Second Look: Melissa de la Cruz’s ISLE OF THE LOST

After finishing Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, I needed to cheer myself up and read something that wouldn’t make me sad for the entire world.

So, what did I do?

I went to Barnes & Noble, of course!

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After a quick browse, I ended up leaving with a bag full of goodies, which included Melissa de la Cruz’s Isle of the Lost, and a few coloring books (Batman!).

I have not saw the Disney Channel’s movie, The Descendants.  So this was a good primer for me to sit down and watch that movie.  (I have, however, been obsessed with the game on my iPad.)

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The Isle of the Lost (A Descendants Novel) by Melissa de la Cruz.
Disney Hyperion, 2015.

The Basics:  Focusing on four children of infamous (Disney) fairytale villains, Isle of the Lost takes place 20 years after all villains have been banished to the Isle of the Lost by King Beast (of Beauty & the Beast), so all the prince, princesses, heroes, and heroines can live peacefully in Auradon.

Did I mention, magic isn’t allowed on the Isle?  Well, it’s not.  Which kind of pisses off the ruler, Maleficent.

But when something downright magical happens, and Diablo (Maleficent’s beloved crow — he was turned to stone by the Good Fairies in Sleeping Beauty) returns to the Queen of Darkness’s shoulder, she wants to find her magical scepter, The Dragon’s Eye.

Instead of Maleficent going back to her Forbidden Castle and finding the Dragon’s Eye scepter herself, she sends her daughter, Mal, to find the staff for her.

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(PS: Mal, short for Maleficent, wants nothing more than to prove to her mother that she’s just as evil and mean as she is.  She’ll do anything to gain her mother’s approval.)

Mal decides she needs minions to come with her.  Who better than Jay, son of Jafar, who’s an accomplished thief and the closest thing Mal has to a friend on the Isle; Carlos, son of Cruella de Vil, who may just be responsible for putting a hole in the magical barrier dome over the island; and Mal’s arch-nemesis, Evie,daughter of the Evil Queen, who she wants to get revenge on.

Meanwhile, in Auradon…

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Ben, son of King Beast and Queen Belle, is getting ready to take the crown from his father (who’s giving it up willingly — no villainy here!), and learning how to be a ruler at the ripe old age of 16!

Anyway.  Ben runs into some of his own problems when he has to deal with the sidekicks and their desire for more compensation for all they do.  Especially, since they can’t use magic.

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Let’s be honest.  Ben’s story isn’t that fascinating.  It’s almost boring.  But it does do a good job of setting up the movie’s plot.

Thoughts:  As always, I’ll try to avoid spoilers for you.  But, if you’d prefer not to read my thoughts, I am hiding them behind this conveniently placed page jump…

I’ve been a fan of de la Cruz’s since I discovered the Blue Bloods series way back when… But then, after a few books, my love became a little disillusioned.  So, it took me a few months to actually pick up Isle of the Lost.  I was excited about the premise — kids of villains?  YES! — but I know her writing style and was afraid to get sucked into a new series that would just run on too long and let me down in the end.

Plus, Isle is actually a middle grade book (meant for readers aged 9-12).  I didn’t want to let myself stoop so low to read middle grade.

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Me, when thinking of reading MG novels.

Just kidding!  I really have no problem with MG books, but I tend to like the angst and writing style of YA better.

So.  Here’s my breakdown:

The Characters:  I loved them.  Admittedly, who doesn’t love a good villainous tale?  But the kids are well-drawn.  Their hang-ups with their parents are all related to the villain’s original tale, which I thought was kind of neat.  Evie, the daughter of the Evil Queen (Snow White), for example, is pressured by her mother to constantly be the Fairest of them All.  Jay is essentially Aladdin, which is ironic if you think about it…

I loved Carlos most, I think.  He’s afraid of dogs!  That’s hilarious.  But I also felt the sorriest for him because it’s made obvious (to him and the reader) that his mother cares about her possessions (fur coats, her car) more than her son.

Mal’s definitely the protagonist of the story.  It’s her journey to please her mother, and she really drags the other characters along for the ride.

Overall, they’re well-developed for a Middle Grade novel, and because it’s a “second generation Disney” story.  So, there aren’t a lot of surprises or revelations about the characters.  But, this is the first in a string of stories, so there is a lot of room for development and change.

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Plot: Again, not the most detailed plot, but there aren’t any plot-holes.  Everything’s explained for the reader by the end of the novel, with loose-ends tied up.  The main plot is Mal’s journey to find the Dragon’s Eye for her mother.  But it’s also explained for the reader her hatred of Evie, and why.  So I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything when I was reading.

It’s a great set-up novel to a new series.

Setting:  I just want to mention the setting quickly because de la Cruz did a great job of explaining what the Isle is like.  I think more could have been added for the reader, but she did enough to give the reader an understanding of it for the basis and content of this particular story.  What we know about the Isle is basically what the kids know.  So as they learn about it more, so does the reader.  But there’s a lot to explore, aside from the small village that the majority of the plot takes place.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this for any Disney fans.  It’s a great addition to the fairy tales and movies we know and love (even for us oldies that remember when The Little Mermaid was first introduced to us…)  It does deal with “the Golden Age” movies rather than newer ones (Frozen, Tangled), but these might show up later in the series.  (I lie, Mother Gothel does make a brief cameo.)

Rating…

7/10 stars

To continue with my fairy tale retellings, I’m currently reading another Middle Grade novel…

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It’s cute so far, but definitely a book for younger kids.

 

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