Return to the Isle of the Lost: Descendants, Book 2

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Return to the Isle of the Lost: Descendants, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Fun villain-kids romp packed with positive messages.

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Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Author Melissa de la Cruz works a lot of vocabulary words into the story, e.g., "Joking helped assuage some lingering guilt about her mother's behavior." The story also introduces the concept of the antihero, the villain you root for.

Positive Messages

The Descendants franchise's intriguing premise -- teen children of Disney arch-villains join the forces of good -- leads to a raft of relatable issues for young people: loyalty to your friends, even when appearances are bad; overcoming your fears; finding yourself. Also rising above bad circumstances and doing better.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There's not a lot of depth to any of the characters here (hey, they're the offspring of cartoon characters), who tend to be defined by a few one-note traits (for example, Evie's obsession with beauty) and dispense some half-baked speeches on the nature of evil and such. But King Ben (son of Belle and Beast) works hard to be a good, responsible king, even when it means missing the big game. The "villain kids" each grapple with their own issues and fears; while they don't always make the right choices, their intentions are usually noble and nothing really bad happens.

Violence & Scariness

Earthquakes rattle the kingdom of Auradon; a mysterious purple dragon (or is it a snake?) is on the loose causing mayhem; villains throw a character into the water to be eaten by crocodiles, but the kids come up with an ingenious solution. In the course of a rescue, there's hand-to-hand clawing and scratching ("Anywhere but the face!" wails Evie).


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Melissa de la Cruz's Return to the Isle of the Lost, follow-up to Isle of the Lost, is the latest installment in Disney's relentlessly promoted, multiplatform (books! Movies! Apps! Games! Etc.!) Descendants franchise. It's lightweight and cartoonish and should probably be seen as another chance to spend a moment with well-loved characters rather than a stand-alone story. While the lead characters are in their teens, they're meant to appeal to a much younger audience, and this episode in what promises to be a long-running series allows each of them moments in the spotlight and bits of character development. Aside from nonstop promotion of Disney character -- nearly every one to come out of the Magic Kingdom makes at least a cameo appearance -- there's not much to worry about here. Even the brief violence, including a scene in which a character is thrown to the crocodiles and quickly rescued -- is cartoonish, and despite many threats of evil taking over the world, nothing really bad happens. Along the way there are lots of positive messages about friendship, loyalty, bravery, finding yourself -- and not letting bad circumstances, like, say, being the child of an arch-villain, define you.

User Reviews

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Kid, 12 years old April 6, 2021


My favorite of all Descendants novels. It is very action-packed which I LOVE and of course it's Descendants so that's just perfect. It has good lesson... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old October 26, 2017

Return to the Isle of the Lost - Melissa De La Cruz

This is a powerful, entertaining book and is easy to relate to. Although it doesn't have illustrations, it is easy to imagine or visualise the story.... Continue reading

What's the story?

Following the events of Book 1, the villain kids -- Mal, daughter of Maleficent; Carlos, son of Cruella; Jay, son of Jafar; and Evie, daughter of Evil Queen -- have escaped the Isle of the Lost (where all the Disney villains are imprisoned) and are enjoying their unfamiliar roles as heroes. Thanks to newly crowned King Ben, son of Belle and Beast and boyfriend of Mal, they're living in the kingdom of Auradon and enjoying normal teen life at Auradon Prep, with sports, dances, fashion, and lots of friends (all of them the children of Disney cartoon characters). But trouble looms: Earthquakes rattle the land, strange weather wreaks havoc, and people in the countryside report sightings of a purple dragon. Or was it a snake? The kids suspect their supposedly imprisoned evil parents have something to do with the mayhem, and after each of them gets a mysterious message, they decide they'd better RETURN TO THE ISLE OF THE LOST to investigate.

Is it any good?

The Descendants series' premise -- Disney villains' kids discovering they like being heroes -- is brilliant, and this cartoonish visit with its now-beloved characters is harmless, positive fun. Characters are in their teens, but their concerns and interactions reflect those of much younger kids, and there's nothing age-inappropriate for the tween crowd. It's an entertaining, if millimeter-deep vehicle for a lot of positive messages about friendship, loyalty, kindness, doing the right thing, being considerate of others, and being true to yourself. Author Melissa de la Cruz also loads the text with big words likely to improve younger readers' vocabularies. 

This installment is also almost hilariously marketing-driven. In addition to the lead characters, someone from Disney cartoons and references to events on their plot threads appear on practically every page. If your kid somehow missed one of these stories, expect to hear about it.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stories of heroes, villains, and villains trying to be heroes. What's the appeal of this theme? Do you have any favorite examples?

  • What do you think of crossover stories that bring together characters from unrelated tales? Does it make the story better to mix things up like this, or does it just get weird?

  • Do you know anyone who has a difficult life but is a good, kind person anyway? How might you make things easier for that person?

Book details

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For kids who love cartoons and fantasy

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