Friday, May 20, 2016

Book Review: Return to the Isle of the Lost (Descendants #2)

Release Date: May 24, 2016
Author: Melissa De La Cruz
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 320 pages
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

There’s no place like home. Especially if home is the infamous Isle of the Lost. Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay haven’t exactly turned their villainous noses up at the comforts of Auradon after spending their childhoods banished on the Isle. After all, meeting princes and starring on the Tourney team aren’t nearly as terrible as Mal and her friends once thought they would be.

But when they receive a mysterious invitation to return to the Isle, Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay can’t help feeling comfortable in their old hood—and their old ways. Not everything is how they left it, though, and when they discover a dark mystery at the Isle’s core, they’ll have to combine all of their talents in order to save the kingdom.



Characters: Since the end of the Descendants movie, our heroes are doing pretty well, they've acclimated into Auradon Prep rather well and have found that being good isn't so bad. However there's something brewing back home, they can't seem to find their parents with Evie's magic mirror, and while by all appearances Maleficent is still a tiny lizard, there are rumors of a purple dragon flying about and causing havoc near Camelot. As the four villain kids head off the the Isle of the Lost to check up with the weird messages they received, Ben does his best to hold his kingdom together and be the fair and just ruler he so desires to be. While there isn't a ton of character development in this book, there are defining moments where each of these characters has to face something about themselves and move past it in order to succeed.

World-Building: As with these Descendants novels, we learn way more about this world than we do in the movie. In this book we once again return to the Isle of the Lost, where the majority of the first book took place, but this time it's changed since the downfall of Maleficent, we don't see too many new villain kids, but there are a few things going on on the Isle that seem to have a large impact on this world. Since Ben has a larger role in this book, we see through his perspective more of the United States of Auradon, we see new kingdoms, that are of course united under the Auradon flag, and meet new characters while catching up with old ones as well. My biggest criticism of this book is something I mentioned in my review of The Isle of the Lost, the really cheesy replacements for things such as brands, slang, and seemingly anything else that could be changed to "fit" with this world. I don't mind the replaced words so much, especially with things like brands, it's just how cheesy and lazy it seems sometimes. I don't know if the author came up with the majority of these or if it was someone at Disney but this type of thing needs to stop in modern/fantasy crossovers. Sometimes it works out well and things seem a lot more thought out and then there are things like calling apps on your phone zapps, while texting is still referred to as texting. Lastly, I'm not sure how canonical these novels are, there were a few plot inconsistencies between this book and the movie, and there was some vague glossing over of certain details from the Wicked World shorts.

Predictability: Since this is a Middle Grade level book, there wasn't all that much that surprised me in this book. For the most part there wasn't all that much foreshadowing and if you aren't familiar with some of Disney's lesser known works there are a few things you may not see coming. In fact with one twist I though I knew exactly what was going on only to figure out I was partially right, but there was more going on than I knew. I do have to say though that one of the biggest twists of this book, the stuff going on on the Isle of the Lost, was kept pretty well under wraps, I had my suspicions but in the end was still surprised with what was exactly going on.

Ending: Going into this book I kept thinking about how it might end, would it leave the world largely unchanged, giving the creators of the next movie more freedom? Would it end leaving a few things unresolved so that either there could be another novel before the next movie, or would it leave readers with an idea of what to expect in the next movie? Well, while I will tell you it's one of those I won't say which one. The ending itself was actually pretty great. There wasn't you typical final battle before the book ended, but there was some pretty awesome stuff that went down.


So I was looking back at my review of the first installment and was wondering why I gave it such a lukewarm review compared to this one when there's a lot of similarities in content, and I realized it was most likely due to the fact that I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew how Middle Grade this was, I was more familiar with the world and characters after reading the first book and seeing the movie, and being as big a fan as I ma of the movie, I was just so happy to go on another adventure with these characters and I can't wait for the next one!


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