Mask: The Grassland Trilogy

Reviewed by: Shawna
Title: Escape the Mask
Author: David Ward
Primary Audience/age group: 13+
Genre: Fantasy/Christian Fantasy
# of pages 224
Publisher: Amulet Books
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a series If yes, 1 of 3 (Grassland Trilogy)
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes but with reservations

Beneath the Mask: The Grassland Trilogy Book 2 Review

Description: The only way of life Coriko and Pippa know are as Diggers, slaves to the Spears, a group of warriors that stole them from their families. The Diggers are brought to Grassland when they are young and are given a cellmate of the opposite gender, their only friend, in with they work and bunk. They are forced to collect shards, glasslike pieces from the ground, each day and are then locked in cold, dank cells in the middle of a cave at night. But, things begin to change when Outsiders arrive and bring war to the Spears. Coriko and Pippa escape with a large band of Diggers and find the remains of a Spear village. Will the secrets they discover there overtake them or set them free?

Review: Escape the Mask, the first book in the Grassland series, gives you a taste of the world of Grassland seen through the eyes of two young characters, Pippa and Coriko as they’ve adapted to survival as slaves to the Spears. Coriko has turned to fighting to protect himself and Pippa while Pippa relies more on her childlike faith to encourage and soften Coriko’s behavior. The book is a quick read and gives you just enough storyline to draw you in and cause you to want to dive into the next books in the series . Upon completion, it had me immediately calling the author to request the other two books. Those who enjoy fantasy books won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 3 for violence and mature themes

Positive: The most positive aspect of the book is Pippa’s character with her forgiving nature and hint of a deeper faith in something bigger than herself. She is a positive influence in Corki’s life. His propensity is towards violence, but with Pippa’s voice, he is able to show mercy.

Spiritual Elements: As stated above, there is only a hint of spirituality shown through Pippa’s character. She prays, but God is not really mentioned at this point.

Violence: The Diggers are slaves forced to endure hard labor and are often cruelly punished for breaking the rules although this is not as descriptive as you would think. New Diggers arriving at Grassland are first put into cages inside the cave and are tested physically by the rushing ocean current let into the mouth of the cave. If they survive, they are paired with a cellmate, and the two become a team against the rest of the Diggers, gathering shards. Because the rules are so strict, Diggers often steal from each other, which in turn leads to more violence and possibly death.

Another Digger steals from Pippa and Corki (Coriko’s nickname) while they are swimming. Corki overtakes him and holds him under the water with intent to drown him until Pippa stops him. She doesn’t believe killing is right no matter what a person does. Corki, however, seems to first turn to violence and killing when others have wronged him.

War breaks out in Grassland, and the Spears and Diggers are attacked by arrows. Many are injured or killed and care to the wounded is fairly descriptive.

Language: none

Sexual Content: none

Other: Each Digger has a cellmate of the opposite sex that they are paired with when they arrive at Grassland. Corki and Pippa, now around 12 or 13 years old, have been cellmates from a young age and are very familiar with each other. They are used to seeing each other naked as they are often stripped by the guards in front of each other and go swimming naked together to not get their work clothes wet. While swimming, Corki harmlessly notices that Pippa is growing, and this change means they will soon be separated from the only companion they have ever known. When a new set of Diggers arrive, Corki notices that one female in particular is older than they are because of the size of her chest. However, there is innocence about the way the nudity is written and the scenes are not overtly descriptive.

Recommendation: My first concern with the book was the growing relationship between Coriko and Pippa. I wasn’t quite sure the direction the author was going to take their relationship in the context of this first book. But, after reading the entire series, I did see the reason and sincerity in the author using nudity (in the first book only) to show the innocence of the characters.

Some parents may be concerned with the violence. But, again, taking the series as a whole, the violence shows how desperate Corki’s and the other Diggers’ situation is: stolen from their families, forced into slavery with only their cellmate as a companion, jolted into the middle of a war they do not understand, and all as children without positive adult guidance. The latter books take a more spiritual direction, and you will see positive changes, especially in Corki, in those books. I recommend the series for ages 13 and up. I will be reviewing the other two books in the series as well and will discuss more in detail Corki and Pippa’s relationship in those.