I am a teacher librarian with over 20 years experience assessing and reviewing children;s literature and I can positively say that this novel (and its sequel, Escape the Mask) are excellent reads for middle school (and older) students - the books are always circulating and rarely on my shelf, even without any book talks from me!
From start of the story to finish you are constantly on the edge of your seat wondering of the young protagonists will be able to beat the odds of their captive existance. From tide driven prisons, to soldiers and spears, and from black shards of gold, to children struggling to recollect their parents, you, the reader, become imeshed in a story of friendship, mystery, imperialism, and identity forming that is at the very centre of all grade 5 and up (including adults) beings. A great bedtime read for parents and children, fantastic novel study for grade 5-7's studying distant cultures, captivating for any fantasy reader, and packed with enough action to keep the light on under the bedsheets well past midnight.
Grab a bowl of grapes and get ready for some well spent time being spooked, thrilled, and captiveted for several hours by Mr. Ward's clear and crisp prose. Of course, the disapointment of finishing can be satiated with his just-as-well-written sequel, and, as Iwrite this review, I've heard a peep through the publisher that the much anticipated third book will be released soon to finish the trilogy.
Done Harry and Eragon? Looking for just as thrilling and unique a novel as these two are, then I highly recommend reading Beneath the Mask, Escape the Mask, and likely the third book in the trilogy (title unknown) and get ready to be transported to a mysterious new land of adventure - but be well warned, you will enter these books and be fighting for your life. (P.S. - parents and teacher report this book is a hit with reluctant readers of both genders).
A must read for middle school students, and should be shelved next to such classics/neo-classics as Harry Potter, Eragon, A Wrinkel in Time and The Lion the Witch and Wardrobe.