Thursday, May 16, 2013

Book Review: Kingdom Keepers II - Disney at Dawn by Ridley Pearson

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action and adventure set around Disney World
Cons: Underdeveloped characters; pacing in the middle
The Bottom Line:
Lions and tigers
Against the Kingdom Keepers
Watch those pages fly

Evil Moves to the Animal Kingdom

I am a Disney geek through and through.  So it truly wasn't much of a surprise to me that I have enjoyed both of Ridley Pearson's books set around Walt Disney World.  Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn is the second of these adventures, and was well worth reading.

The stories center around 5 early teens who have been chosen to become Holographic Hosts for the park.  What they have discovered is that when they go to sleep, they cross over to their holographic selves.  This wasn't a design flaw but a feature the Disney Imagineers put into place to help fight off the Overtakers, a group of Disney villains intent on taking over the parks and destroying them with evil.

This book opens several months after the first book ended.  The host program has been shut down to fix some flaws, but tonight it is reopening.  Finn and the other four teens are part of a big parade celebrating the event.  But what starts as a celebration turns to danger as a huge storm comes rolling in.  Finn sees monkey running through the crowd watching the parade.  Then Jez, a friend of the hosts, is kidnapped.  Before the night is over, Maleficent will escape from her prison.

In the aftermath, Finn learns some horrid things from Wayne, the old Imagineer who has been their guide so far.  Animal Kingdom is set to get their own holographic hosts soon, but their server is flawed.  The Overtakers plan to use it to trap Finn and the others next time they go to sleep.  So they must infiltrate Animal Kingdom, free Jez who they think is being held there, and destroy the server before any of them fall asleep.  With many of the animals in the park part of Mal's army, that won't be easy.  Can the kids figure all this out before they get too tired to think?

Let's start with the fun.  Honestly, what not to love about a battle taking place around the parks of Disney World?  Especially when the villains we are fighting were created by Disney himself.  The very idea appeals to me, so Mr. Pearson would have to really mess it up for me not to enjoy it.  Fortunately, he didn't do that.  The pace is strong and I couldn't help being drawn into the story every time I picked it up.  This is one of those books you don't want to put down.

But the book does have some flaws.  First up, the characters are a little flat.  They are more fleshed out than they were in the first book, and I felt like I had a handle on all of them by the end, but still, the only one that truly feels real to me is Finn.

As addicting as the book was, it did stall for a while in the middle.  Yes, things were happening, but it felt like they were happening just to hit a page count.  The set up was great, and the climax was edge of your seat.  Cut out 100 pages, and you've got a non-stop thrill ride.

Finally, there's the fact that once again, we are basically dealing with Maleficent.  Yes, we do get another villain involved, but considering how big and powerful the Overtakers are supposed to be, why haven't we seen more of them?

These might be bigger flaws to those who are looking at this for a fantasy adventure.  Me?  The Disney geek inside me shouts down any complaints very quickly.  I raced through Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn and am looking forward to seeing how the adventure unfolds next.

After you finish this one, you'll keep reading the Kingdom Keepers books in order.

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