Kingdom Keepers VI: Dark Passage is the sixth book of a seven book cycle. It was released in April without a lot of fanfare, which surprised me. Originally, the Kingdom Keepers series was planned as a trilogy, but the success of the first two books prompted a longer tale. (Check out my reviews of books 1-5.) The question is whether this is a still a valid and enjoyable series.
The Kingdom Keepers evolved from a new technology created by the Disney Imagineers as a way of providing virtual, interactive hosts for the Disney theme parks. Called DHI or Disney Host Interactive, the Kingdom Keepers are holographic projections based on five Orlando teens who were offered the opportunity to have their likeness used for the holographic hosts. As the series progressed, we learned that the DHIs were also created to save the Magic Kingdom from the Overtakers. An old-guard Imagineer initiated the DHIs to help battle the league of Disney villains that were intent on overtaking the Magic Kingdom. During the day, the DHIs functioned as tour guides. At night, the teens can cross over in a holographic state and battle the Overtakers while their physical bodies sleep. The big danger is that if something happens to their holograms, it happens to their physical bodies, too.
If you look at reviews of the Kingdom Keepers, you’ll find two camps: unabashed love and unabashed disdain. Most tweens and teens that are obsessed with the Disney theme parks find themselves immersed in the fantasy that Pearson has created. Most Disney nerds take umbrage with the fantasy world and the compromises that Pearson takes with the geography of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. Pearson actually apologized for his geographic transgressions but still must have felt the sting from Disney fanboys worldwide.
Me? I took issue with the geographical problems but overlooked them because I enjoyed the story so much. Granted, you have to suspend some disbelief, but Pearson creates very believable characters that struggle with the same issues as their non-literary peers. Tweens and teens are going to find themselves rooting for the Kingdom Keepers and wishing they could join the fight.
Throughout the series, the power and roles of the Overtakers has grown dramatically. Whereas Pearson creates strong heroic characters, his villains seem rather flat and one-sided. For the uninitiated, the Overtakers are the embodiment of the darker characters that the Disney Studios created for their animated films. They’ve been there all the time, sort of like how the villains had been hiding New Fantasyland all along. Until the special dragon discovered it.
The majority of books five and six take place on the Disney Dream. After reading both titles, I really felt like they could have been combined into one book. Pearson seemed to stretch out the plot and timeline unnecessarily in order to fill pages; that’s my biggest complaint about the two latest books. I felt like a lot of the story was unnecessary, especially the ill-fated battles between the Overtakers and the Kingdom Keepers. Pearson develops the tension but there is a lot lost with the day-to-day life of the Kingdom Keepers on the cruise ship.
If you’ve been following the series, then Dark Passage is a good addition. It gets the Kingdom Keepers and the Overtakers one step closer to Disneyland, the only real place for the finale. It’s a little darker than the other books; each book seemed to get darker by degrees, but they’re still fair game for most teens.
We interviewed Ridley on Communicore Weekly about the series and his research trips. Check it out!
Have you been following the series? What do you think about the Kingdom Keepers?
By George Taylor
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