Reviews of the Kingdom Keepers series

Kingdom Keepers VI: Dark Passage

“I feel that this sixth book in the series is the most ambitious and has yet to disappoint.”

Media Mikes

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Even since the first “Kingdom Keepers” back in 2005, I have been in love with this series. There was something interesting about what happens when Disney goes dark. This series has developed so well since it began its adventure exploring from park to park with some really great plot twists and fun characters. I love the fact that Maleficent gets center stage as she is one of my favorites. In “Dark Passage”, we hit the seas on the Disney Cruise Line and various Caribbean islands. Since Disney is so vast, there is no shortage of where we can go with this series. I feel that this sixth book in the series is the most ambitious and has yet to disappoint. So don’t worry this series is not running low on steam and continues to grow strong.

Official Synopsis: The five Kingdom Keepers and their core friends have uncovered a startling truth: Maleficent and the Overtakers (Disney villains) are plotting a catastrophic event that could have repercussions far beyond the world of Disney. Aboard the Disney Cruise Line’s inaugural passage through the new Panama Canal, the Keepers and their holograms uncover a puzzle hidden within the pages of a stolen journal. The point of that puzzle will reveal itself in the caves of Aruba, the zip lines of Costa Rica, and the jungles of Mexico. A destructive force, dormant for decades, is about to be unleashed. The five Kingdom Keepers are to be its first victims.

Ridley Pearson really knows how to speak to his audience.  The book is aimed at the “Young Adult” audience but it doesn’t talk down to them.  He treats his fans like they are adults and that is why I feel that this series also draws in an older audience as well, like myself.  Plus who doesn’t like to read about a different side of Disney with new and our favorite character. Ridley Pearson has stated before that this series will contain seven books, which means that we are getting close to the end to the “Kingdom Keepers” series. I still would like to see this series transform into a TV series or feature film.  Maybe one day. I feel that there is a major audience for this. Either way, I will be on the edge of my seat to see what Pearson has planned next.

“The stakes are much higher because of the Overtakers involved, and some really scary stuff happens that readers may not forgive me for.”

All Ears

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“Kingdom Keepers” readers: Get ready for a couple of new adventures. Author Ridley Pearson has some exciting news for fans of the young-adult series that is set in Walt Disney World and aboard Disney Cruise Line ships.

Of course, readers of the series know that the sixth installment, “Kingdom Keepers 6: Dark Passage,” hits shelves April 2. But what they probably don’t know is that after they read the book, readers actually can participate in the writing of the seventh and final book in the series – and they will be able to read most of it as chapters are produced weekly.

“I have outlined the seventh book, but I really feel so grateful to the readers that I felt it a little unfair if I was the only one who decided how this whole world was going to come to a close,” Pearson said when my 10-year-old son, a “Kingdom Keepers” fan, and I interviewed him recently at Epcot.

So, Pearson has spent two years with the help of a software company, to develop an app called Kingdom Keepers Insider (KKI). (Initially, it was referred to as Kingdom Keepers 7 Fan Fiction Experience.) The free app will be available across all platforms, and there will a web version for people who don’t have access to an iOS or Android device.

Pearson described Kingdom Keepers Insider like this: “I’m going to post a chapter every Sunday and a piece of the outline for the next week. The readers will come in and vote on things and give me suggestions and write fan fiction that I will actually clip right into the book. Then I will finish that next chapter and post it Sunday, and we’ll start the process over. So, in real time, the reader will be seeing what the book is going to be as I’m writing it and help me decide where it goes. Near the end, we’ll stop that and I’ll finish the book on my own … It’s really going to be a fun process.”

Pearson is embracing fan fiction, something many authors might not do, so we had to ask his thoughts on all the stories written by fans who are inspired to create their own stories with his characters.

“I haven’t experienced much of it because I didn’t want anyone coming back and suing me and saying, ‘Oh, that was my idea.’ But it’s a world that is so active in the Kingdom Keepers world. I have experts that I work with – high school juniors and seniors who are really well-read in the series – and they participate in all this and they are all part of KKI,” he said. “This software protects me, but allows people to write fan fiction within it that then I can use if I want. Everyone is happy.”

But hardly anyone is happy about the series drawing to a close, including Pearson. “I kind of wish it wasn’t, but I have always felt it should. I don’t like open-ended series,” he said. “I wanted to end this originally at five books, and Disney talked me into seven.”

For fans who dread April 2014, when the last “Kingdom Keepers” book will be released, Pearson offers some comfort — there will be a second “Kingdom Keepers” series.

“We were debating something considerably different for the second series, and I think it won’t be all that different in a lot of ways because I’m having a hard time letting go of the characters and the readers polled are having a hard time letting go of it being about the [Disney] parks. They’ll be older. I hope it will be mostly the same characters and also set in the Disney parks,” he said.

“On my last book tour, I took a hand poll of what people wanted – the same characters or the same locations. It was weird because I expected it to go one way, but it was 50-50. I was going to take the same characters and move them overseas into kind of a different world — more our world, but with the Overtaker world coming into our world. I haven’t started it yet. So we’ll just have to see.”

In the meantime, Pearson is poised to begin his national book tour for KK6 in April. “In ‘Kingdom Keepers 6,’ the Kingdom Keepers are halfway through a long cruise that’s going through the Panama Canal, and there are added Overtakers and there are some added helpers to the Kingdom Keepers. The stakes are much higher because of the Overtakers involved, and some really scary stuff happens that readers may not forgive me for,” Pearson said.

He may well find out when he visits 11 stops on his book tour, beginning April 2. Pearson will be back at Walt Disney World to meet fans and sign books toward the end of the run. He is scheduled to appear from 4 to 7 p.m. April 10 at Once Upon a Toy at Downtown Disney Marketplace and from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. April 11 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Admission is required to attend the theme-park signing. (You can read about last year’s event on my previous blog post.)

A tip to fellow Kingdom Keepers fans: We have attended the Downtown Disney book signings for the last two years and readers line up well before the start time. Fans should expect the same as this popular series continues with the last two books.


Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game

“Pearson’s writing obviously resonates with his young, passionate readers.”

All Ears

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“This is Ridley Pearson, Ace Detective, Kingdom Keeper, currently hiding out somewhere in Walt Disney World with a suspicious-looking woman with a long, long pen and a piece of paper.”

So began my interview this week with author Ridley Pearson, who was at Walt Disney World for pre-release book events for the fifth installment in his popular Kingdom Keepers series for young adults.

Pearson’s love of mysteries — he readily shared that he enjoyed The Hardy Boys series as a young teen — made me wish we could duck into a utilidor or, at the very least, find a secret room. But, instead, our sunglasses, my 9-year-old son and a friendly publicist had to throw any villains off our trail.

Copies of Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game were on sale Thursday at Once Upon A Toy store at Downtown DIsney and Friday at The Writer’s Stop at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. After purchasing books, hundreds of fans queued up at Downtown Disney on Thursday to meet Pearson and get his autograph.

Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game is set onboard Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream, but the author had just stepped off back-to-back preview cruises on the newest ship, Disney Fantasy, so, of course, I had to ask him for a comparison of the two ships.

“The Disney Dream and the Disney Fantasy are two of the most amazing cruise ships to work the sea. They are sister ships so I would never pick one sister over the other for fear the other would club me over the head with her umbrella,” Pearson said. “They both are just sensational. They aren’t even ships; they are experiences. I’ve been on both ships for over a week at a time, and you want to be on them for 3 or 4 weeks. And still, I don’t think you would have had every experience you can have. Part of their attraction is this infinity of experience.”

Still, after being pressed, he will admit a certain fondness for the Dream because of the incredible access he was given while researching KK5 and KK6. (Yes, the sixth installment of the series also is set onboard the ship.)

“I have been places that even some crew members have never seen. I’ve been down in the engine room. I’ve been inside the galleys. I’ve been in the broadcast center. I’ve been in the security offices. I was very, very privileged. As a reader, you get to experience these things as I did.”

Readers also will take a trip to Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island in the Bahamas. Pearson teased fans by saying an airplane makes a mysterious landing on the tropical paradise in KK5, but I wanted to know more.

“I was just so surprised to see this giant runway. It’s not even that Disney uses it very often, but I immediately, upon seeing, it said, ‘That’s got to find its way into my story,’ as well as a tower that is set off in sort of the brushy area. All of a sudden, the story threads came into a single thread and I realized that the Overtakers were going to be bringing something really funky and smuggling it onto the ship, and the only place they could possibly do that was Castaway Cay. So that ends up a big part of Books 5 and 6.

“The other thing is that the story of the Kingdom Keepers, the Overtakers, is growing darker and more complex, and this book is really the breakaway for all of that. Things are about to get very heavy in Book 6, and Book 5 is sort of the gangway to that.”

It’s a loosely kept secret that Pearson relies on his teen daughters for input on his young adult books. Not only do they read the books, but he says, “A lot of what the Kingdom Keepers go through emotionally in my books is based on the lives of my kids. So the Kingdom Keepers continually get older in the series because my kids are getting older and dealing with boyfriends (or “louts” as he jokingly calls them). I see them go through this torture, and I put into my books.”

Pearson’s writing obviously resonates with his young, passionate readers. In line for the book signing Thursday, one teen fan was thrilled that the timing of her Disney World vacation would allow her to meet Pearson, her favorite author. Emma Smith, 13, of Tipp City, Ohio, entered a recent contest on the author’s website, ridleypearson.com. The challenge was to design a T-shirt for the KK5 book tour, and then fans were able to vote on their favorites. In addition, they could purchase shirts that showcase all the images or just one in particular.

“I love drawing and I like his books a lot, so I thought it would be fun to enter,” she said.

Fans should check the website often for other contests and book tour information for Pearson.

So what’s next for the author? He’s in the process of writing Kingdom Keepers VI, which will be followed by the seventh and final book in the series. Pearson won’t reveal the backdrop for that book, except to say, “You’ll have to stay tuned, but the ZIP code will change.” The books are due out on the first Tuesday of April in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

“We would sure hope to be back in Walt Disney World, releasing ahead of time. This is to me, the best of all fans, and if we can give them an advantage by letting them get the book before the rest of the country, that’s all the better,” he said.

In the meantime, his next trip back to The Most Magical Place on Earth is at the end of April, when he will be a speaker at the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration.

“This is not good writing – this is GREAT writing…”

St. Augustine News

Fun fan-written article from the Tippecanoe Gazette


Kingdom Keepers IV: Power Play

“Kingdom Keepers IV: Power Play was everything I expected and a whole lot more.”

Library Thing

Kingdom Keepers III: Disney in Shadow

“The adventure makes cunning use of Disney’s mythos.”

Kirkus Reviews

“This is a read-with-the-flashlight-under-the-blankets-until-two-in-the-morning kind of book, taking familiar scenes and places and turning them upside down.”

Washington Post

“It took a huge fire breathing dragon, a parent’s discovery, nine chapters, Chernabog, a few seatbelts, an old man, a really loopy Philby at the controls of Finn’s life, but at 10:38pm last night I finished the greatest Kingdom Keepers of all time! I knew you wouldn’t let me down!”

Austin, a reader, on KKIII

Kingdom Keepers II: Disney at Dawn

“With its vivid imagery and fast-paced writing, readers will enjoy the numerous references — from Cinderella’s Castle and the Haunted Mansion to the characters Mickey Mouse and Tom Sawyer — and want to be DHIs themselves. THE KINGDOM KEEPERS is a very cool book and a must-read for everyone, regardless of whether or not you’ve had the opportunity to visit the famous theme park.”

Reviewed by Sarah Sawtelle on kidsreads.com

“It’s an amazing chapter. I loved the way you described the weather surrounding the park, it was very descriptive. Can’t wait for another chapter!” [on the first chapter of KKII]

IrishFinneganFan, a reader

“WOW!! It seems like no time has passed since I turned the last page of the first Kingdom Keepers. All the energy and mystery is still there and brighter than ever.” [on the first chapter of KKII]

jcman3777, a reader

“That was absolutely phenomenal! It has satisfied my need for Kingdom Keepers for right now, though I can’t wait to read the whole thing.” [on the first chapter of KKII]

DramaMask, a reader

“I have never been more excited for a book in my entire life! I’ve read the first KK 4 times, and I’m counting down the days!”

an [excited] reader

“When Walt Disney was making plans for Disney World, he knew that the power of belief was extraordinary. Things could actually come to life and exist if people believed hard enough. The problem is…so can villains! Finn and his friends soon find themselves battling very real evil forces, fighting to preserve the park and the world. Will they succeed? Do they have what it takes to be the Kingdom Keepers? This book gets FIVE STARS from me!”

Kevin’s Bookshelf

“What a fun time I had reading this book [Kingdom Keepers II]. It was light-hearted, suspenseful, intriguing (if you’re still a kid at heart like myself), and well written. I recommend this book to anyone.”

Michael, an adult reader

Kingdom Keepers I: Disney After Dark

“[T]he illicit thrill of seeing all the things you don’t normally get to see (both real and imaginary) makes this a must-read for serious Disney fans.”

School Library Journal

“[P]eople who are into fantasy with a little bit of sci-fi will enjoy this book.”

VOYA

“This is a small class of 6th/7th graders (mostly boys), many of whom don’t like to read. However, that has changed because of your book. They all finished it in less than 10 days, which was a first for many of them. It was so cute to see them proudly popping out of their chairs with fists high in the air shouting “I finished it!” (they had begged me to be able to keep reading in class that day, because they were almost done and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, so I met with them individually during class time to go over their writing.) Half the class has already bought KK2, and some are beginning your other series.”

Timathea Workman, Summer School Teacher, Southern California

“So maybe this is young adult fiction but oh my goodness is it amazing! I think I loved this book as much as I do because I spent several of my younger years in Orlando, FL with season passes to Disney so my family and I grew to know the park inside and out. The premise of the book is pretty cool and I can see what younger children would love it. I have to admit there were a few chapters in the book that gave me goosebumps which I attribute to Pearson’s excellent story weaving. He also writes mysteries for adults; I highly recommend you check his stuff out.”

walking with Nora

“My brother and I LOVE your books! We thought it would be amazingly-awesome if you made The Kingdom Keepers series have more books than the Harry Potter series. I think your books are a lot better, but not everyone knows about them. As my brother would say, “I can’t believe that people don’t go blind from over-exposure to pure awesomeness when they read your books.” The Kingdom Keepers books are amazing. One of my favorite things to do is read them.”

Thomas & Elizabeth