A few months after the events of Disney After Dark, a book which could have stood alone without continuation, the Kingdom Keepers are brought back into the Disney Parks for another adventure when Maleficent hatches a new plan involving the beasts of the Animal Kingdom. Only a few months have passed when Finn, Charlene, Willa, Maybeck and Phillby are once again tasked with protecting the Parks from the Overtakers with the help of the old Imagineer called Wayne.
In the same fashion as the first title in the series, Pearson stirs up mayhem right from the beginning. There isn't any slow build-up to all the big action bits; rather the action is there from the start and the mystery slowly reveals itself throughout the book. It's wonderful and refreshing to read a young adult novel that doesn't rely on action and excitement to carry a book to its end, but drops just enough mysteries from the beginning (and employs plenty of twists at the climax) to keep you turning the pages. Well, I guess it's kind of a nail-biter, even though I did just use the word "refreshing."
Disney At Dawn opens up with the Kingdom Keepers participating in a big parade to welcome the DHIs back to the Magic Kingdom. And as it turns out, the DHI program is so popular that Disney plans to make them for the Animal Kingdom, the Cruise Line and more. Finn and company have become sort-of celebrities, and after a few months have gone by the program is back up with a fix to prevent future night visits into the Magic Kingdom Park.
Though the employees at WDW know what happened, and have an idea of the plot with the Overtakers and the Kingdom Keepers' role, Disney doesn't officially recognize any of these events. Who would believe that the characters are alive, anyway? That Maleficent could hurl fireballs and control animals, or that the dolls from It's A Small World could come to life?
But then disaster strikes during the parade. Cinderella's Castle is struck by lightning, Jez is whisked away by apes, Maleficent flies off to the Animal Kingdom, and the Kingdom Keepers are left with a whole lot of work to do.
By contrast with Disney After Dark, most of Disney At Dawn takes place over just one day. The circumstances are revealed quite early on: since the Animal Kindom will soon be using DHIs, they basically just copied the servers that were used for the Magic Kingdom. Except, the new servers don't have the fix that keeps the kids from "crossing over" into DHIs when they fall asleep, so for the duration of the novel, they have to stay awake. As a result,
Disney At Dawn feels more tense than Disney After Dark did, and it feels like more is at stake. Disney At Dawn doesn't completely round things off at its end. It becomes clear then that Pearson planned to continue writing more books in the series, because while a few problems and mysteries were solved, the Kingdom Keepers were left with a lot to think about and more adventures to plan. It leads directly into what I imagine the plot of the third novel, titled Disney In Shadow, will be. I won't discuss it here though, since I'm avoiding any major spoilers (what I've discussed so far is basic stuff from the very beginning of the story).
As I mentioned earlier in this article, Disney After Dark could have stood on its own as a one-off novel. And going by the author notes in this book, it seems that it was meant to be that way, but then he kept getting requests to write more. I'm rather glad he did. If you enjoyed the first one, you'll definitely enjoy the second one.
Haven't heard of the Kingdom Keepers? It might be your bag if you're into Disney, mysteries, thrills, fantasy and young adult novels. Although it says "10 and up" as the suggested age, I did find some parts of both of the books I've read so far to be rather spooky, even for me in my mid-20s, so I suppose it depends a bit on the 10 year old if you're handing this book to a kid that young. Even as a not-so-young adult, I found these to be thrilling and magical, and definitely recommend them to any and all Disney lovers.