First published in 2005, The Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark is the first part of a (as of right now) three-part series written by the co-author of Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Ridley Pearson.
When Finn Witman and four other teens audition for Disney’s Host Interactive program (DHI), they are transformed into hologram projections that guide guests through Disney’s Magic Kingdom. However, the technology yields unexpected results. Soon, Finn finds himself transported in his DHI form into the Magic Kingdom at night. There, he encounters Wayne, an elderly Imagineer who reveals to him that the park is in grave danger. Led by the witch, Maleficent, a mysterious group of characters called the Overtakers is plotting to destroy the world. Armed with this knowledge, it’s up to Finn and his friends to solve riddle of the Stonecutter’s Quill, which hopefully will put the characters back in their place.
Sounds cool, right? What kid doesn’t dream of sneaking into Disney World after dark? That's why I was excited to read this when I first picked it up. But honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed by a book before. So what went wrong? The answer is simple. It was the execution of the entire novel.
Pearson’s writing is just straight up, no foolin’ witchu, bad. To start with, the writing is really jumpy, especially for the first half of the book .Transitions are horrible, causing the characters to jump from place to place without explanation as to how they got there or how they spontaneously acquired the piece of information that they needed to find at the end of the previous chapter. The dialogue is the same way, especially between Wayne, the Disney Imagineer, and Finn: Conversations ping-pong back and forth, often bringing up things that have nothing to do with the questions being asked, leaving the reader to jump to conclusions or openly curse at the ambiguity of how things came about (I partook in the latter). The characters are flat, and have little, if any, distinguishable personality from one another. The adults have the intelligence of a turtle, which is actually an insult to the turtle. And, to top it all off, there is a serious lack of variety in the characters that show up. Out of the 300 characters that Disney owns, less than ten are mentioned in this novel, and only five or six make an appearance.
So why did I bother to finish it? Believe it or not, this book was saved by it's plot. Despite the writing, I did enjoy the scenes where the main characters are forced to walk through the major rides in the Magic Kingdom (Thunder Railroad, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, etc.) late at night and find clues to solve the Stonecutter’s Quill riddle. And if Pearson did anything right in this book, it was describing every Disney enthusiast’s worst nightmare; going through “It’s a Small World” only to find that the dolls are coming alive to attack you. Creepy little things…I always knew they were plotting something. For that reason alone, I had to finish this book.