Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Reviews: The Insider

Kingdom Keepers: The Insider by Ridley Pearson

Recommended For: Ages 10 and Up

Rating: PG for violence

The Kingdom Keepers' senior year in high school is almost over. For more than three years, things have been quiet. Their battles are long behind them, they agree, the threat to the Disney realm silenced albeit at great cost. But inside the catacombs of the Aztec temple where Finn Whitman faced down his nemesis, the monstrous Chernabog, a new threat brews.

Deception and betrayal rock the Kingdom Keepers as the merciless group of Disney villains known as the Overtakers stage an unexpected comeback. But a discovery by the Keepers provides them with one hope of victory-a lost icon. It was believed to be gone forever. The Keepers have one last chance to preserve the heart of the Kingdom-Disneyland-from a terrifying destruction decades in the making. 

I devoured the books before this one in the series. They were really good. So I was highly anticipating the next one. However, when I picked it up, I had a few big disappointments in for me.

Writing: 3.7/5
The first disappointment was that the book was in present tense. Given that the first six books in the series were in past tense and that the excerpt on the back of the book was also in past tense, this threw me off more than a little. I spent a fourth of the book trying to get used to it, way more than I should have. Don't get me wrong, I'm not against present tense, when it is in the right place and well-done. For instance, in the Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins pulls off present tense extremely well (probably because she was a screenwriter before she became an author). I forgot The Hunger Games was in present tense within the first few pages. The Insider, however, took me a fourth of the book or longer. What's more, the sentences weren't very cohesive, were choppy, and didn't seem to fit together at times. This may be due to the fact that Ridley Pearson crowd-sourced the writing of this book, something he really shouldn't have done at all. The first half of the book felt choppy and awkward, especially the beginning. And where Ridley Pearson credited the parts where random strangers wrote their parts of the book according to Ridley's outline: I'm sorry, I understand that he wanted to give them credit for their (unnecessary and uncalled-for) work, but it was just too distracting, especially when I was having a hard time getting into the story in the first place. This got better as I went on, but it never got as good as the others, especially the first four.

Setting: 5/5
Although I'm hesitant to give anything in this book 5 out of 5, there was nothing bad about the setting of this book. Not that I would know. Disney freak that I am, I know next to nothing about Disneyland, and even less about California itself. But it seemed real to me, and from what I could tell from my very limited knowledge, accurate. This may be one of the only things Ridley Pearson did five stars on in this book.

Plot: 4/5
I enjoyed the second half of this book, although not as much as I enjoyed the others. The plot in that part seemed pretty well done. But in the first half, and especially more towards the beginning...I don't know. I'm not exactly sure how to describe it, didn't fit well together. It was awkward. It felt a little contrived and unrealistic. It felt like Ridley Pearson was striving for imaginative straws on what was going on.  An appearance of an important character that may or may not have been a betrayal was never explained. And at the end, when there was a way more than subtle hint that the series would go on, I didn't feel excited, intrigued, or annoyed at not getting more. I wanted to bash Ridley Pearson's head with the book for trying to drag this series out more (undoubtedly for more money; I can't think of any other conceivable reason why he would want to drag this tired series out more when obviously it's begging to be finished). And I felt tired. Tired of the series, tired of his inability to make the characters change, tired of his growing head with his fame (or something; it's not the same as it was at the beginning). The rest of my explanation of why I didn't enjoy this installment so much goes in the character development section.

Characters: 3.65/5
One thing I do have to say for this series is the characters haven't changed. No one can complain about them "not being the same characters as they were in the beginning". But that is the whole point of a story. No story is good, or at least good enough, if the characters don't change. Events change people. Especially events of the type that are in this series. I mean, for example, one of Finn's friends gets killed accidentally by Finn and Finn feels responsible and blames himself. But Ridley Pearson doesn't really show this. He doesn't let the reader feel Finn's remorse and guilt. I know this isn't impossible, or even extremely hard. One of my favorite authors, Jaye L. Knight, or as she was previously known, Molly Evangeline, does an extremely good job of this. Her character Jace has a ton of remorse and you feel it a lot. I myself am putting my own character's regrets (huge ones, I might add) into not the dialogue, but the narrative via character voice. It would've been easy for Ridley Pearson to put this in. *cue sarcastic voice* I know, I know, it probably wouldn't have fit in with the crowd-sourcing. *end sarcastic voice* But seriously, Ridley Pearson should have written the book himself instead of giving it to strangers that probably haven't read all of the books. I already knew that he couldn't show what the characters were physically feeling very well (I had to use my imagination to a very great extent when it said "pain"), but I thought he was good at internal feelings (and he's pretty good about a quarter to half-way through). A bigger issue I have with it is the romance. Not the presence of it, the lack of it (this'll shock my sister. She still hasn't gotten over the fact that I skipped the wedding vows in Trust ). I mean seriously, Finn has been showing interest in Amanda since before the first book! Which, I might add was five years ago! They should be past this do-I-say-something-do-I-not-say-something hesitant stage. The other sort-of romances with the side characters (I hesitate to call them romances when they are so under-developed as they are) even go farther, even though emotionally they are pretty much the same (as in, non-existent), and all the side characters do is mime "I love you". But Finn and Amanda don't go past the holding-hands and not saying anything even slightly romantic past "You're a good friend" and reluctance to be parted because heck, they could get killed. Seriously, they're eighteen, they've graduated, they can be romantic!!!

All that being said, I still enjoyed the second half of the book, and the (FINALLY) appearance of MICKEY MOUSE!!! *happy dance* Although I was disappointed that he couldn't speak except through other characters (e.g., Violet from The Incredibles). To anyone who has read the rest of the books in this series, I recommend reading this book. Push through to the good parts. I know you can, especially if you've read Lord of the Rings. And you should. The ending really is spectacular (sort of. As spectacular as it could be). And to anyone who hasn't read the rest of the Kingdom Keepers series, either go and read the rest of the series first, or just don't bother. You can't read this book on its own.

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