The Return: Disney Lands by Ridley Pearson, review by Melissa Fox
The five teens called the Kingdom Keepers (from Pearson's first series) think that their job is done. They've defeated the Overtakers -- the evil Disney villains and others who were trying to take over Disneyland and eventually, the World (nothing less would be good enough for them!) -- and figure it's time to Move On. Some are starting college, one has a TV show (on the Disney Channel, of course), and a couple are accepted into the Disney School of Imagineering, the elite behind-the-scenes school.
Everything looks like it's finished, until the group's leader, Finn, discovers a hidden message and travels back in time to the 1950s. And realizes that if they don't find Walt Disney's pen -- which is really the key to Everything -- then all their work will have been for nothing. The work of The Return: Disney Lands is to set up this new adventure. I haven't read any of the previous series, and although I was aware of missing "in" references, it didn't take away from the story at hand.
Pearson was able to draw me into the world of the Kingdom Keepers and introduce all the characters without leaving me -- as someone who's not read any of the series -- utterly confused. Pearson also was able to keep me turning pages; the mystery of the pen, of who was leaving the secret messages, of how the Keepers are able to time travel added enough intrigue to keep the plot moving. Additionally Pearson writes action well (second only to Rick Riordan, whose books I was strongly reminded of while reading The Return: Disney Lands) including a few incredibly tense moments along the way.
It's a solid addition to the middle grade fantasy world, one that I'm sure fans of the Kingdom Keeper series will love. And one that will bring new readers to the fantastical Disney world that Pearson has created.