Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Page turning, imaginative, and fun
Cons: Characters could still be better
The Bottom Line:
As Finn follows Wayne’s message
To surprising place
The Kingdom Keepers Land in the Middle of More Disney Trouble
When I learned that Ridley Pearson was going to start a sequel series to his popular Kingdom Keepers books, I was hesitant to start it. After all, the original series was uneven, and I loved how that series ended. I wanted that to be the happily ever after for the characters. Eventually, I gave in to temptation and bought Disney Lands, the first book in The Return. I’m glad I did because now I’m hooked.
If you’ve missed the Kingdom Keepers series, I wouldn’t recommend you start here. Yes, this is the first in a new series, but in many ways it doesn’t feel like it. The characters are all the same, and they are still referencing the events of the previous books, so having that background is vital. So if you want to jump into the magic, go back to the beginning.
And magic is the right word. The Kingdom Keepers are five teens who cross into the Disney Parks in their sleep as holograms. No, it’s not all fun and games, however. They are on a mission to fight the Overtakers, a group of Disney villains determined to rule the park and destroy the magic. The books are filled with narrow escapes and dramatic action that will leave you turning pages in the fun setting of the Disney parks we all think we know and love. (Trust me, this series will make you look at a couple of rides differently.)
This new series opens a few months after the battle in Disneyland where the Kingdom Keepers finally defeated the Overtakers once and for all. All of the teens are getting ready to go to college and are trying to move on. Well, almost all of them. Finn is certain that the last message they received from Wayne is a clue to something more they have to do. No one wants to believe him, certain he is just mourning their friend and mentor while also not wanting to let go of their importance as the Kingdom Keepers.
And yet, he gets Philby to let him cross over to Disneyland just one time. What happens to him while he is there shocks him and convinces him that not only is he right there is more they need to do but also that the Overtakers aren’t completely gone. Can he convince the other Kingdom Keepers when what he’s found sounds crazy? Can he figure out what all the clues he is finding mean so he can lead the mission?
Now I will admit, I knew where this book was going. There is a between the series book called The Syndrome that tells the story of what happens right after this novel ends. It was released a couple of weeks before this novel came out, so I read them in release order. Honestly, I can’t tell you which order is the best.
What I can tell you is knowing where this book was going to end up didn’t dampen my enjoyment of this book at all. Yes, I was ahead of the characters at times, but watching them get there was fun, and some of the reveals and discoveries made along the way were cool surprises. Plus, there are still some page turning action scenes as we face some villains. There aren’t quite as many of them as in the previous series, but the ones that are there are fun. And I think if you read this book before reading The Syndrome, you’d be saying the same thing about that book.
And for fans of Amanda and Jess, they are still involved in the action.
The weakness continues to be the characters. As always, there is some development, but it is minimal. Two or three of the characters shine and the rest are just developed enough to make us care, but that’s about it. Still, I know as a kid this wouldn’t have bothered me and I’m sure today’s kids won’t notice at all. They’ll be swept up in the action.
I have a first edition hardcover, and there are some mistakes in the printings. The worst is the last line from one page repeated on the top of the next page several times. I’m not normally someone who notices or comments on typos, but this is painfully obvious. Hopefully, that has been fixed in later editions.
Complaints aside, Disney Lands is a fun, page turning fantasy book that will appeal to anyone who loves Disney no matter what their age might be. I’m looking forward to seeing where this latest mission takes the Kingdom Keepers in the next book.
Need more magical adventures? Here is the complete Kingdom Keeper and Return saga in order.
This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.