FICTION

Descent

HMH. Oct. 2020. 240p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544859760.
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Gr 6 Up–Book 4 of the “Peak Marcello” series picks up immediately after the events of Ascent. Peak Marcello, his father Josh (both are white), and mentor Zopa are trapped in Tibet, technically part of China, where Josh and Zopa are wanted for questioning by the People’s Liberation Army. With low supplies and many injuries, the group is being pursued by the former Captain, now Sergeant Shek, and must make their way out of China by crossing one of the borders. With Zopa’s guidance, they take refuge in the hidden Buddhist monastery Pemako, but create further challenges when Shek’s continued searching could expose the monastery to Chinese forces. Smith continues to write intriguing and suspenseful adventure stories while providing interesting exposition on mountain climbing and the political landscape of the dispute between China and Tibet. Readers will benefit from reading the previous installments in the series, as the plot picks up immediately following the events of the last book. As well, it is expected that the reader will know some of the background stories from previous installments. However, the story suffers from flat characterization, especially the middle section set in the “magical” hidden monastery Pemako. In particular, the Tibetan monk characters, including Zopa, are portrayed in a stereotypical manner as mysterious and with possible mystical abilities.
VERDICT An enjoyable adventure and survival entry in the “Peak Marcello” series. Unfortunately, it contains stereotyped depictions of Tibetans.

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