Escape from the Past: At Witches’ End

Written by Annette Oppenlander
Review by Viviane Crystal

Imagine playing a virtual computer game in which once you clicked on “Master Level,” you would instantly be transported to the past. The only way in which you could return would be if you were wearing the exact clothing and accessories worn when you were first drawn back in time. So, Max Nerd, for the second time, decides to return to Germany in the year 1473. Why? He has a quest to finish: to free his friend Karl, who is imprisoned in the dungeon of the evil Lord Schwarzburg. He also wants to continue his plan to woo the Lady Juliana and to see his friend Bero.

Now he finds challengers anew: Juliana is dying, Bero is initially hostile to Max, and there are secrets to be revealed from the elderly healer, Luander. Misunderstandings abound, and several times Max himself winds up a prisoner in a dungeon, a deadly environment where starvation and disease may rapidly follow. If he is successful, he must return to the present and destroy the deadly game and its crazed programmer.

The Escape from the Past young adult novels are fast-paced, plot-driven stories filled with adrenaline-pumping scene after scene. Max is able to use his contemporary knowledge of herbs to heal those ill or wounded but fails to initially adapt to the medieval rule of changing rulers and harsh, primitive living. One particularly enchanting scene depicts a bard singing the ancient German tale, The Nibelungenlied, which describes the valor of Siegfried and his followers. Overall, Oppenlander’s tale is guaranteed to please readers who love plenty of adventures, battles and love trysts. It is highly recommended YA historical fiction.