Monday, June 3, 2013

Book Review: Kingdom Keepers III - Disney in Shadow by Ridley Pearson

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great action, intriguing plot
Cons: A few, but they're really only minor
The Bottom Line
Magical and tense
Real treat for Disney fans
It's page turning fun

Searching for Wayne in EPCOT

The Kingdom Keepers books were written for Disney Geeks like me.  (Or as actor Zachary Levi has dubbed us, Disnerds.)  Through fiction and author Ridley Pearson's imagination, we get to see what would happen if the villains began to take over the parks in Disney World.  Our heroes on the journey are five kids who cross over to the parks as semi-holograms when the parks have closed down.  Kingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow picks up from the second in the series and is another wild ride.

It's been a couple of weeks since the Kingdom Keepers had their wild adventure in Animal Kingdom, and Wayne, the elderly Imagineer who gave them the ability to cross over to the parks, is still missing.  They know he was kidnapped by the Overtakers, the group of villains out to take over the parks.  And their only leads make them think that Wayne is being held in EPCOT.  As usual, Wayne has left them some strange clues, but can they figure out what they mean?

Meanwhile, the group has grown from five to seven when they add Amanda and Jess, two teens with some pretty usual powers, to their group.  Jess seems to dream the future.  Will that help?  And will they survive some pretty harrowing experiences on Disney attractions to find Wayne?

The second book in the series was a bit of a letdown, and I'm still not sure if it was the introduction of some new mythology with little to no explanation or the setting of Animal Kingdom, my least favorite of the theme parks.  This book brought the magic back.  The 545 pages practically flew by as I raced to find out what would happen next.  No, not every scene was a nail biting edge of your seat ride, but there were plenty of those.  Trust me, I never put the book down by choice.

The characters have finally begun to develop, thanks to the fact that we've now spent three books with them.  Finn is still the main viewpoint character, although as the characters split up at various points, we get into the heads of some of the others, which helps.  I wouldn't say any of the gang is truly unique characters; they still seem to rely on stereotypes and broad strokes.  But they work for the story and have changed some as the series has progressed.

Like the first book, there are some great scenes involving the most famous rides in EPCOT.  All the FastPass rides get their due here in scenes sure to make you think twice about riding them next time you are in the parks.  Yes, the scenes are tense, but I doubt they will frighten any but the most timid.  The target age is 9-12, so it shouldn't be an issue.  Action scenes can be hard to write, but I never had a problem following what was happening in any of the scenes here.

I'm glad I had been to EPCOT before reading this book.  While Mr. Pearson does a good job with descriptions, I never had a problem understanding what the backstage areas were like for example, I don't think I would really get the layout of the park from what I read here.  A map in the beginning of the book would be very helpful for those who haven't made a trip to Disney World yet.

As I was reading this book, one question did cross my mind, where are the good characters?  We get plenty of Overtakers (aka villains) although the main villain is the same from the previous books.  The first book included a couple of scenes with random characters roaming the park.  Shouldn't that be happening still, or shouldn't there be some discussion on why we only see the villains?

Really, these complaints are minor.  I loved every page of Kingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow.  Anyone who loves Disney, child or adult, will love it as well.

You'll want to keep reading the Kingdom Keepers books in order.

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