Under Central Park: The Amulet’s Secret by Diana Wurfbain Spinola


Date of publication: January 10th, 2022

Genre: Middle Grade, Paranormal, Supernatural, Mystery

Purchase Links: Kindle | Kobo

Goodreads Synopsis:

A shy orphan with peculiar eyes in search of his father. A mysterious vanishing. An ancient manuscript filled with strange potions. An underground brotherhood keeping the world safe from a looming horror. A world deep below Central Park where all the answers will be found, and the darkest secret will be revealed.

Join 12-year-old Matt Church as he plunges into a world of dark mysteries where he will face his worst nightmares and discover the truth. Self-belief, friendship, and the unbreakable bond of blood ties are at the heart of this enchanting and gripping saga. Under Central Park, The Amulet’s Secret is the first book of a trilogy. The e-book includes over 30 full-color illustrations.

First Line:

Araotz Zarimutz, his heart pounding furiously, stopped for a few seconds to catch his breath.

Under Central Park: The Amulet’s Secret by Diana Wurfbain Spinola

A shy orphan with a stutter and peculiar eyes, Matt Church is surprised when a renowned professor adopts him. Matt is thrust into a world where his every need is met, and he is not allowed to go outside. Sneaking out at night, Matt meets a young girl, Casseopia, who shares his interest in star gazing. But Matt’s life is soon upended again when his adoptive father disappears. With the threat of being returned to the orphanage looming over him, he tells Casseopia what is happening. Intrigued, Casseopia sneaks Matt into her school. After that, Matt is thrust into a world of secret societies training the next generation to defend the world against evil, a world that he couldn’t have even begun to imagine exists, and both found and biological family. Will the answers to Matt’s questions be answered? Or will more questions be raised?

I have read quite a bit of middle-grade books lately. My youngest child is nine, and I always look for books that interest her. So, when the author emailed me and asked if I wanted to read/review this book, I said yes. I wanted to know if this would be a book she would like, and the blurb also grabbed my attention. I am glad I did say yes to the book because this book was an excellent read. Unfortunately, this book isn’t on my daughter’s radar right now because she’s more into horse books (she is learning how to show jump hunter-style and do dressage and is reading books similar to that), but I will keep it on a short list of books that she can read.

The pacing of Under Central Park: The Amulet’s Secret flowed between medium to fast-paced. It was a good flow for the book. There was a little lag towards the middle of the book (when Matt was with his biological family), but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of reading or the book’s flow. The author was quickly able to get the book back on track.

Obviously, Under Central Park: The Amulet’s Secret is in New York City, mainly in Central Park. I loved that the author took such a prominent area and breathed new life into it. I liked that while nothing changed with the park, the author could add some things, like a secret elevator entrance in a fountain or a private school with a central entrance under a bridge.

The main storyline follows Matt Church, his search for his adoptive father, and his adventures throughout the book. The storyline was easy to follow, and it was a little one-dimensional. For a child, it would be perfect to read. For an adult, it was an OK read. I enjoyed reading about Matt’s adventures and thought that the author did a great job with his backstory (it was sad).

The school storyline was interesting. I got some Harry Potter vibes from it, but that was it, just vibes. I found that storyline fascinating because everything revolved around mushrooms and other fungus. I found the animal bonding storyline fascinating too. Now, that might be a little scary for younger readers (the kids get swarmed by bats, foxes, bees, or snakes to find what they are tuned to). But as an adult, I enjoyed it!!

The storyline that involved Matt’s background was heartbreaking. The author revealed why Matt’s father abandoned him when Matt met his biological family. That whole conversation broke my heart because Matt’s biological father seemed like a great guy, and he truly loved his son. Of course, there is a twist on what happened to him. As for Matt’s adoptive father, I wasn’t surprised that the author chose to go the way she did with that storyline. But I was surprised by what Matt learned about his adoptive father, and what he told the monks at the end of the book will come into play in book 2.

The fantasy angle of Under Central Park was wonderfully written. I loved that the author had a secondary world connected to this one by an elevator. And this secondary world was amazing. I couldn’t get enough from the different races to the social structures. Even the bad guys, who were at the top of the social hierarchy, were written well.

A bonus to Under Central Park was that the author included illustrations of some primary (and central secondary) characters. It was nice to put a face to who I was reading about. I will warn you that the bad guys are a snake/octopus/alien hybrid that creeped me out.

I loved seeing Matt’s character grow throughout the book. Initially, he was a bullied, introverted, timid child with a stutter. But, as the book went on, he started to come out of his shell. While still there, his stutter wasn’t as prominent as it was at the beginning of the book. By the end of the book, that shy child was replaced by a child who had grown in confidence.

The end of Under Central Park was interesting. The author did not wrap up any of the storylines. Instead, she left them open. Not only that, she added more questions to the main storyline. Seeing that this is a trilogy, I expect that any questions I had during this book will be answered in book 2 or book 3.

I recommend Under Central Park: The Amulet’s Secret to anyone over 10. There are no language or sexual situations, and there is mild violence.

Many thanks to D.W. Spinola for allowing me to read and review Under Central Park: The Amulet’s Secret. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

Other books by D.W. Spinola:

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