The Kingdom Keepers are back and, this time, they have traveled in time. Ridley Pearson has managed to take his characters from the Kingdom Keepers book series and successfully grow them from young kids to young adults. This new story, The Return: Legacy of Secrets, with well-known characters is compelling and lets you dive deeper into the history of all things Disney.
Our story starts off with the five Keepers, Finn, Maybeck, Willa, Philby, and Charlene walking into opening day of Disneyland in July of 1955. Picking up where the first book The Return: Disney Lands, left off, the Keepers have traveled back in time to retrieve Walt Disney’s magical pen, which they will need sixty years in the future to defeat the real life Disney Villains, the Overtakers.
Hiding out in Disneyland allows the Keepers to see how everything began. As the reader, you get to experience the wonder and awe that these Disney super nerds experience as they walk through the freshly built magical land. When they learn that there is a puzzle they must solve in order to retrieve Walt Disney’s pen they don’t have the luxury of modern technology to help them.
Ridley Pearson has always done an amazing job helping the readers connect with the characters. As they develop their skills and use their intelligence to solve problems, we the reader benefit and learn more about the history of Disneyland.
The Keepers are not alone in 1955. They have partnered up with an ‘old’ friend. The younger version of the Imagineer Wayne who helped create their Hologram program in the first Kingdom Keeper book. Wayne is not the wise old Imagineer that they encounter in Kingdom Keepers. He is a young Cast Member, barely older than them.
Together they travel around the newly built Disneyland avoiding enemies and learning the identity of the big bad villain who may have started it all, Amery Hollingsworth. Amery was a fired animator who started to see himself above Walt Disney. Supposedly, Hollingsworth was into the occult and skilled in the dark arts of magic. Hollingsworth is the human side to the many animated villains we have seen in past stories. We get a nice contrast between Hollingsworth and Walt Disney. The good vs evil, the light vs the dark is exemplified in the exchanges between Disney and Hollingsworth.
While our five heroes are stuck in the past, their friends Amanda and Jess are trying to figure out how they can help. Enrolled at the Disney School for Imagineering Jess and Amanda are learning about the effect Hollingsworth has on the present day story. They learn much about their enemy, and while they are trying to figure out a way to communicate with the lost in time Kingdom Keepers, the five Kingdom Keepers are trying to figure out how they can return home.
Walt Disney does appear in the book as a character in the distance and he does interact and meet with the five Kingdom Keepers. What adds dimension to Pearson’s writing is his detail and incorporation of Disney history into the books. When the Keepers venture out in the middle of the night to search Walt Disney’s Carolwood Pacific model train in his backyard, you feel like you are right there with the kids as they hide from an investigative Walt Disney.
When we have the final confrontation which involves Walt Disney and Amery Hollingsworth, Pearson has somehow taken one of the most legendary men in the world and made him human.
I can’t wait to find out what happens next. Keep writing, Mr. Pearson — I hope the stories never stop.