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Gr 5-8- An inventive fantasy-adventure by a first-time author. Rory, 13, and his sister Bridget, 9, live in present-day New York City unaware of the spirits from Manhattan's or "Mannahatta's" past that coexist alongside them. Rory has a gift for seeing this other world but has repressed this ability until the day he notices a cockroach riding a rat, an ancient Indian warrior, a papier-mâché boy, and other oddities. He's able to see such historical figures as Peter Stuyvesant, Walt Whitman, John Jacob Astor, Alexander Hamilton, and Babe Ruth-all immortal gods in this parallel world-and he learns that it's up to him to thwart an evil assassin who has been killing the gods, and free the Munsee Indians who are imprisoned in Central Park. He's joined by other immortal teens, including Nicholas Stuyvesant, Peter's son, and Lincoln Douglass, Frederick's son. The use of real historical figures and events lends authenticity to this compulsively readable and fast-paced fantasy. Rory may be the one destined to save Mannahatta, but Bridget, spunky and determined, also does her part. This book will appeal to fans of Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series (Hyperion/Miramax).-Sharon Rawlins, New Jersey State Library, Trenton
Adriaen van der Donck raced over the Henry Hudson Bridge at the northern tip of Manhattan, urging his steaming horse to go faster as he made a break for the Bronx. Maybe he'd be lucky. Maybe his enemy had neglected to pick an assassin with the right kind of blood. He heard the sound of a horn in the distance. Was that the Trumpeter? He hadn't known the old fool was still haunting the river where he'd met his death centuries before. Oh well, no one had heard the man then and no one hears his ghost now. Just like nobody heard Adriaen. And now it might be too late.
His horse weaved around the cars whizzing across the bridge. None of the drivers even glanced in his direction. Adriaen had known his rival was planning something, but he'd never imagined anything like this. He needed to reach his farm, where he could get some sort of message to his daughter, warning her and the rest of his allies of their enemy's new, impossible weapon. If only the river would buy him some time-
Glancing over his shoulder, his spirits sank. The assassin smoothly galloped across the bridge without pausing, meaning he must have Bronx blood. Adriaen's enemy had planned for everything. Urging his horse onward, he flew down the side streets, the assassin hot on his trail. Now he could only hope to gain enough time to send a message off. But his horse was tired while the horse behind him was fresh. He'd only just crossed the boundary of his own farm when the assassin reached him.
A hard push knocked Adriaen off his horse. He landed heavily among the rows of towering cornstalks. Pushing himself to his feet, Adriaen turned to face the assassin, who had dismounted and was approaching himwarily, knife in hand. That knife. How had his enemy made that knife? Killing Adriaen, or any god, was supposed to be impossible.
But everything was different now.
No time to warn his compatriots, not anymore. The only message he could send would be back to this killer's master. He gave a silent prayer for his daughter and the rest of the Rattle Watch. Look after my city, he whispered, and keep watch over the hidden Light. All will be for naught if he is taken. The assassin shifted his grip, getting ready to strike. Adriaen braced himself as he readied one last, desperate ploy. Maybe he'd save his city, though he couldn't save himself. The assassin sprang, and Adriaen van der Donck stepped forward to meet him, his fi nal trick ready to be played.
"I think this is yours!" the magician exclaimed as he held up the undamaged dollar bill he had cut into shreds just two minutes before.
The girl sighed in wonder and took the bill back as the small crowd of children sitting in the Hennessy living room clapped loudly. Every eye was on the short magician in the long blue robe as he bowed at the applause and began his next trick. He pulled out a dove and called upon a boy to place the bird in a box. The children held their breath as the magician pulled out a match and waved it through the air.
Rory Hennessy, thirteen years old and never fooled, leaned in closer to watch the magician at work. There had never been a magic trick, or a sleight-of-hand maneuver, or any other so-called illusion, that had not been picked apart, seen through, or laid bare by the eagle eyes of the elder Hennessy. He could always spy the magician slipping the twenty-dollar bill into the volunteer's pocket. He unerringly knew where the five of spades was hidden. He would point to the shell with the marble under it every time. He couldn't really explain how he knew. He just did. Rory would look a magician in the eye and suddenly the performer would no longer be a mystical practitioner of wonder, he'd be a sad little man with a weird hat. He'd start to stammer, his rabbit would fall out of his sleeve, and he'd press the wrong button and pour water all over his pants. Rory didn't do it on purpose. It was just his gift.
Therefore, Rory had long ago decided to give magic shows a miss. He'd only agreed to attend this particular performance because it was his sister Bridget's ninth birthday party. She had begged and begged for a magician, and since Mrs. Hennessy could never resist her daughter's pouting, a magician was hired and a brother was warned to keep his big mouth shut. Rory promised, and so far so good. He should have just hung out in his room, but instead he found himself leaning against the wall and watching intently. He couldn't help himself; he had to see. And up until now, he'd been less than impressed, as usual. Bridget's oohs and ahs got on his nerves, but he said nothing. Sometimes it seemed like she wanted to be fooled. She couldn't wait to be fooled. But not him. He saw the world the way it was. Somebody had to.
Sure enough, he picked out the moment when the magician-Hex was his name-slipped the dove into his sleeve, just before setting the box on fire. Rory shook his head in disgust as Bridget whistled in awe when the bird reappeared, magically unharmed. Bridget's cardboard sword lay in her lap, the word BUTTKICKER written on the side in Magic Marker. She never went anywhere without the stupid thing. She liked to say their father left it behind for her when he disappeared, but Rory knew that wasn't true. She'd only been a baby when their father left, walking out on the three of them and leaving then four-year-old Rory as the man of the family. Bridget loved to make up intricate stories starring their father as the magical knight doomed to wander, or as the wretched prisoner of the evil dragon, always fighting to come home to his beloved children. But Rory didn't buy it. It was just another fantasy, a trick to see through, and he saw through all the tricks.
"I need another volunteer. How about you?"
Hex pointed past the sea of raised hands right at him."Pick my sister," Rory said, nodding at Bridget, whose arm was waving crazily like she'd stuck her tongue in a socket. Hex smiled slyly, winking at Rory as if they were the only two in the room.
"You're the one with the storm-cloud face. I think you need a little magic."
Rory didn't like the way Hex was smiling, as if he knew something Rory didn't. Rory glanced over toward the kitchen, where his mother stood with arms crossed. Her face silently begged him to play along. He sighed.
He stepped forward as Hex held a deck of cards in front of him.
"Pick a card."
Rory grabbed a card, making a face. Hex made a big show of turning his head.
"Show everyone your card. Let them see it!"
Rory turned the card toward the kids and let them see that it was the eight of clubs. Hex pointed to his table.
"If you'll look down at my special table, you'll see a Magic Marker, black in color. This is an ordinary Magic Marker, much like you'd find at any stationery store. Please pick it up, Rory, if you would be so kind."
Rory picked up the Magic Marker. He looked it over closely but could see nothing strange about it. Hex kept his head turned away.
"Now, Rory, I want you to write something on the card with this ordinary Magic Marker. Make it very personal, something only you would think to write. All right? Are you done?"
Rory finished writing on the card and nodded.
"Good," Hex said. "Now place the card back in the deck."
Rory did this, sighing to himself. Hex wasn't even going to stick it in a little envelope and burn it up. This really was amateur hour. At last Hex turned to look at Rory. "Now shuffle the cards. Go on, don't be shy. Shuffle away, young man."
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