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Monday, May 29, 2017

Book Review: Rise of the Isle of the Lost (Descendants #3)

Release Date: May 23, 2017
Author: Melissa De La Cruz
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 304 pages
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

Ride with the tide!

Deep beneath the waves, King Triton’s powerful trident has passed through the magical barrier that surrounds the Isle of the Lost—keeping villains in and magic out. And when Mal’s longtime rival Uma, daughter of Ursula, gets wind of this, she can’t believe her luck. The tide has dragged in something good for a change, and Uma is determined to get her wicked hands on it. But first, she needs a pirate crew.

A storm is brewing back in Auradon, and when Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay hear that the trident has been washed away, they realize they’ll have to find it before anyone from the Isle does. Luckily, they seem to have a talent for locating missing magical objects.

As Uma readies for the high seas alongside Harry, son of Captain Hook, Gil, son of Gaston, and the toughest rogues on the Isle of the Lost, the reformed villains of Auradon devise their own master plan. And with King Ben away on royal business, they won’t have to play by all the rules. Using bad for good can’t be totally evil, right?

The thrilling, perilous race to the trident puts old friends—and current enemies—against each other with the future of Auradon on the line. Both teams might like to make waves, but only one will come out on top of this one.

    

Review:

Protagonists: After their latest adventures on the Isle of the Lost, Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay would just like to go back to normal, or whatever passes for normal with them, at another semester of Auradon Prep, but after a Seaside festival celebrating Auradon's anniversary, King Triton's trident goes missing on the Isle of the Lost and it's up to the VKs to retrieve it. Meanwhile, on the Isle, Uma, daughter of Ursula, is loathing Mal and her squandered chance at taking over Auradon with evil, until she hears about a magical artifact hidden beneath the waves somewhere inside the Isle's barrier. This could be her ticket to freedom, but first, she needs a crew, enter the skilled sailor Harry Hook, son of Captain Hook, and the brawny Gil, son of Gaston, who follow their captain, Uma, in hopes of raining terror around Auradon. What I really liked about this story is that we not only see from our friendly VKs' perspectives, but also from the perspectives of Uma, Harry, and Gil. Unlike the first installment in this novel series, Uma and her gang don't seem to have much of a good side to them, which honestly made me feel a bit better since I was worried that the second movie would with Uma and her gang as reformed VKs, which just feels a bit too idealistic and kind of like lazy writing, and while reforming Uma and co. could still happen as Descendants 2 hasn't premiered yet and I haven't seen it, the way the author writes the characters I just don't see it happening. As for our Auradon VKs, they each have their own subplots that flesh out their characters a bit, and it seems, at least in Mal's case, that it's preparing these characters for their roles in the second movie.

Romance: I debated with myself for hours trying to figure out if I should write a romance section for this review. There isn't all that much romance in the story, mainly since it's a Middle-Grade story, but the little bit that's in here does seem important both to the story and to set things up for the next movie. In this story Mal's starting to doubt her place in Auradon, she likes being good, and she cares deeply for Ben, but the responsibilities of being the King's girlfriend are starting to wear her down. There are some really sweet moments between her and Ben that really show why they are a couple to root for. Carlos also starts to develop a romance of his own, but things are left in a place that makes it seem like it'll be something developed further in the upcoming movie, but while it was just a taste of this romance, albeit a very obvious taste, it's definitely something I'm excited to see developed further. Finally, there's really only one scene with Evie and Doug but it's a testament to why they work so well together and was just an all-around heartwarming scene.

World Building: Going into this story I was a bit apprehensive since it seems like these Descendants stories always seem to go back to the Isle instead of spreading out around Auradon. I mean in the previous installment we did get to see Camelot, and in this one, we learn a bit more about Agrabah and the Imperial Kingdom, but everything always seems to lead back to the Isle. don't get me wrong, it makes sense, that's where all the villains are and so when you need a villain that's where you'll go, but it just feels like this world has so much untapped potential to keep going back to the Isle. That being said, I am a bit of a hypocrite since I did enjoy following Uma's adventures on the Isle, and through those chapters, the continuity of this world did get a bit clearer, though until I see the second movie I'm still not sure how canon these novels and the Wicked World shorts are. I was kind of bummed though, since the previous novel installment ended with a cliffhanger I was expecting that plot to either be tied into this story more or for it to be given some sort of pause and then start up again in the next novel, but it was all kind of wrapped up in this story before it really even got started.

Predictability: I went into this book with pretty big expectations as to how the story would go. I mean the previous two novel installments had a very similar story structure. Ben's story would revolve around his title as king and how he can strive to be a good and just king, while the VKs, Mal, Evie, Jay, and Carlos would travel to, or as is the case with the first installment already be on, the Isle of the Lost and face trials that are relevant to who they are or who they want to be. However, not too far into this story I realized that this novel took a bit of a different approach. While there were definitely aspects that I called before I ever started this book, things didn't quite unfold the way I expected and honestly, I was surprised at some of the dramatic turns this story took.

Ending: Since this is a novel intended to set up the next movie as the story begins to wind down it becomes pretty obvious where things are going, especially if you've seen the trailer for Descendants 2 (embedded below.) The final climax of the story definitely didn't go down the way I was expecting but it was surely an exciting scene to read. The two stories told in this novel come to an incredible head and things turned out both how I expected, but with a bit of a twist, I didn't. The cooldown period seemed to be where most of the actual set up of the movie takes place, but what I really liked was that all of these things had reasons why they happened and those reasons had a special place in the plot of the story and how they got there was a natural progression over the course of this book.

Rating:


I was actually surprised that I'm giving this book 5 stars. Not that I didn't go into it expecting to enjoy it, but I think my expectations were managed just right that I was able to really immerse myself into this story, even though the whole modern day meets next generation of Disney characters thing still kind of rubs me the wrong way. In the end, this book really surprised me and I can't wait to see the next Descendants movie.



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