In his riveting new high-fantasy fiction novel, Escape from Netherworld, first-time author David Kuklis takes a tightly-knit band of Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts on a harrowing, adrenaline filled adventure into a mysterious parallel universe that they – and the book’s readers – will never forget.
Kuklis opens his tale in modern day, with the story’s protagonists, a group of seven friends – all avid fantasy war game fans – who are enthusiastically role-playing elves, dwarves, and warriors as they engage in an elaborate battle on a cavernous North Carolina hillside near their homes. When the terrain around them begins to rumble and shake, and the ground beneath their feet suddenly gives way, the seven fantasy warriors find themselves tumbling down into an alternate realm; landing in a dangerous and mysterious land, which they soon learn is populated by hostile and nefarious creatures of all descriptions and ruled-over by evil wizards riding flying serpents. The friends discover that the made-up personas, and mock weapons and armor they had been using for their D&D fantasy war games have become real, completely suitable for use in actual life-and-death battle.
An inventive storyline takes readers on a series of amazing twists and unpredictable turns as main characters, Borhai, Twiggy, Piper, and their small traveling army of friends, dedicate themselves to vanquishing the powerful-and-deceptive enemy, ruler of Netherworld, while they attempt to return home from a land they struggle to understand. Along the way, they befriend and build alliances with brave druid warriors and are forced into many battles against armies of giants, ogres, kobolds, and orcs arrayed against them by wizards.
Although the heroes are out-numbered throughout their adventure, author Kuklis does not leave them outgunned – giving them an impressive array of magical weapons and artifacts to use against their opponents, like lightning-bolt wands, and enchanted rings that shoot lethal fireballs and allow wearers to jump high in the air or, instantly teleport their bodies to distant locations.
Kuklis paces the battlefield action by interlacing the story’s major plot lines with a few romantic subplots, making the characters in the story much more empathetic, while at the same time, adding new dramatic complications which keep the reader glued to the text and enthusiastically turning pages.
In writing the book, Kuklis, a lifelong fantasy and science fiction fan, drew on his experiences as a child, and young adult, playing Dungeons & Dragons with his brother and uncle, Joe, a former Marine who was cared for by the family after becoming paralyzed from the neck down while in Vietnam. Kuklis’ late father, Vince, was a regular D&D player and is the inspiration for Twiggy, a hard-charging, courageous dwarf whose loyalty to his friends makes him a hero.
“My father was a lot like the character Twiggy in the book,” said Kuklis. “He had a big beard and could take care of anything.”
Kuklis, his brother, and friends would role-play scenes, not only inside where his bedridden uncle ran the games, but they would take the adventure outside into the woods, where they would don costumes and make fake weapons to do battle.
“This was a time when we were outside all the time and had to be told to come inside,” Kuklis said. “It wasn’t like it is now with kids and even adults sitting around and playing video games all day.”
As he grew older, Kuklis began to imagine what it would be like if he actually became one of his Dungeons & Dragons characters, and it became the premise of “Escape from Netherworld.” The book will inspire the young adult reader as well as an older crowd nostalgic for riveting fantasy stories. Nearly every chapter contains vivid fight scenes that place readers in the middle of furious action, and drawings by noted illustrator John Manders make the mysterious parallel world come alive.
“I wrote ‘Escape from Netherworld’ to get out of my own world,” Kuklis said. “That is what readers will get out of it, too.”
Fans of the book will be glad to know the adventure is not over yet. Kuklis is back at work crafting the plot to a sequel.