Friday, November 06, 2020

Descent (Peak Marcello #4)

Smith, Roland C. Descent (Peak Marcello #4)
October 13th 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Things did not go well when Peak, Alessia, and Ethan were climbing Hkakabo Razi in Tibet; Peak almost perished in an avalanche, Alessia got malaria, and Ethan had to have emergency brain surgery. Peakis the only one who still needs to get out of the country, and is with his father, Josh, as well as Zopa, the deeply spiritual climbing guide. The problem with making it out of Tibet? Josh and Zopa are wanted by the Chinese government, and are being trailed by Sgt. Shek,  who is determined to get them. When he hunts them down in a hotel, the group escapes with the help of hotel employee Norbu, who is really from the Pemako monastery. He manages to help the group get to a remote location, where they hunker down trying to wait and see what Shek will do. Peak finds life at the monastery pleasant, so waiting for Zopa to come back and advise them is fine. The monastery is well supplied with food from nearby farms, and Peak is interested in the "lama roosts" around the property, where people live separated from society to meditate. The monks send food and supplies up to them in baskets, and it is thought that having these ascetics keeps the monastery safe. Peak manages to rescue one, the mother of Dawa, when she becomes ill. Unfortunately, Josh (who is learning to read and write) breaks both of his legs, which puts the group at a disadvantage when they are trying to escape Shek. Norbu pretends to be Josh, and they take off on a death defying journey to escape into Myanmar. Will Peak finally be able to make it home to New York City and his mother?
Strengths: Since I never, ever want to climb a mountain or wander around in the wilds of Tibet, I appreciated all of the excellent descriptions of how one would go about these things! The "monk bars" (homemade, rather discussing power bars), the equipment, the processing of scaling cliff faces; all riveting in Smith's well honed prose. The details about the "lama roosts" were something I'd never seen described before, and I imagined the area a little bit like Meteora in Greece. Peak is always the most interesting part of these books, so reading his journals and processing his experiences along with him gives the reader insight not only into the difficulties of extreme adventuring by also into the mind of someone devoted to it. 
Weaknesses: Somehow, getting out of Tibet isn't quite as exciting as climbing a mountain, even with Shek chasing them, and I missed Ethan and Alessia.
What I really think: This series is popular in my library, so I'll definitely purchase this one. There is room for another volume in this set, since the end is ambiguous.

Ms. Yingling

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