Shell Game (Kingdom Keepers #5)
by Ridley Pearson
As the Disney Fantasy joins the cruise fleet, a special treat is in store for guests aboard its inaugural sail from Cape Canaveral to Los Angeles: the Disney Host Interactive teenage guides will be part of the Fantasy crew.
Finn, Maybeck, Charlene, Willa, and Philby are to attend the cruise as celebrity guests, and to perform a ribbon cutting for the DHI server to go live. The Fantasy is now the most advanced cruise ship in the world.
But all is not right belowdecks. Strange things are happening. Unexplained phenomena. Only the Kingdom Keepers know the truth behind their invitation: nearly every Disney villain is represented onboard the new ship: whether on its decks or in its theaters. It’s believed the Overtakers have infiltrated the cast and are “stowaways.” Worse: it is believed they have stolen an important journal that once belonged to Walt Disney himself–Finn has been having dreams about this–and that some kind of mission is planned.
The ship sets sail filled with enthusiastic guests and crew, and the battle is on in new and exotic arenas: the beaches of Castaway Cay, the caves of Aruba, the locks of the Panama Canal, Costa Rica’s rain forest zip line…. But the end game is far more complicated and intense than anything the Kingdom Keepers had planned on. If the Overtakers get their way, a power will be unleashed that no one will have the ability to vanquish: Chernabog, dormant for years, is about to have his full powers restored….
I was looking forward to this book because I have thoroughly enjoyed the series up to this point; I love the inside look at the Disney Parks, the background of some of the well-known Disney characters, and the on-going battle between good and evil. And this book was a decent edition to the series, but definitely not my favorite.
The Kingdom Keepers are back, this time set to join the launch of the Disney Dream, the newest edition of their cruise line. But all is not right: a journal that belonged to the Disney Imagineers has been stolen by the Overtakers, and more and more teens have joined the ranks of the villains. Finn and the others know that the Dream is the perfect place for the Overtakers to spring a trap, and know that they are sitting ducks. It’s a shell game: who can you trust when no one seems trustworthy?
First of all, I have loved this series from the very first book, but felt like the last two (including this one) have been a bit of an editing disaster. This book is very long for the age range it’s targeted at, and I feel like it’s turning Harry Potter-esque in that respect: each book is getting longer and longer and the story seems less tight and concise. Truthfully this book was a bit of a mess; there were typos, lines of dialogue that didn’t match up with the speaker, and occurrences where the Kingdom Keepers were in DHI form when they weren’t supposed to be, rendering their actions impossible since they were actually in human form. Add to that the addition of new characters, points of view shifting from paragraph to paragraph, and the whole thing was a bit difficult to read and follow at times.
That being said, this definitely continues the overarching story line of these five Kingdom Keepers – only freshman in high school – trying to save the Parks from the Disney villains. The stakes keep getting higher and higher, the risks they’re taking more dangerous, and the problems they’re facing more difficult to manage. This book also has a definite “cannot stop reading” feel to it, even if it does suffer at times from Non-Stop Action Syndrome, which I’m not always a fan of, but does work here pretty well. I also loved the shout-out to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, and also the conversation between Willa and Charlene about Robert Pattinson appearing in the Harry Potter films. These added a nice touch of pop culture which made me smile.
As for the characters, we’re definitely starting to see sides of them that aren’t so great; each of them is dealing with changes in their lives, and their feelings for each other. You have watered-down versions of love triangles all over the place, which gets sort of tedious but also fits with the age of the characters. I still really love Finn, but the others have grown on me throughout this book, although I am as annoyed with Philby in this installment as the characters in the book seem to be. I also had qualms with two new editions to the villains: Jack Sparrow and Tia Dalma. I didn’t view them as “villains” in the Pirates movies at all, so to see them in that role in the book was a little eyebrow-raising for me personally.
This is the fifth of a planned seven books, and it ends with a cliffhanger [SPOILER] although I am sure nothing terrible is going to happen to any of the main characters, particularly with the main narrator, so that diminishes its impact a bit, a least in my opinion [/SPOILER], which won’t be resolved until January of next year when book six is released. While I was disappointed with parts of this one, you can bet that I’ll be reading the next installment; I just hope more attention is paid to the editing.
If you’re a fan of Disney, particularly the Parks in Florida, I’d recommend this book series. While this one could technically stand alone in that things (like the abbreviations the characters use, and the explanation of what the Disney Host Interactives actually are and what they can do) are explained at the start of the book, I wouldn’t recommend it because there are scenarios referenced from the previous books that will leave you confused, and you won’t have the same attachment to the characters if you’re unable to watch them grow throughout their adventures. The first book is called Disney After Dark, in case your interest in piqued enough to give it a try.