Ridley Pearson has long been considered one of the best thriller writers working today. But a few years ago after his successful venture in writing young adult fiction with his good friend Dave Barry (Peter and the Starcatchers) he wrote a novel about five kids who had to work together to save Walt Disney World from being overrun by villianous forces. The result was the wildly successful Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark. Naturally, there were questions from fans whether there would be another book. The result is Kingom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn which in some ways is even better than the first installment in the series.
As with the first novel, Kingom Keepers II revolves around five teenagers who have been selected to be Disney Host Interactives or DHIs for short which are holographic images that act as tour guides throughout the park. At the end of the first novel, the DHI system had to be taken down because of flaws that were exploited by the evil group referred to as the Overtakers who are plotting to take over the park. As this book opens, the DHI system is back on line and a huge celebration is being held in the park that includes the DHIs human models. But things go terribly wrong and the race is on again to find out what the Overtakers are up to and to stop it before it's too late.
The kids are also assisted by Wayne, an older Cast Member (the title used for all Disney employees) who guides them and provides valuable assistance along the way. Ironically, the character is based on an actual cast member that Mr. Pearson met during an early research trip to the Magic Kingdom.
Like the first book, Mr. Pearson takes us behind the scenes of the Disney magic. In the first book, he went behind the scenes of the Magic Kingdom while this time the story takes place principally inside the Animal Kingdom. Mr. Pearson has again paid great attention to detail and as you read his descriptions of the various scenes you can easily visualize yourself inside the parks.
Mr. Pearson should also be credited for being able to take the skills that he has honed as a writer of adult thrillers and easily make the transition to writing young adult novels. Dave Barry has joked that in their partnership on the Starcatchers novels that Mr. Pearson is the "plot guy" and it definitely shows. In fact, it wasn't until I was about 10 pages from the end of the book that I realized that he intended for the story to continue into another book.
It's also clear that he never forgets who his audience is throughout the book. Several times in the book, one of the teenagers, Maybeck, had a habit of using profanity whenever he would become frustrated or angry. Rather than taking the easy way out by allowing that to be part of the dialogue, Mr. Pearson decided to handle those situations with deft humor. By doing so, he reminds the reader that while his novel is targeted towards young adults, he recognizes that this is ultimately a book series that the entire family can enjoy together. I applaud Mr. Pearson for respecting his audience enough to make such choices. In fact, our family chose to read the book aloud (as we have done with many other books). It's refreshing to have a fun, exciting novel that we can read together without having to worry about whether there will be any inappropriate content included that could spoil our enjoyment of the story.
To Disney's credit, they granted Mr. Pearson unprecedented access to the backstage areas of the parks. Mr. Pearson said in a recent e-mail interview that this was part of his agreement in writing this series and they have cooperated fully with his request. That is to the company's credit as that access allowed Mr. Pearson to create a more believable setting for what would otherwise be considered standard science-fiction fare.
Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn is a terrific follow-up to the first installment to the series. Mr. Pearson, through meticulous research of the Disney parks, has created a wonderful world full of exciting and intriguing characters. These novels are a unique blend of science-fiction and fantasy that few other authors could achieve. When we reached the conclusion of this book, we were sorry to reach the end but glad that there would be another volume coming. If you haven't yet immersed yourself in the world of the Kingdom Keepers you really should. You will be glad that you did.
This article originally appeared at Blogcritics.