Tuesday, December 21, 2010

REVIEW: Spirits in the Park

Mebus, S.  (2009).  Gods of Manhattan:  Spirits in the Park.  New York:  Dutton Children's Books.

372 pages.

Appetizer:  Set one month after the events of Gods of Manhattan, the followers of the scheming Kieft are getting closer and closer to discovering Rory and his family.  Some power hungry gods and spirits are spreading propaganda about the Munsee Indian spirits trapped in Central Park.  Rory's sister, Bridget, is still using her super-strong paper-mache body to save lives in secret.  And (certainly not least) Manhattan has been struck by an earthquake as the trap restricting the Munsees for far too long upsets the balance on the island.

To make matters worse, Kieft's supporters have set loose Bill the Butcher and Typhoid Mary (excuse me, she likes to just be called Mary) to help sidetrack Rory and his friends from stopping them.  A band of gangsters is also posing as Munsees to try to make the spirits fear the release of the Native Americans (which draws attention to the powers of fear, propaganda and story to influence people). The heroes of the story are left wondering if reconciliation is possible.

As I started reading Spirits in the Park, it felt like it took a while for the actual quest/plot/goal of the story to emerge.  But by mid-book, the siblings were separated, with Rory on the search for answers from his father and with Bridget stuck in Central Park looking for information about the secret Kieft has hidden there.

Oh, and Central Park?  It turns out in the spirit realm it's this expansive Middle-Earth like land with a dangerous mountain that Bridget must journey to.  When I realized that, my reaction was pretty much Huh?  I wished that had been set up a little more.

While Spirits in the Park still incorporates small touches of humor and protagonists that, while they appear to be children, act and think like adults, it also digs deeper into the mythic realm of Mannahatta and explores the tensions between the colonist spirits and those of the Native Americans, I found myself preferring the plot of the first book.  I wanted this book to come back to the real New York City a little more.  But that's just me.

Also, I said this with the last book, Gods of Manhattan, but it should be repeated.  Bridget is awesome.  I love her.  She rocks.

That is all.  (Until I read and review the third book in this series, The Sorcerer's Secret.

Dinner Conversation:

"The city was hot, too hot, and had been for weeks now.  101, 102, 103:  the city was running a fever and no one seemed to know when it would break.  The asphalt sizzled under the burning sun, causing the thick, heavy air to shimmer above the sidewalks as if all of Manhattan were one huge mirage" (p. 3).

"Rory Hennessy stepped across the threshold into Central Park, half hoping that this time he would feel something as he passed through the barrier that kept the gods and spirits of Mannahatta out, and the Munsee Indians in.  He sighed.  Nothing.  He'd been sneaking away to the park almost every other day for the past month, but he never felt so much as a tingle as he crossed over.  For something so monumental, so overwhelmingly evil, he should at least get a zap or a shock or a tickle or something.  It just didn't seem right to feel nothing at all" (p. 9).

"And that was when the ground began to shake.
Rory fell backward, wrenching out of the grip of both Munsees as he fell to the ground.  Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two siblings stumble as well, reaching for the elm to steady themselves as the ground vibrated like the floor of a fun house.  Screams floated by from elsewhere in the park as the world continued to more.  A crack and a crash sounded behind him, but Rory didn't turn to look  He gritted his teeth and waited for the shaking to pass" (p. 24).

"Today's earthquake will not be the last natural disaster to assail us.  The island tries to throw off its shackles, and each attempt will be more violent than the last, until at last everything will lie in rubble at our feet" (p. 54).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

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