Rise of the Isle of the Lost: The Descendants, Book 3

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Rise of the Isle of the Lost: The Descendants, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Positive messages mix with brand-name fun in villains' tale.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Among the relentless marketing, lots of information (the fine points of sailing, fencing) and vocabulary-enhancing words, such as "lepidopterist," "nostalgic," "embargo," "mechanism," "accentuate."

Positive Messages

Strong messages about the value of friendship, teamwork, kindness, apologizing and making it right when you've done wrong, thinking about how your behavior affects others before you act.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Villain characters adjusting to life among the good guys learn about courage, kindness, persistence, helpfulness -- and make a few mistakes. King Ben, Lonnie, and others show responsibility, leadership, and creative thinking.

Violence & Scariness

Villain characters bully, steal, and threaten their victims with weapons. Swordplay, piracy, but little real harm to anyone. A lot of humor involving fish guts and other gross substances.

Language

One reference to toad pee.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rise of the Isle of the Lost is a prequel and basically an extended commercial for Descendants 2, a Disney Channel original movie set to premiere July 21, 2017. (In fact, the book ends with a plug to watch that movie "to find out what happens next.") The book's clever premise -- the ongoing adventures of the teen children of Disney villains, some of whom are trying to adjust to life as good guys among the Disney heroes -- seizes many opportunities to mention Disney characters and quote from its movies. Based as they are on cartoon characters, the 16-year-old heroes in this series act much younger and are often pretty one-note. But the story is entertaining, harmless stuff, and author Melissa de la Cruz takes advantage of the sugarcoating to sneak in lots of educational information, vocabulary-enriching words, and positive messages about teamwork, responsibility, and doing the right thing.

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What's the story?

RISE OF THE ISLE OF THE LOST finds villain kids Mal, Evie, Jay, and Carlos adjusting well to their new life in Auradon, with lots of new friends. Mal (daughter of Maleficent) and newly crowned King Ben (son of Belle and Beast) are a couple. But there's trouble brewing. Back on the Isle of the Lost, where magic confines the villain families, Mal's onetime friend and now sworn enemy, Uma (daughter of Ursula from The Little Mermaid), is determined to get back at Mal and get herself off the island so she and her pirate pals can really have fun. When King Triton's granddaughter foolishly takes his magic trident and loses it in the sea, she turns to Mal and Evie for help. Meanwhile, every goblin, evildoer, and lowlife on the isle is trying to get to it first -- especially Uma and her crew. Will the villain kids save the day -- or break so many rules in their quest that they get sent back to the isle?

Is it any good?

This is a fun read with quite a few educational bits, life lessons, and positive messages snuck in. But the relentless mentions of Disney movie characters smack of marketing -- which may bother some readers or their parents. The characters and situations in Rise of the Isle of the Lost are (not surprisingly) cartoonish, but author Melissa de la Cruz introduces interesting ideas, like how 16-year-old Ben's life is different now that he's king, how he has to place his subjects first -- and the clever compromise he uses to resolve a dispute.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the characters in Rise of the Isle of the Lost. What other examples do you know of stories based on the next generation of characters from a well-known series? Do you think it's better to make up completely new characters or work within an existing universe?

  • Does a story about Disney characters ever seem like a commercial for Disney movies?

  • Suppose you borrowed something without permission and then lost it. What would you do?

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