In this fantastical thriller, five young teens tapped as models for theme park “guides” find themselves pitted against Disney villains and witches that threaten both the future of Walt Disney World and the stability of the world outside its walls. Using a cutting-edge technology called DHI–which stands for both Disney Host Interactive and Daylight Hologram Imaging–Finn Whitman, an Orlando teen, and four other kids are transformed into hologram projections that guide guests through the park. The new technology turns out, however, to have unexpected effects that are both thrilling and scary. Soon Finn finds himself transported in his DHI form into the Magic Kingdom at night. Is it real? Is he dreaming? Finn’s confusion only increases when he encounters Wayne, an elderly Imagineer who tells him that the park is in grave danger. Led by the scheming witch, Maleficent, a mysterious group of characters called the Overtakers is plotting to destroy Disney’s beloved realm, and maybe more.
Have you ever imagined being able to have the run of the Disney World theme park after close? No long lines. No giant crowds of people. It’s just you and the theme park. Or that’s what people like to think. Finn Whitman, and four other teens, land the job of being a DHI, Disney Host Interactive (or Daylight Hologram Imaging, as others call it). Somehow the technology goes wonky when, after falling asleep, Finn and the others wake to find themselves the DHI’s in the theme park at night. Throw in an old guy (Wayne) to lead them to saving the park, a few Disney baddies trying to take over (oh, Maleficent), and you’ve got yourself an adventure any kid (or older person) would enjoy.
This first book was definitely a fun time in the Magic Kingdom. It had a good steady pace and decent amounts of character development. (Especially considering this is a series and there are five DHIs to account for.) The focus is mostly on Finn, but he’s a likable, easy to sympathize with protagonist.
It’s supposed to be a happy day at the Magic Kingdom–the return of the teenaged holographic hosts. But things go very wrong when a sudden lightning storm disrupts the celebration, and Amanda’s mysterious sister, Jez, disappears. The only clue is the sighting of a wild monkey in the Magic Kingdom during the storm. The mystery deepens as Finn is contacted by Wayne, an old man he hasn’t heard from in months. Wayne tells Finn that there’s trouble at the Animal Kingdom: the evil Overtakers have gained control of one of the computer servers that will be used to operate Daylight Holographic Imaging there. That means that if any of the holographic hosts fall asleep, they will go into comas–permanently.
This one takes place in Animal Kingdom. And it’s the first indication that I, as a reader, had to the fact that each book would take place in a different area of Disney World. (How cool is that??) Rumors of what happened in Disney After Dark has spread, and the DHI’s are being called Kingdom Keepers by their fans.
Jess (the nice and no-longer-controlled-by-Maleficent version of Jez from Disney After Dark) has been taken for reasons the Kingdom Keepers aren’t too sure they believe quite yet. But they’re still willing to help her. (Especially considering Amanda and Finn’s almost-but-not-really-sort-of relationship.)
The characters who really came to life in this book, for me, were Charlene (Charlie) and Philby. They really showed their individual strengths well. But as a team, they’re starting to really gel well together. The first book they were all just thrown together. With this book, they’ve had time together and are now really being able to accommodate for all their individual assets.
The five teens, Finn, Philby, Willa, Charlene, and Maybeck, search for Wayne, their mentor and head Imagineer who has mysteriously gone missing. Concerned Wayne has been abducted by the Overtakers—Disney villains, who along with other Disney characters, take over the parks when the turnstiles stop spinning, and want desperately to steer the parks to a far darker place—the five kids pick up a major clue from a close friend, Jez, whose dreams (nightmares, really) often accurately predict the future. The very few clues from Jez’s dream lead the kids into Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot–through imaginary worlds that become real, by imaginary kids who are real. Each clue seems tied to the last, and with the stakes growing ever higher, what starts out as a puzzle ends up as a fight for their lives.
After the last book, it’s obvious where the Kingdom Keepers’ focus would be: rescuing Wayne. He’s been their mentor (of sorts), and the one to introduce them (or drag them forcibly) into this unseen world of Disney after hours. And he’s been taken. So it’s up the kids to save him. And, to make things interesting, it takes place in Epcot.
My favorite part about this book is that Finn finally grows to accept his role as Leader of the Kingdom Keepers. Throughout the first, second, and most of this third book, Finn has shied away from outright calling himself the Leader. But as time went on, it was obvious the others looked to him as that person. With this third book, he finally accepts his role and, with that, his responsibilities.
It’s not just Finn though. With the third book, we’re finally seeing a lot more character development. It’s like the first two books were setting the stage and getting them altogether. With this book, they’re now growing used to one another and their own places within the group. Another really fun adventure that keeps the reader hanging on until the last page.
Everything can be made better with a good book or some relaxing knits. 😀 Find me on IG @kimberlyh12 or on Twitter @enervated.