The children of famous Disney heroes and villains return in Return to the Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Novel, a sequel to the Disney Channel Original Descendants and its prequel novel Melissa de la Cruz.
Return to The Isle of the Lost Synopsis
Mal’s an expert at intimidating her enemies, but she’s broken the habit since leaving her villainous roots behind. So when she and her friends Evie, Carlos, and Jay all receive threatening messages demanding they return home, Mal can’t believe it. Sure, she’s King Ben’s girlfriend now, and she’s usually nice to her classmates, but she still didn’t think anyone would be silly enough to try to push her around.
The thing is, it kind of worked. Especially since she and her friends have a sneaking suspicion that their villainous parents are behind the messages. And when Evie looks into her magic mirror, what she sees only confirms their fears. Maleficent’s just a tiny lizard after her run-in with Mal at Ben’s Coronation, but she’s the worst villain in the land for a reason. Could she have found a way to escape? Whatever’s going on, Mal, Evie, Carlos, and Jay know they have to sneak back to the Isle and get to the bottom of it.
Without its infamous leader, the island’s even worse than when they left it, but the comforts of home-even a home as gloomy as the Isle of the Lost-can be hard to resist for recently reformed villains. Will the kids be able to beat the evil bubbling at the Isle’s wicked core, or will the plot to destroy Auradon succeed?
Also King Ben has his own subplot back in Auradon where he has received word that a mysterious beast is attacking the kingdom. Many suspect that it may be Maleficent, but when all evidence suggests that she is still safely contained in her lizard form, he is not so sure.
The writing style seems different from the first book. Not a particularly bad different, but noticeable enough to mention. The first book had a very descriptive writing style, with Cruz providing a treasure trove of details about the not only the characters but also the world around them. Here the writing style is very fast paced and straight to the point, which is understandable because a lot happens in this book. One might argue that perhaps it would have been better to just make the book longer since both Isle of the Lost and Return to the Isle of the Lost are roughly the same size (Return to the Isle of the Lost being a page or two shorter) but unlike its predecessor, we are not being introduced to the world and thus do not need the world to be described to us in depth. Whether or not you like the change of pace will be up to personal preference, but I for one found it to be a fun and easy read.
The only issue is that like its predecessor, Return to the Isle of the Lost does have quite a few typos. Notable ones include describing Fauna as wearing red instead of green, spelling Naveen with as “Naveem” and spelling talisman as “talisman” in a couple of pages. Last time I assumed that perhaps it just had something to do with the store I was buying them from, but this time I got the book from a different source than usual, and I have seen other people report these same typos online, so the problem seems to be with the editing. Like I said with the previous book, normally I would not bother bringing this up, but it is a problem I see in a lot of Disney-Hyperion books.
Story and Characters
Now, incase you haven’t noticed yet: This book takes place after the first book and movie. It also seems to take place after the animated Descendants: Wicked World series, with characters exclusive to the show such as Freddie, Allie and Jordan making cameo appearances in the beginning of the novel. Despite this the book is still very grounded in its five main characters. Each is already established to being their own individual instead of doing as their parents want them to be, but now they must come to terms with their decision. The children of the main villains now must face the possibility of facing their parents again after deciding to be good. And this has probably been what has intrigued me the most about the Descendants franchise overall; These are the people who stole their school friend’s puppies out of spite, were willing to destroy anyone who stood in the way of taking over their kingdom or were willing to send their stepdaughter to her death simply because some mirror said she was prettier. They are not going to take their children taking the same path as their enemies well. And with Ben actually taking the role as king, he now has to take the pressure of a whole country looking to him with a mysterious beast attacking the land.
As for the plot itself, it is quite hard to talk about, since it has a lot of mystery aspects to it. Without giving too much away, one of the best aspects of the books compared to the movie is that there are no limits. The characters can go anywhere and can do anything without the creators behind the projects having to worry about having to build various sets or worrying about special effects. And this book seems to take advantage of that, taking us to Neverland, Charmington Cove (The village Cinderella hails from) and Camelot to name some of the locations that probably would normally not be portrayed out of book form. An aspect of the world that is hardly touched upon in the movies or animated series also becomes central to the plot: Magic is frowned upon in Auradon. Apparently King Beast and Queen Belle seem to think that happily ever afters should be achieved through hard work rather than through magic, and Ben especially struggles with this aspect in the book.
If there is anything to look out for is that the book starts off a bit slow. It takes over a hundred pages just to get away from the school and for the action to really begin. Of course, whether or not this is a bad thing comes down to personal preferences, since the majority of this portion shows the Auradon students and Mal and Ben as a couple more. I also felt that the climax was resolved a bit too quickly.
Messages and Morals
This one is a bit hard to talk about, since there seem to be multiple messages and morals going on with each character. The two that seem to come into focus seems to be courage and the importance of relying on friendship. Courage seems to come into play with Ben, Carlos and Mal. Ben, of course, has to stay calm and collected for his people as the new king, but the element of courage seems to be prominent in Carlos. Although not as touched upon in the movie, in the books Carlos is shown to be the brains of the four main villain kids, but is not as confident when it comes to adventures as the other three. This combined with his being a year younger than them and having the loudest and most wrathful parent causes him to struggle with having courage to take action, and the book seems to dedicate the most time to him when it comes to the villain kids having anxiety about the possibility of meeting their parents again.
Then there is Mal, who seems to mix courage with the other theme: friendship. Similar to Ben, she is the leader of the group and thus often tries to do everything herself, getting her into trouble multiple times in the book. Evie and Jay also struggle between their friends and being tempted to power. Overall, each must learn to be confident in their own abilities but still willing to trust each other.
Is it Worth Reading?
Fans of Disney’s Descendants should definitely have fun reading this book. Not only does it give fans another chance to see the kids of famous Disney characters again, but it also seems to hint at big things for the future, plot wise. Whether this will be in the sequel, a future book or perhaps the animated series does not seem clear at the moment, but it will definitely leave you excited for what is to come.