Disney in Shadow is Book 3 in the Kingdom Keepers Series. While this book does provide segments of back story as needed there are many elements that seem to rely at least somewhat on familiarity with the previous books. So if you haven't read those, you should probably do so before jumping in here. That said, the storyline does stand on its own without relying heavily on the history from the previous two books.
The DHIs know that trouble is brewing. At the end of book 2, the DHIs have saved Jez but were unable to prevent the escape of Maleficent and Chernabog. Worse still (or maybe just as bad), Wayne has vanished. During the second book, Wayne was in hiding and only communicating with the kids through secure and cryptic messages. At the end of the book it is apparent that the Overtakers have captured Wayne.
Knowing that Wayne is the only person who has the knowledge to adequately guide the kids, Finn desperately leads the DHIs in an effort to find him. From his experience inside the Disney computer system in book 2, Philby is able to hack into the DHI system and help control when and where the kids materialize after dark. This is helpful but there is still too much ground to cover. Amanda and Jess get more fleshed out as characters and we learn more about their special powers. Unfortunately they are also being threatened with a return to a "foster care" facility that would take them out of the state and thus unable to help. Crunched for time, the kids come up with a plan to make Amanda and Jess into DHIs as well. They area also introduced to a woman claiming to be Wayne's daughter. There is a lot of distrust at first but she proves very helpful later on.
Even though the kids search for Wayne in all of the different parks, most of the action in this book takes place in Disney Studios and in Epcot. Jess has dreams and premonitions that she records in a diary. Wayne seems to have some idea of what Jess might see and so he's able to send clues to her through her diary messages. Wayne's sister also provides a cryptic clue for the kids to follow. One of Wayne's messages also seems to suggest a potential traitor in the group which puts everybody on edge.
During their search, the DHIs once again have to watch out for the normal Disney security and maintenance teams as well as a growing supply of Overtakers. There are some pretty exciting sequences where the kids are battling with or fleeing from the various Overtaker minions. Even though the kids still do some very extraordinary things against extraordinary odds, this book seemed more realistic in terms of the kids actually being in mortal danger.
The climax of the story takes place during a rehearsal for Fantasmic (one of my favorite Disney Parks shows). The scene does a great job of ratcheting up the tension as well as making any success come at great cost and loss.
So far this is my favorite of the Kingdom Keeper books, mainly because it is increasing in complexity and intensity. The characters are still a little cheesy, but they seem to be growing more relatable. The situations are crazy of course but there is just enough realism to keep the suspense going. Probably my biggest complaint at this point is that I want the kids to have more allies…or any allies really. Specifically I would love to see some of the "good" Disney characters show up to start helping the DHIs. After all, the Overtakers have amassed quite the little army. It only seems fair that the DHIs should have some Disney heroes on their side. At the same time, that might make things either too unbalanced or too over-the-top.
All in all, this is another fun addition to a fun series. It's not "high literature" by any means and it's definitely geared towards kids…but for a Disney fan like me, it's a lot of fun and I'm ready for the next adventure.
3 out of 5 stars (for adult readers)
4 out of 5 stars (for kid readers)
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