I’m going to regret this, guys. I truly am.
I have taken it upon myself, for reasons not entirely clear, to read the entirety of The Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson.
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For those who don’t know, The Kingdom Keepers is about a group of preteens who are chosen by the Disney World Imagineers to become “DHIs,” which stands for “Disney Host Interactive” or “Daylight Hologram Imaging” depending on the context(?). Basically, they’re holographic tour guides. However, this exciting new technology comes with a strange side effect: at night, they wake up in the park as their holographic selves!
But not only that: the characters of Disney have come to life in the park and the Disney villains (called the “Overtakers”) are threatening to take over! It’s up to the five kids to save the day… by working together, following clues, and wishing on a star!
Just kidding. But kind of.
I should disclaim that these are middle grade fiction books, so they’re not really intended for me, a snarky, cynical twenty-something-year-old who’s only reading them because she read and reviewed the first one and thinks it would be an interesting social experiment to read the rest. (Which totally has nothing to do with potential YouTube content in the form of rant reviews, etc.)
But with that said, I did read Kingdom Keepers: Disney at Dawn, Book 2 of the series, and it was an interesting experience, to say the least.
Several months after the events of the first book, the Kingdom Keepers find themselves at Disney World for a parade… but there’s shenanigans afoot, starting with a mysterious lightning storm and some out-of-place monkeys.
As it turns out, Maleficent is back, and she’s kidnapped their friend Jez (who was under her spell in Book 1 but is now a good guy). Also, the Overtakers have their own server now and can create their own DHIs, which they plan on using to take over Animal Kingdom… so it’s up to the Keepers to rescue their friend and destroy the enemy’s copycat technology!
But there’s a catch: if they fall asleep, they’ll be kidnapped as DHIs and put into a dangerous slumber… so they have to stay awake, which means they must ride at dawn! Can they find Jez and defeat the Overtakers before it’s too late?
I will let you figure that one out for yourself.
- I really liked that it took place in a different park. Animal Kingdom seemed like a natural choice.
- Disney nostalgia! People who’ve been to the parks (especially preteens) will bask in that magical imagery and relive all their cherished moments, but in a high-stakes(-ish) action-adventure format!
- With that said, there were some cool visuals, even for someone who hasn’t been to the Disney parks. The animation lab was one favorite of mine, and I forgot to mention that revisiting Escher’s Keep was pretty dope, too.
- It tried to flesh out the characters, kind of. At the least, it introduced some interesting character details that I could see getting fleshed out in later books.
- Maybeck is my new favorite character because he actually seems to have common sense and questions all the wacky things that happen throughout this convoluted plot. He’s also the one with the potty mouth, and you just gotta love a bad boy.
- This book is a time capsule! Between the campy use of Disneymania covers like Ashley Tisdale’s “Kiss The Girl” and the fact that they used Nintendo DS consoles to communicate throughout the book, this transported me right back to that time and place in history (which was about middle school for me, yes. It does know its intended audience, I’ll give it that).
- And yes, I did have to go listen to Disneymania after reading this. Nostalgia for the win!
- It’s totally Disney propaganda! (Wait, that’s a bad thing, right…?)
- Mostly, my problem with this book is that I found it boring. It was like the longest short book I’d ever read. Again, probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m not its intended audience.
- He changed some major plot details… as if we wouldn’t notice! Most notably, he potentially changed the ethnicity of one the characters???
- As someone who hasn’t been to the parks, a lot of times I was very confused as to orientation. The way settings were described often seems to presuppose that you at least have a basic idea of the layout. Just say’n.
- The magic system contradicts itself a lot, or seems to, anyway. In the video, I think I might’ve forgotten a few details between books that could’ve made it seem more cohesive, but still, I stand by what I say. The rules are never truly established in Book 1 and Book 2 takes advantage of that to basically have the magic system do whatever the plot needs it to do.
- No new interesting Disney characters come to life… I mean, there’s Chernabog, but he’s not that interesting.
- Character details are shoehorned in at convenient moments and then never come up again (at least not in this book, we’ll see about others).
- Overall it just generally feels like the author didn’t remember what he’d written in Book 1.
- Also I don’t think he ever meant to write sequels or make this a series but as he says in the dedication, the fans DEMANDED it. They really must’ve held him at gunpoint, I guess.
- The book references the first Kingdom Keepers IN UNIVERSE. Like, the book The Kingdom Keepers exists to them and people have read it, so they believe their story is “fiction.” I guess it’s supposed to be a sly little wink to the audience (a.k.a. a fourth wall break. Fourth page break? Whatever) but to me it just came off pretentious and corny as all get-out.
- The book really heavy-handedly tries to make you think that this one character, who’s supposed to be disguised as this Animal Kingdom cast member called Divine (called such because she’s covered in a vine costume and hides in the trees, on stilts) is basically undetectable to the human eye even though she TOTALLY is. Just look it up and you’ll see. I wouldn’t have even noticed this if the narrative wasn’t so gosh darn insistent.
- Definitely NOT Disney propaganda, how could you even say that?
- I should go to Disney World…
Well, time to read the third one, I guess. Why not? I’m in for the long haul now. If you’ve read this books, tell me in the comments: does it get better from here?