Spirits of Ash and Foam by Greg Weisman

Spirits of Ash and Foam (Rain Cacique #2) by Greg Weisman
Pub. Date: July 8, 2014
Source: e-ARC via netgalley + print ARC via publisher (thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!!)
Summary: Welcome to the Prospero Keys (or as the locals call them: the Ghost Keys), the beautiful chain of tropical islands on the edge of the Bermuda Triangle where Rain Cacique lives. When Rain’s maternal grandfather passed away, he left her his special armband: two gold snakes intertwined, clasping each other’s tails in their mouths. Rain soon discovers that the armband is actually a zemi – a very powerful talisman created by the island’s native Arawak Taino Indians – and that it allows Rain to see ghosts, including her own grandfather who is determined to help her uncover the Ghost Keys’ hidden world of mystery and mysticism, intrigue and adventure.

Now, Rain Cacique’s looking for a few answers — and the second zemi, a Taino relic that allows her to see dead people. But it’s the first week of school, so she’s pretty busy juggling teachers, homework, baby-sitting duties, new friends, missing tourist kids… and a vampire with a tribal twist.
Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal, Adventure

This is a review for the second book in a series. I’ll try to keep vague, but there might be some spoilers for the first book.

Last year’s Rain of the Ghosts was a quick, fun read that kept me entertained but left me with a few questions. The sequel, Spirits of Ash and Foam was one I was really looking forward to and I couldn’t wait to get back to the Ghost Keys. Unfortunately, it seems this book suffers from the dreaded Second Book Syndrome. The bad outweighed the good here.

There’s a string of islands in the Bermuda Triangle known to the locals as the Ghost Keys. Rain Cacique and her family run an inn on one of the islands and she recently inherited a magical bracelet from her grandfather. The zemi is just one of nine and Rain isn’t the only one who’s searching for them.

With literally no time elapsed since the first book, Spirits of Ash and Foam kicks off the morning after Rain of the Ghosts ended. Rain is still coming to terms with everything: magic, her new-found ability to see ghosts, her recently-deceased Grandpa ‘Bastian-turned-ghostly sidekick…and the beginning of the new school year is just around the corner. It was a joy to see Charlie and Miranda again (although Charlie’s massive crush on Rain still hasn’t gone anywhere) and there were some new faces too. While the other characters were beautifully crafted, Renee was little more than a Mean Girl stereotype. Miranda unknowingly sits in a seat Renee had wanted, and now Renee is out for blood. She enters their group, goes along with them on adventures…all the while intent on getting revenge. She wouldn’t let it go – even AFTER they finally became friends. Did this girl really have nothing else going on in her life?

The only thing I enjoyed about Spirits of Ash and Foam was that, in the first ten pages, I had answered to the questions I had from the first book. Everything was spelled out for me and I appreciated that. Sadly, that was where the good ended.

In a novel this short – 280 pages – there’s only room for so much. Whereas I had been under the impression this series was about the mysterious zemis and Rain’s quest to find the rest of them, here there were numerous plots and hardly any of them went anywhere. Callahan, the Bad Guy, is back. The inn has new guests and Rain’s forced to babysit the three unruly children. A murder or two. A search party. Mermaids and ancient legends. Charlie’s crush. There was so much packed into these pages and I felt that there wasn’t enough attention devoted to any of them. Cut out a few storylines and the book as a whole would have been far stronger.

A large chunk of this book was devoted to a strange woman/manatee the children glimpse one afternoon. Rain is told the tribal tales of the woman and how she’s an evil witch that, for centuries has been luring children away from their families and they’re never seen again. Centuries, remember. Many, many years. ‘Bastian simply asks her to return the missing children (the guests at the Cacique’s inn) to their parents and that’s it. Hundreds of years of suffering could have been avoiding if the parents had simply asked nicely. Turns out this woman was never evil at all, just misunderstood and lonely. Right.

Another issue I had was with the logistics. There are a handful of ghosts in this book and, for the most part, they’re free to come and go as they please. They can walk through walls and floors with ease. Yet they still need to take ferries to get from island to island. I couldn’t wrap my mind around this concept.

It’s such a shame when a solid first book is followed by a lackluster sequel. It wasn’t until the very end that Rain discovered the second zemi. There are still seven more to find and if the rate is one per book I really don’t see myself keeping up with this series. While I enjoyed Rain of the Ghosts, Spirits of Ash and Foam was such a downgrade that, unless something drastic changes in the third book, my time with this series is over.


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