Out now is “Kingdom Keepers Inheritance: The Shimmer” by Ridley Pearson. This is the first installment in a sequel series to the original “Kingdom Keepers” books released between 2004 and 2015. While the “Kingdom Keepers” stories followed a group of teenagers acting as holographic theme park guides and eventually defenders of the parks from Disney Villains come to life, “Kingdom Keepers Inheritance” looks to their children and imagines the Disney parks of the future.
“The Shimmer” introduces the cast of characters, all children of the group from the “Kingdom Keepers” series: Eli, Marissa, Blair, Lily and Marty. Eli’s birthday celebration is marred by his parents being called to Los Angeles from Orlando (a mere day trip with the travel advances of the future), putting him in too foul a mood to enjoy his birthday or the once in a lifetime solar eclipse. In the midst of battling Jafar in virtual reality, Eli finds his foe stepping into the real world and himself dragged through a portal into an alternate reality. They discover that as Disney has built up more attractions around villains, the attention and adoration of fans has empowered the Disney Villains to come out of their reality to overtake the real world.
I didn’t read the “Kingdom Keepers” series in particular as a middle grade reader, but I did read other books by Pearson. This is a middle grade book and so I tried to approach it from that lens. There is a lot of early exposition to get the reader into the Disney World of the future, where tens thousands of people actually live and work at EPCOT. Attractions like Expedition to Everest and Pandora are described as vintage, and Pearson imagines what the E ticket attractions of the future will be. There is a lot of exposition around the technology of Disney World (usually with an acronym) and the traits and relations of each character. Part of what makes visiting the Disney parks (for me that’s Disneyland) a unique experience that keeps its novelty is updates to the park, and the fact that it is an immersive experience mostly devoid of smartphones. This imagined Disney of the future seems to take a hard right from that, and, because Pearson has imagined and invented so many future attractions, it doesn’t have the same anchor points of current parks.
Along with “Kingdom Keepers Inheritance” I was also sent a book six of “Kingdom Keepers,” which I read to get a feel for the series, and “The Shimmer” didn’t quite to seem fit the style or the audience. The dialogue of “The Shimmer” felt stilted and disconnected, almost like it was put through Google Translator or the English dub on an international show. It was quite a bit longer and more dystopian than the originals. Pearson’s writing and character descriptions feel stuck in 2005. The book is all first-person, yet characters introduce themselves primarily through race and physical characteristics they don’t like about themselves. This, along with the harmful Middle Eastern stereotypes indulged in, make me concerned about a kids in the target age reading this.
If you’re looking to pair a park visit with a book, for yourself or for a child, I’d suggest going back to the original “Kingdom Keeper” series and skipping this one.
“Kingdom Keepers Inheritance: The Shimmer” is out now.