Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book Review: Kingdom Keepers VII - The Insider by Ridley Pearson



Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action. Disney Heroes! Disneyland! Did I mention action?
Cons: A bit slow in spots, characters better but still could be stronger.
The Bottom Line:
Final battle starts
With action in Disneyland
Which side will win it?




Will The Overtakers Conquer Disneyland?

Being the DisNerd I am, I haven't been able to stop reading the Kingdom Keepers series.  When these books are done well, they are pure magic.  Unfortunately, the series has been dragging on a bit long, and I was beginning to think the premise had been exhausted.  Then along comes Kingdom Keepers VII: The Insider, and I'm glad I stuck with it.

New to the series?  Don't start here.  While you could probably jump in, you need at least the first couple of books to really get the premise.  Much is assumed knowledge, and you'll really struggle to get into this wild fantasy world.  To summarize, Finn and four other early teens are given the job of Holographic Hosts.  They model and then their images guide guests around the various parts.  However, there is a hidden part of the job - they cross over to the parks in their sleep and fight the Disney Villains, collectively called the Overtakers, who are trying to take over the parks and steal the magic.  Yeah, it sounds out there, but a certain amount of it is a DisNerd's dream.

As this book opens, it's been three years since we last saw the Kingdom Keepers - three years since the events in a Mexican jungle.  In fact, Finn and the others are about to graduate from high school.

Then the attack comes.  The five friends are quickly crossed over to battle a group of Overtakers trying to break into the achieves - a group lead by Wayne.  Wait, what?  But the real threat is coming toward Disneyland.  Will the group be able to stop the Overtakers once and for all?

This book weighs in at 600 pages, and for me that was a tad too long.  I've often felt the books could be tightened, and that was the case here.  However, I was soon caught up in the magic and the fight with the final 250 pages flying by as quickly as I could read them.

I've always complained about the lack of character development in the series.  I actually felt like I got to know the characters the best here.  (Maybe there was a reason for the pages after all.)  They're still not quite fully formed characters in my mind, but the target middle grade audience certainly won't care about that.  I found myself fighting back tears a couple of times as the pages unfolded, something that was definitely missing in the last book.

Despite my earlier complaint about the pacing, let me be clear - this book is strong.  Designed as the final book in the series, it shows.  While we've been treading water for a couple of books now, this one actually advances the story well.  It has to since we are going to have a climax, right?  That above all helped me get on board for the longer than normal book.

While we've had a steady gallery of Disney Villains (with a few leading the pack), the Disney heroes have been mostly absent.  That changes here, and I was thrilled to finally see some of them pop up to fight along side the Kingdom Keepers.

Author Ridley Pearson did something different with the writing of this book.  He opened it up to his fans to help him in the first third.  They voted on some plot points and were even given writing assignments, the best of which appear in the book.  These are all attributed but seamlessly woven into the story.  And let me tell you, some of these fans need to start writing their own books - they were that good.

One more comment about the writing - this book is written in present tense.  That threw me at first, especially since the previous books were all written in past tense.  But I soon got into the flow and had no more trouble with it.

Since I've lived my entire life in California, I was thrilled to finally see the action taking place in Disneyland, the park I know best.  I was able to easily follow along with all the action in a way my memory of my week in Disney World hasn't quite made work.  That certainly added to the magic for me here.

While this is the final book with these characters and this series, Ridley Pearson is planning a spin off series focusing on new characters.  That explains a thread or two that is left dangling and an epilogue that certain spells more trouble.  I'm curious to see where things go from here.

So if you've been following the adventures of the Kingdom Keepers, you'll be thrilled with Kingdom Keepers VII: The Insider.  And if the premise sounds interesting to you, go back to the start and find out how it all began.

And if you do need to back up, here are the Kingdom Keepers books in order.

This review is part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, hosted by Shannon Messenger.  Follow to link to find more marvelous entries.

4 comments:

  1. I've not been reading the Kingdom Keepers series but after your review of this newest, I've added it to my list. The pull for me is the Disney park connection. Thanks for featuring.

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    1. It was definitely the Disney Park connection that drew me to the series as well.

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  2. Hah! I love the word...DisNerd! And I read the first one a long, long (too long) time ago and it would seem I have me some catching up to do.

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    1. If you've only read one, you do have some catching up to do. And I can't take credit for the term DisNerd. I first hear it from Zachary Levi when he was talking about just what it meant to him to be voicing Flynn Ryder in Tangled.

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